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The Way We Argue Now

The Way We Argue Now: A Study in the Cultures of Theory

Amanda Anderson
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    The Way We Argue Now
    Book Description:

    How do the ways we argue represent a practical philosophy or a way of life? Are concepts of character and ethos pertinent to our understanding of academic debate? In this book, Amanda Anderson analyzes arguments in literary, cultural, and political theory, with special attention to the ways in which theorists understand ideals of critical distance, forms of subjective experience, and the determinants of belief and practice. Drawing on the resources of the liberal and rationalist tradition, Anderson interrogates the limits of identity politics and poststructuralism while holding to the importance of theory as a form of life.

    Considering high-profile trends as well as less noted patterns of argument,The Way We Argue Nowaddresses work in feminism, new historicism, queer theory, postcolonialism, cosmopolitanism, pragmatism, and proceduralism. The essays brought together here--lucid, precise, rigorously argued--combine pointed critique with an appreciative assessment of the productive internal contests and creative developments across these influential bodies of thought.

    Ultimately,The Way We Argue Nowpromotes a revitalized culture of argument through a richer understanding of the ways critical reason is practiced at the individual, collective, and institutional levels. Bringing to the fore the complexities of academic debate while shifting the terms by which we assess the continued influence of theory, it will appeal to readers interested in political theory, literary studies, cultural studies, gender studies, and the place of academic culture in society and politics.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2682-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Anthropology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. 1-18)

    The Way We Argue Nowis at once diagnostic and revisionist, polemical and utopian. Through close analyses of contemporary academic debates, this collection of essays examines the governing assumptions and styles of argumentation that characterize what is broadly known as “theory” across several humanities and social science disciplines. The turn to theory dates back to the 1960s and is associated with several interrelated schools of thought, among them poststructuralism, postmodernism, deconstruction, psychoanalysis, Marxism, feminism, postcolonialism, and queer theory. These schools have profoundly influenced disciplinary methodologies and self-conceptions, and in this book I will pay especial attention to the form such...

  5. Part I. Critical Practices

      (pp. 21-45)

      This essay investigates an important feminist rerouting of the Habermas-Foucault debate, as it has been articulated and publicly staged by Seyla Benhabib and Judith Butler. A particularly vivid enactment of this dispute appears in the bookFeminist Contentions:A Philosophical Exchange(1995). The book has four contributors—Butler, Benhabib, Nancy Fraser, and Drucilla Cornell—but the debate narrows pretty rapidly to a face-off between Butler and Benhabib, with Fraser attempting to mediate, and Cornell pursuing an offbeat, idiosyncratic theoretical project informed by Lacan, Derrida, and Levinas. It’s a strange book, and everyone is a little uncomfortable being counted among an...

      (pp. 46-66)

      In the 1980s feminist cultural history of the Victorian period manifested a decisive shift toward asserting the centrality of gender to the ideological advent of modernity. In her influential essay, “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis,” Joan Wallach Scott gave prominence to the notion that feminist history ideally aspires not only to uncover women in history, but to argue for the primacy of gender to the symbolic formations of culture and the political arrangements shaping social life.¹ Such an agenda has been dramatically evident in theoretically minded feminist scholarship on the modern period, which has positioned women and cultural...

  6. Part II. Living Universalism

    • CHAPTER 3 Cosmopolitanism, Universalism, and the Divided Legacies of Modernity
      (pp. 69-92)

      One of the more remarkable developments in contemporary cultural criticism has been the surge of interest in the idea and history of universalism, a concept that has frequently been viewed as unrecuperable by practitioners of poststructuralism, postmodernism, and cultural studies more broadly. Partly in reaction to the excesses of identity politics, and partly in response to the political and ethical impasses of a strictly negative critique of Enlightenment, a number of theorists have begun to reexamine universalism, asking how we might best combine the critique of partial or false universals with the pursuit of those emancipatory ideals associated with traditional...

    • CHAPTER 4 Realism, Universalism, and the Science of the Human
      (pp. 93-112)

      It is arguably a peculiar fact that a book announcing itself as a defense of objectivity and realism would begin by assuring readers of the political efficacy of its theories. After all, the critique of objectivity and realism within progressive cultural criticism of the past several decades has taken for granted that claims to objectivity and realism are suspicious in part because of their pretense to value-neutrality. But Satya P. Mohanty’s ambitious and wide-rangingLiterary Theory and the Claims of Historyjoins with other attempts to lay claim to a refurbished realism that not only overcomes variously construed limitations of...

  7. Part III. Ethos and Argument

    • CHAPTER 5 Pragmatism and Character
      (pp. 115-133)

      The history of philosophy is to a great extent that of a certain clash of human temperaments. Undignified as such a treatment may seem to some of my colleagues, I shall have to take account of this clash and explain a good many of the divergencies of philosophers by it. Of whatever temperament a professional philosopher is, he tries when philosophizing to sink the fact of his temperament. Temperament is no conventionally recognized reason, so he urges impersonal reasons only for his conclusions. Yet his temperament really gives him a stronger bias than any of his more strictly objective premises....

    • CHAPTER 6 Argument and Ethos
      (pp. 134-160)

      An insistence on the subjective, psychological, or irreducibly human elements of ostensibly impersonal or objective theories informs much of contemporary scholarship in the humanities. Yet at the same time a key dimension of subjectivity in the tradition of ethics and in the practical criticism of many literary genres—character or ethos—has suffered a kind of exile from theoretical work in the field of literary and cultural studies. Indeed, the theoretical terms of art used to denote subjective experience in contemporary literary and cultural studies—identity, hybridity, performativity, disidentification, embodiment—simply fail to capture key features of character and ethos....

    • CHAPTER 7 Beyond Sincerity and Authenticity THE ETHOS OF PROCEDURALISM
      (pp. 161-188)

      In this essay, I interpret the political theory known as “proceduralism” as an alternative to the paradigms of thought that dominate within poststructuralism. Proceduralism is a normative model for the justification of specific political practices and institutions: in the case of the forms of democracy favored by Rawls and Habermas, the aim is to elaborate those processes, rules, and procedures that will determine legitimate or justifiable outcomes. Historically associated with liberalism and legal formalism, proceduralism contrasts itself with moral and political theories that make appeal to substantive guiding concepts such as human nature or a pregiven notion of the good....

  8. Index
    (pp. 189-202)