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Book part
Publication date: 26 November 2019

Amy Allen

My response to the thoughtful and insightful critical discussions of my book, The End of Progress, offered by Reha Kadakal, George Steinmetz, Karen Ng, and Kevin Olson…

Abstract

My response to the thoughtful and insightful critical discussions of my book, The End of Progress, offered by Reha Kadakal, George Steinmetz, Karen Ng, and Kevin Olson, restates its motivation and rationale to defend my interpretive claims regarding Adorno, Foucault, Habermas, Honneth, and Forst by applying standards drawn from the first two theorists that are consonant with postcolonial critical theory to the perspectives, claims, and theoretical contributions of the latter three theorists. Habermas, Honneth, and Forst presume a historical present that has shaped the second, third, and fourth generations of the Frankfurt School they represent – a present that appears to be characterized by relative social and political stability – a stability that only applies in the context of Europe and the United States. Elsewhere, anti-colonial struggles, proxy wars, and even genocides were related to the persistent legacies of European colonialism and consequences of American imperialism. Yet, critical theory must expand its angle of vision and acknowledge how its own critical perspective is situated within the postcolonial present. The essays of Kadakal and Ng express concerns about my metanormative contextualism and the question of whether Adorno’s work can be deployed to support it. Steinmetz challenges my “process of elimination” argument for metanormative contextualism and asks why I assume that constructivism, reconstructivism, and problematizing genealogy exhaust the available options for grounding normativity. Olson calls for a methodological decolonization to complement the epistemic decolonization I recommend. Critical theory should produce critical theories of actually existing societies, rather than being preoccupied with meta-theory or disputes over clashing paradigms.

Book part
Publication date: 4 December 2009

George Steinmetz

Anthropologists have long discussed the ways in which their discipline has been entangled, consciously and unconsciously, with the colonized populations they study. A…

Abstract

Anthropologists have long discussed the ways in which their discipline has been entangled, consciously and unconsciously, with the colonized populations they study. A foundational text in this regard was Michel Leiris' Phantom Africa (L'Afrique fantôme; Leiris, 1934), which described an African ethnographic expedition led by Marcel Griaule as a form of colonial plunder. Leiris criticized anthropologists' focus on the most isolated, rural, and traditional cultures, which could more easily be described as untouched by European influences, and he saw this as a way of disavowing the very existence of colonialism. In 1950, Leiris challenged Europeans' ability even to understand the colonized, writing that “ethnography is closely linked to the colonial fact, whether ethnographers like it or not. In general they work in the colonial or semi-colonial territories dependent on their country of origin, and even if they receive no direct support from the local representatives of their government, they are tolerated by them and more or less identified, by the people they study, as agents of the administration” (Leiris, 1950, p. 358). Similar ideas were discussed by French social scientists throughout the 1950s. Maxime Rodinson argued in the Année sociologique that “colonial conditions make even the most technically sophisticated sociological research singularly unsatisfying, from the standpoint of the desiderata of a scientific sociology” (Rodinson, 1955, p. 373). In a rejoinder to Leiris, Pierre Bourdieu acknowledged in Work and Workers in Algeria (Travail et travailleurs en Algérie) that “no behavior, attitude or ideology can be explained objectively without reference to the existential situation of the colonized as it is determined by the action of economic and social forces characteristic of the colonial system,” but he insisted that the “problems of science” needed to be separated from “the anxieties of conscience” (2003, pp. 13–14). Since Bourdieu had been involved in a study of an incredibly violent redistribution of Algerians by the French colonial army at the height of the anticolonial revolutionary war, he had good reason to be sensitive to Leiris' criticisms (Bourdieu & Sayad, 1964). Rodinson called Bourdieu's critique of Leiris' thesis “excellent’ (1965, p. 360), but Bourdieu later revised his views, noting that the works that had been available to him at the time of his research in Algeria tended “to justify the colonial order” (1990, p. 3). At the 1974 colloquium that gave rise to a book on the connections between anthropology and colonialism, Le mal de voir, Bourdieu called for an analysis of the relatively autonomous field of colonial science (1993a, p. 51). A parallel discussion took place in American anthropology somewhat later, during the 1960s. At the 1965 meetings of the American Anthropological Association, Marshall Sahlins criticized the “enlistment of scholars” in “cold war projects such as Camelot” as “servants of power in a gendarmerie relationship to the Third World.” This constituted a “sycophantic relation to the state unbefitting science or citizenship” (Sahlins, 1967, pp. 72, 76). Sahlins underscored the connections between “scientific functionalism and the natural interest of a leading world power in the status quo” and called attention to the language of contagion and disease in the documents of “Project Camelot,” adding that “waiting on call is the doctor, the US Army, fully prepared for its self-appointed ‘important mission in the positive and constructive aspects of nation-building’” a mission accompanied by “insurgency prophylaxis” (1967, pp. 77–78). At the end of the decade, Current Anthropology published a series of articles on anthropologists’ “social responsibilities,” and Human Organization published a symposium entitled “Decolonizing Applied Social Sciences.” British anthropologists followed suit, as evidenced by Talal Asad's 1973 collection Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter. During the 1980s, authors such as Gothsch (1983) began to address the question of German anthropology's involvement in colonialism. The most recent revival of this discussion was in response to the Pentagon's deployment of “embedded anthropologists” in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East. The “Network of Concerned Anthropologists” in the AAA asked “researchers to sign an online pledge not to work with the military,” arguing that they “are not all necessarily opposed to other forms of anthropological consulting for the state, or for the military, especially when such cooperation contributes to generally accepted humanitarian objectives … However, work that is covert, work that breaches relations of openness and trust with studied populations, and work that enables the occupation of one country by another violates professional standards” (“Embedded Anthropologists” 2007).3 Other disciplines, notably geography, economics, area studies, and political science, have also started to examine the involvement of their fields with empire.4

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Political Power and Social Theory
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-84950-667-0

Book part
Publication date: 27 July 2018

Claire Laurier Decoteau

This chapter suggests that moving beyond positivism entails a recognition that the social world is made up of complex phenomena that are heterogeneous, and events are…

Abstract

This chapter suggests that moving beyond positivism entails a recognition that the social world is made up of complex phenomena that are heterogeneous, and events are caused by contingent conjunctures of causal mechanisms. To theorize the social world as heterogeneous is to recognize that social causes, categories, and groups combine different kinds of phenomena and processes at various levels and scales across time. To speak of conjunctural causation implies not only that events are caused by concatenations of multiple, intersecting forces but also that these combinations are historically unique and nonrepeatable. Both the historical materialist conception of the “conjuncture” and the poststructuralist theory of “assemblages” take heterogeneity and multicausality seriously. I compare and contrast these formulations across three dimensions: the structure of the apparatus, causation, and temporality. I argue that these theories offer useful tools to social scientists seeking to engage in complex, multicausal explanations. I end the article with an example of how to use these concepts in analyzing a complex historical case.

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Critical Realism, History, and Philosophy in the Social Sciences
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78756-604-0

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Book part
Publication date: 26 November 2019

George Steinmetz

This review of Amy Allen’s book, The End of Progress (2016), first addresses the structure of the book and focuses on specific points made in individual chapters…

Abstract

This review of Amy Allen’s book, The End of Progress (2016), first addresses the structure of the book and focuses on specific points made in individual chapters, including the affinity between postcolonial theory and the approaches of Adorno and Foucault in subjecting the notion of historical progress to “withering critique,” and Allen’s alternative approach to decolonization; Habermas’ aim to put critical theory on a secure normative footing; Honneth’s stance that the history of an ethical sphere is an unplanned learning process kept in motion by a struggle for recognition; Forst’s attempt to reconstruct Critical Theory’s normative account through a return to Kant rather than Hegel; and Allen’s claim that her approach is fully in the spirit of Critical Theory and could be seen as continuation of Critical Theory’s first generation, as in Adorno, and how it is a “genealogical” approach that draws on Adorno’s negative dialectics and critique of identity thinking, as well as on Nietzsche’s conception of genealogy, as developed by Foucault. The second part of my response raises three issues: (1) Allen’s partial compromise with the idea of progress; (2) whether critical theory would profit from engagement with other critical theories and theories of ethics, beyond postcolonial theory; and (3) nonwestern theories shed a different light on the question of Allen’s critique, a theme that also draws attention to the gesture of decolonizing, the distinctions between colonialism and empire, and the sociology of knowledge production.

Book part
Publication date: 31 March 2015

Julia Adams and George Steinmetz

Imperial crisis is the analytical axis on which turn two national states of emergency: the Weimar Republic (1918–1933) and the United States on the so-called “Eve of…

Abstract

Imperial crisis is the analytical axis on which turn two national states of emergency: the Weimar Republic (1918–1933) and the United States on the so-called “Eve of Destruction” (1965–1975). But while Max Weber disagreed with Carl Schmitt with respect to the problem of sovereignty at the core of the German imperium, American sociologists – even those inspired by Weber – by and large did not register the gravity of the moment of political decision in their work, or the imperial crisis that their country faced during the Vietnam War and its aftermath. This essay offers ideas regarding why this was so, what the consequences have been for American sociology, and how, in the midst of the present-day imperial and domestic governmental crisis, we might adopt a more expansive view.

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Patrimonial Capitalism and Empire
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78441-757-4

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Book part
Publication date: 12 October 2011

Eric Royal Lybeck

A reinvigorated social theory based on the social philosophy of John Dewey, George Herbert Mead, William James, and others has begun to make significant contributions to…

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A reinvigorated social theory based on the social philosophy of John Dewey, George Herbert Mead, William James, and others has begun to make significant contributions to the study of human societies. The so-called “Pragmatic Turn” in philosophy and social theory, associated especially with Richard Rorty and Hans Joas, has drawn our attention to the role of habit and creativity in social action. This chapter reviews some of these trends, but argues that the modern revival of neopragmatism sidesteps many of the core insights of the classical pragmatists. Relating the issue to Michael Burawoy's call for “public sociology,” and drawing on the pragmatism of C. Wright Mills, a critical public pragmatism would seek to provide the preconditions for democracy via the cultivation of a public that valued what Dewey called “creative intelligence,” and what Mills called “the sociological imagination.”

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The Diversity of Social Theories
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-0-85724-821-3

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Content available
Book part
Publication date: 27 July 2018

Abstract

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Critical Realism, History, and Philosophy in the Social Sciences
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78756-604-0

Book part
Publication date: 20 December 2017

Søren Ivarsson and Søren Rud

The main theme of this special volume is the colonial state and its governmental practices. This chapter introduces and contextualizes the contributions by providing a…

Abstract

The main theme of this special volume is the colonial state and its governmental practices. This chapter introduces and contextualizes the contributions by providing a brief induction to recent developments within the study of the colonial state. It then presents the contributions under three perspectives which represent separate yet interrelated themes relevant for the understanding of the colonial state: practices, violence, and agency. Hereby, we also accentuate the value of a non-state-centric approach to the analysis of the colonial state.

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Rethinking the Colonial State
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78714-655-6

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Book part
Publication date: 20 December 2017

Zophia Edwards

In the periods, following the First and Second World Wars, colonial states across the British empire underwent waves of reforms that were geared toward improving human…

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In the periods, following the First and Second World Wars, colonial states across the British empire underwent waves of reforms that were geared toward improving human well-being, from enhancing social conditions, such as health and education, to expanding opportunities for economic and political engagement. The literature on the colonial state typically traces these state-building efforts to the agency of European colonial officials. However, evidence from a historical analysis of Trinidad and Tobago reveals a different agent driving state reform: the colonized. A local labor movement during colonialism forced the colonial state to construct a number of state agencies to ameliorate the economic, political, and social conditions in the colony, thereby resulting in an increase in state capacity. This study, therefore, provides critical intervention into the colonial state literature by showing that the agency of the colonized, as opposed to just the colonizers, is key to state-building, and specifying the mechanisms by which the subaltern constrained colonial officials and forced them to enact policies that improved colonial state capacity.

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Rethinking the Colonial State
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78714-655-6

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Book part
Publication date: 7 August 2013

Besnik Pula

The seminal literature on state formation proposes a model of “co-opt and expand” to explain the rise of centralized nation-states in modern and early modern Europe…

Abstract

The seminal literature on state formation proposes a model of “co-opt and expand” to explain the rise of centralized nation-states in modern and early modern Europe. Building on this literature’s distinction between direct and indirect rule, other analysts have expanded the scope of this model to explain patterns of state building in the non-Western world, particularly in the construction of centralized authority in postcolonial and postimperial contexts. According to this literature, the failure of central rulers to co-opt local elites has frequently produced weak states lacking capacities of rule in their peripheries. Using archival materials to examine the Albanian state’s relatively successful penetration of the country’s highland communities during its early decades of national independence, this article suggests that state building can proceed along an alternative path called “co-opt and bind,” in which state builders “bind” peasant communal institutions to the institutional idea of the nation-state to legitimize and implement state building goals. The article identifies three mechanisms used by early Albanian state builders to generate legitimacy and institute political order in its remote communities, including disarmament, the institution of new forms of economic dependency, and the invocation of peasant cultural codes of honor.

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Decentering Social Theory
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78190-727-6

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