Culture and Critique: An Introduction to the Critical Discourses of Cultural Studies

Culture and Critique: An Introduction to the Critical Discourses of Cultural Studies

Culture and Critique: An Introduction to the Critical Discourses of Cultural Studies

Culture and Critique: An Introduction to the Critical Discourses of Cultural Studies


"From culture to critique, Kant to Gadamer, Marx to Bourdieu, this detailed & brilliantly argued account of the history, theory, & practice of cultural studies is the best introduction to the subject that we have." Eric Gould University of Denver "An excellent pathway through a diverse field.... The special appeal of this book is to clarify the role of the critic, who is both immanent & transcendent, participant & objective observer alike.... It places current trends from Deconstruction Semiotics into Postmodernism & Poststructuralism in their historical & theoretical background, ranging from Hermeneutics to Marxism. In a truly Renaissance manner, Dr. Surber has incorporated the diverse trends in a loose, yet clear structure." Achim D. Koddermann SUNY at Oneonta


It is difficult to imagine a time at which human beings were entirely satisfied with the conditions of their lives. It is equally hard, if not impossible, to conceive of a state of affairs either natural or cultural to which every person or group would give its unqualified assent. In fact, the most archaic narratives we have, from mythologies to founding religious texts, to the earliest histories of world civilizations, are full of conflict, opposition, and revolt against established order. Since the beginnings of documented human association, human culture and its implicit critique seem to have developed hand in hand.

However, the subject of this book is not an implied, vague dissatisfaction with a particular policy, institution, or order of things; it is rather the various explicit and particular critical conceptions of and articulations about culture that have influenced our common understanding of ourselves and our societies. These conceptions can be grouped into certain categories. Each type or style of cultural critique is founded on certain assumptions, proceeds more or less methodically from that foundation, and implies definite judgments about the nature, values, and ends of what is being criticized.

In the European tradition, such an articulated critical enterprise can be regarded as commencing with the interrogations of Socrates (470-399 B.C.), the Athenian gadfly usually credited with founding the discipline of philosophy. Socrates, who apparently wrote nothing of note himself, is known primarily through the various Dialogues of Plato (427-347 B.C.), in which he appears as the central figure. It is virtually impossible to disentangle the views of Socrates from those of his student-chronicler, but Socrates appears to have been instrumental in bringing to prominence several conceptual distinctions that are important for understanding the development of our views of culture and its critique.

Even before Socrates the Greeks had come to a critical differentiation between natural and human phenomena. As early as the seventh or eighth century B.C.-- as evidenced by the Iliad and the Odyssey--it had become customary to distinguish those objects in the surrounding world that appeared to remain always and everywhere the same--plants, animals, the seasons, the stars, and so forth--from . . .

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