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Book part
Publication date: 28 July 2008

Steven P. Dandaneau

The “theory” in the distinctive sociological theory of C. Wright Mills is this: American society was increasingly “postmodern,” by which he meant a society devoid of…

Abstract

The “theory” in the distinctive sociological theory of C. Wright Mills is this: American society was increasingly “postmodern,” by which he meant a society devoid of reason and freedom as practical features of everyday life and thus a societal formation fundamentally severed from the aims and optimism of The Enlightenment (Mills, 1959b, p. 13, p. 166, also 1959a). With Max Weber and John Dewey principally in mind, but also upon the benefit of his study of Marx and the Frankfurt School, Mills argued that “rationality without reason” was coming to dominate lived experience (see Dandaneau, 2001, 2006, 2007).

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No Social Science without Critical Theory
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-84950-538-3

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Book part
Publication date: 26 November 2009

Steven P. Dandaneau

Dahms (2008, pp. 43–45) distinguishes Critical Theory from “Critical Liberalism, Cultural Pessimism, and Public Sociology”. He means, first and foremost, to underscore the…

Abstract

Dahms (2008, pp. 43–45) distinguishes Critical Theory from “Critical Liberalism, Cultural Pessimism, and Public Sociology”. He means, first and foremost, to underscore the political gulf that has opened between the original Frankfurt School thinkers and their most celebrated second and third generation heirs, Habermas and Alex Honneth. The latter's affirmative theoretical embrace of progress and cautious optimism render them constitutionally incapable of understanding their putative subject matter, modernity, and thus also of articulating a radical politics sufficient to provide orientation to the specific – the specifically totalizing and lethal – spatio-temporal challenges that confront humanity at the end of modern society. Having barred themselves from fully considering their own participation in a contradictory and deadly system, Habermas’ and Honneth's a priori ideological commitments render them unable to “face facts,” as Dahms (2008, p. 44) stresses, and thus unable to execute a discerning, or even a useful, critical social science. Unwilling to practice Marx's dictum that critique must be followed to its logical conclusion and without regard to opposition from the powers that be, Habermas and Honneth's otherwise very considerable erudition thus fails Critical Theory's original and still most essential litmus test.

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Nature, Knowledge and Negation
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-84950-606-9

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Book part
Publication date: 26 November 2009

Harry F. Dahms

As the title of this volume suggests, its unifying theme is the interdependence between nature, knowledge, and negation. How we aspire to achieve knowledge is…

Abstract

As the title of this volume suggests, its unifying theme is the interdependence between nature, knowledge, and negation. How we aspire to achieve knowledge is intrinsically related to how we conceive of and exist in and with nature. In turn, how we think about and relate to nature is a function of the kinds of knowledge we pursue and the purposes we ascribe to the pursuit of knowledge. Yet, efforts related to facilitating and accumulating knowledge are intrinsically entwined with concrete socio-historical contexts, as are modes of existing in nature. Depending on the values and priorities that shape as well as represent social life in a particular society, its inhabitants are likely to regard nature as a dimension of reality that must be protected, nurtured, dominated, subjugated, or exploited. If most members of a given society would be fully cognizant of the perimeter circumscribing the relationships between that society and nature, the need for social theory should be limited, and the importance of critical theory close to negligible. As social philosophers and theorists of society have been trying to verbalize for more than two centuries, rigorous awareness of the character of prevailing society–nature (or culture–nature) links in modern societies has required focused and steady intellectual effort, as in societies of this type, the mode of relating to nature is not only highly dynamic, but also – under the aegis of industrialization – constructive and destructive at the same time. According to much of the history of social theory (its actual history, as opposed to the history of misinterpretations of social theories), from Hegel to Marx, to Weber, to the Frankfurt School theorists, to Foucault, Beck, and many others, how a society “sees” its relationship to nature is not likely to be conducive to grasping the real character of the relationship. Rather, how modern societies are contingent on a kind of conditioning that prevents human beings from facing the facts of what makes modern society possible shapes how humans perceive nature. Those perceptions are more likely than not integral features of modern society that are difficult to access without the help of social as well as critical theory, due to the kind of gravity they exert on human existence (Lemert, 2007). Put differently, without the willingness to “negate” the programming of individual as well as group consciousness that modern societies require to maintain stability and to function, “reality” will remain hopelessly elusive, and the ability to face facts a skill that is as difficult to sustain as the recognition of and commitment to a truly meaningful conduct of life. Without the practice of determined negation in Adorno's sense becoming integral to the life of humanity, socially compelling notions of “reality” and “meaning” will remain fleeting at best.1

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Nature, Knowledge and Negation
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-84950-606-9

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Book part
Publication date: 28 July 2008

Abstract

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No Social Science without Critical Theory
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-84950-538-3

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Book part
Publication date: 26 November 2009

Abstract

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Nature, Knowledge and Negation
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-84950-606-9

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Book part
Publication date: 26 November 2019

Patricia Arend and Katherine Comeau

This chapter studies the social reproduction of the traditional heterosexual engagement ritual in which men propose marriage to women, even as many women now occupy…

Abstract

This chapter studies the social reproduction of the traditional heterosexual engagement ritual in which men propose marriage to women, even as many women now occupy positions of power, surpass men in educational attainment, and provide their own incomes. We draw from 37 semi-structured interviews with middle-class, heterosexual women in which they discussed their marriage proposals. We argue that three related types of socioeconomic incentives encourage women to participate in traditional proposals: (1) the social status of being chosen to marry, (2) the value of gifts, especially an engagement ring, which also reflects the fiancé’s implied taste, and (3) the proposal story itself as scrip for inclusion in heterosexual women’s social groups. By considering social factors that mediate relationships among women, we show that economic and status incentives are important explanations for the perpetuation of the traditional engagement ritual. Specifically, the middle-class, heterosexual women in our study exchange socioeconomic status in their female-centered reference groups for their participation in gender-normative relations with their male partners.

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The Challenge of Progress
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78714-572-6

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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…

Abstract

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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Book part
Publication date: 28 July 2008

Harry F. Dahms

Any endeavor to circumscribe, with a certain degree of precision, the nature of the relationship between social science and critical theory would appear to be daunting…

Abstract

Any endeavor to circumscribe, with a certain degree of precision, the nature of the relationship between social science and critical theory would appear to be daunting. Over the course of the past century, and especially since the end of World War II, countless efforts have been made in economics, psychology, political science, and sociology to illuminate the myriad manifestations of modern social life from a multiplicity of angles. It is doubtful that it would be possible to do justice to all the different variants of social science in an assessment of their relationship to critical theory. Moreover, given the proliferation of critical theories since the 1980s, the effort to devise a “map” that would reflect the particular orientations and intricacies of each approach to critical theory would also be exacting in its own right.1

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No Social Science without Critical Theory
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-84950-538-3

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