Ethical Subjects in Contemporary Culture

Ethical Subjects in Contemporary Culture

Ethical Subjects in Contemporary Culture

Ethical Subjects in Contemporary Culture

Synopsis

Shows how ethical subjectivity is not based on individual morals but contemporary culture. Taking his lead from the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas, and engaging with a number of ethical thinkers, Dave Boothroyd addresses a number of key contemporary ethical subjects. In doing so, he reveals how responsibility is grounded in the everyday encounters and situations we are all familiar with.

Excerpt

In the second half of the twentieth century cultural theorists of modernity and practitioners of cultural studies tended to see their intellectual endeavour as being fundamentally political in nature. Marxist and neo-Marxist left criticism of culture and society until relatively recently, has been the traditional mainstay of analysis addressing the ‘post-WW2 order’, the ‘end of empire’, the fate of the communist project and the numerous crises of globalisation. Over the last twenty years, however, we have witnessed an ‘ethical turn’ in the theorising of culture, society and politics, as well as of the arts and creative enterprise, which has coincided with and drawn upon the full diversity of postmodern theory. As the modern notion of universality has lost credibility, the concern with ‘the ethical’ has proliferated and territorialised both the academic disciplines and popular culture. Rather than ethics being confined as sub-branch of philosophy, viewed as the ‘queen of the sciences’ whose job it has been to guard and preserve the idea of the universality in the temple of pure theory, it has now leaked back out into the wider world of cultural inquiry in general. Philosophical ethics in its traditional forms can no longer exclusively provide the measure for the ethical evaluation of situations, events, and social and political phenomena making up the content of cultural life in general, and ethicality, however it is to be understood, has come to be read off of the surfaces of culture itself. Philosophy, no more or less than any other intellectual enterprise, it has to be acknowledged, is just one of the surfaces of culture.

It is from within the ‘postmodern condition’, heralded by the Nietzschean proclamation of ‘the death of God’ and understood, for example by Lyotard, in relation to the economic production of knowledge, that ethics has resurfaced as a watchword in contemporary critical studies of almost everything: from the phenomena of globalised capitalism to the cultural heterogeneity of national life; from the . . .

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