Politics of Culture and the Spirit of Critique

Politics of Culture and the Spirit of Critique: Dialogues

Seyla Benhabib
Nancy Fraser
Judith Butler
Immanuel Wallerstein
Cornel West
Michael Sandel
Will Kymlicka
Axel Honneth
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Politics of Culture and the Spirit of Critique
    Book Description:

    This book of tightly woven dialogues engages prominent thinkers in a discussion about the role of culture-broadly construed-in contemporary society and politics. Faced with the conceptual inflation of the notion of 'culture,' which now imposes itself as an indispensable issue in contemporary moral and political debates, these dynamic exchanges seek to rethink culture and critique beyond the schematic models that have often predominated, such as the opposition between "mainstream multiculturalism" and the "clash of civilizations."

    Prefaced by an introduction relating current cultural debates to the critical theory tradition, this book examines the politics of culture and the spirit of critique from three different vantage points. To begin, Gabriel Rockhill and Alfredo Gomez-Muller provide a stage-setting dialogue, followed by discussions with two major representatives of contemporary critical theory: Seyla Benhabib and Nancy Fraser. Working at the horizons of this tradition, Judith Butler, Immanuel Wallerstein, and Cornel West then provide important critical perspectives on cultural politics. The book's concluding section engages with Michael Sandel and Will Kymlicka, who work out of the Rawlsian tradition yet are uniquely concerned with the issue of culture, broadly understood. The epilogue, an interview with Axel Honneth, returns to the core issue of critical theory in cultural politics. Ranging from recent developments and progressive interventions in critical theory to dialogues that incorporate its insights into larger discussions of social and political philosophy, this book sharpens old critical tools while developing new strategies for rethinking the role of 'culture' in contemporary society.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52636-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Politics of Culture and the Spirit of Critique
    (pp. 1-24)
    Gabriel Rockhill and Alfredo Gomez-Muller

    The concept of culture has been subject to an unprecedented inflation in Anglophone moral and political philosophy since at least the end of the 1970s. The twilight of the cold war at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s appears to have fueled this conceptual inflation as both conservatives and progressives scrambled to make sense of what has sometimes been perceived as the reemergence of a set of long-standing cultural issues, which had been at least partially overshadowed by the block ideology of the preceding decades.¹ New social movements as well as the ʺculture warʺ and...

  5. Critical Theory and the Question of Culture

    • 1 CRITICAL THEORY TODAY: Politics, Ethics, Culture Opening Dialogue
      (pp. 27-47)
      Alfredo Gomez-Muller and Gabriel Rockhill

      Gabriel Rockhill: In order to introduce and discuss the fundamental stakes of the dialogues collected in this book, let us take as our starting point a shared reference: the tradition of critical theory. First of all, it is important to note, at a historical level, that the emergence of critical theory, in the broadest sense of the term, is directly linked to a series of social changes going back to the eighteenth century. In particular, these changes include the rise to power of the modern sciences, the partial secularization of culture, and the more or less definitive institutionalization of philosophical...

    • 2 CONCRETE UNIVERSALITY AND CRITICAL SOCIAL THEORY Dialogue with Alfredo Gomez-Muller and Gabriel Rockhill
      (pp. 48-65)
      Seyla Benhabib

      Gabriel Rockhill: How would you explain your own intellectual trajectory? Do you see significant changes between your early work on critical theory and your most recent publications on questions of global justice, or is there a set of fundamental preoccupations that animate your philosophic project to date?

      Seyla Benhabib: I started my philosophic work with a dissertation, which in fact constituted the first part of my book Critique, Norm, and Utopia. I wrote on Hegelʹs critique of natural right theories, particularly the section on abstract right in his Philosophy of Right. Even at that point I was concerned with the...

    • 3 GLOBAL JUSTICE AND THE RENEWAL OF THE CRITICAL THEORY TRADITION Dialogue with Alfredo Gomez-Muller and Gabriel Rockhill
      (pp. 66-80)
      Nancy Fraser

      Gabriel Rockhill: A large portion of your project is premised on establishing an account of the contemporary situation in politics and political philosophy. In Justice Interruptus (1997), you situate your project in relationship to the ʺpost-socialist condition.ʺ Could you explain how your work is informed by and is reacting to this ʺconditionʺ? In your most recent work, you tend to situate your project in relationship to the ʺglobal age.ʺ How does globalization relate to what you call the ʺpost-socialist condition,ʺ and how do you see your work evolving in relationship to its historical context?

      Nancy Fraser: Let me start with...

  6. Critical Perspectives on Cultural Politics

    • 4 ACCOUNTING FOR A PHILOSOPHIC ITINERARY: Genealogies of Power and Ethics of Nonviolence Dialogue with Alfredo Gomez-Muller and Gabriel Rockhill
      (pp. 83-97)
      Judith Butler

      Gabriel Rockhill: If you were asked to give an account of your intellectual itinerary, how would you describe the overall trajectory of your work to date? Is there—as some claim for Foucault—an ethical turn in your most recent publications, distinguishing them from what would have been an earlier political period? Is it possible, in regard to your work, to speak of two distinct domains: the ethical and the political? Or are you trying to work in ways that are irreducible to what is traditionally understood by these two terms?

      Judith Butler: Well, first of all, I would say...

    • 5 THE PRESENT IN THE LIGHT OF THE LONGUE DURÉE Dialogue with Alfredo Gomez-Muller and Gabriel Rockhill
      (pp. 98-112)
      Immanuel Wallerstein

      Gabriel Rockhill: You are, above all, known as the author of The Modern World-System, which established you as one of the founders of world-systems analysis.¹ Yet, as an historian, you have not been satisfied with focusing uniquely on the past. You are equally an ʺhistorianʺ of the present and, one could say, of the future. This aspect of your work attests to at least two singularities of your project that I would like to discuss. First of all, it shows the point at which your work goes beyond the traditional confines of the discipline of history, and I would like...

      (pp. 113-128)
      Cornel West

      Gabriel Rockhill: An overview of your work to date gives less a sense of sharp turns or breaks than an impression of intellectual intensification. I mean by this that the majority of your fundamental concerns have been present from your very first publications: prophetic pragmatism, radical historicism, genealogy, the critique of nihilism, black cultural democracy, race matters, and social critique. In looking back over your work to date, do you have the same impression? How would you explain your intellectual itinerary from your current perspective? How do you see your research projects evolving in the immediate future?

      Cornel West: I...

  7. Culture as Critique:: The Limits of Liberalism?

    • 7 LIBERALISM: Politics, Ethics, and Markets Dialogue with Alfredo Gomez-Muller and Ronan Sharkey
      (pp. 131-141)
      Michael Sandel

      Ronan Sharkey: Perhaps we could start by looking at the philosophical anthropology that underlies your critique of Rawlsian liberalism. According to you, what ethical position is presupposed by what might be termed an ʺencumberedʺ or ʺcommittedʺ picture of the self?

      Michael Sandel: The first thing at stake, it seems to me, for ethics, and also for politics, is the relation between the right and the good, the relation between principles of justice as they define and justify the rights of persons, on the one hand, and conceptions of the good life, on the other. Beginning with Kant—in the tradition...

    • 8 CULTURAL RIGHTS AND SOCIAL-DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES Dialogue with Alfredo Gomez-Muller and Gabriel Rockhill
      (pp. 142-162)
      Will Kymlicka

      Alfredo Gomez-Muller: Could you tell us how you came to be interested in questions of political multiculturalism?

      Will Kymlicka: It was completely accidental. I was always interested in issues of justice, but not particularly in issues of ethnicity or culture. I was raised in a social-democratic left-liberal family and tradition, which has generally been quite hostile to ideas of minority rights and multiculturalism, or simply indifferent to issues of ethnic diversity. So I had not thought about these issues until I got to university, where I heard a talk by Charles Taylor. He was discussing recent work on left-liberal theories...

  8. Epilogue:: Critical Theory and Recognition

      (pp. 165-190)
      Axel Honneth

      Olivier Voirol: For five years now you have been professor of philosophy here at the University of Frankfurt in the position formerly occupied by Jürgen Habermas. In April of this year you became the director of the Institute for Social Research (Institut für Sozialforschung). These are two important positions in the history of the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School. Many of your texts are concerned with Critical Theory, a theory that you frequently discuss but have also criticized and reformulated. Thus, it can be said that you are at the moment one of the most important representatives of Critical...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 191-204)
    (pp. 205-208)