The Restructuring of Social and Political Theory

The Restructuring of Social and Political Theory

The Restructuring of Social and Political Theory

The Restructuring of Social and Political Theory

Synopsis

"Anyone who wants to understand the profound changes that have overtaken the social disciplines in the course of the past decade ought to read Bernstein's book. He examines an extraordinarily wide range of theories with the most scrupulous care, in each case adding a series of extremely perceptive criticisms."--Quentin Skinner, New York Review of Books "Valuable... for identifying the requirements for all rational life."--Religious Studies Review Richard J. Bernstein is Vera List Professor of Philosophy, New School for Social Research.

Excerpt

During the nineteen sixties when I was working on my book, Praxis and Action, I had a profound sense that something new was stirring -- something was changing -- in the patterns, emphases, and concerns of intellectual life. I dimly perceived that, despite the sharp differences and lack of effective communication among contemporary intellectual orientations, there are fundamental themes to which post-Hegelian movements are constantly and ineluctably drawn. These focused on the centrality of the concepts of praxis and action in the quest to gain a depth understanding of the human condition. I set out to examine the centrality of the themes of praxis and action in four contemporary movements: Marxism, existentialism, pragmatism, and analytic philosophy. But I limited myself primarily to clarifying what each of these diverse approaches contributed to our understanding of human activity. This is why I concluded the study by declaring that it was only a beginning.

When I completed the manuscript, a fresh debate was taking place in which many of the issues that I had been exploring came alive in novel and unexpected ways. One of the consequences of the social and political unrest and protest of the nineteen sixties was a series of attacks on, and radical critiques of, the very foundations of the social disciplines. Just as the end of ideology was being proclaimed in America -- when there was a widely shared self-confidence among mainstream social scientists that their disciplines had finally been placed upon a firm empirical foundation where we could expect the steady progressive growth of scientific knowledge of society -- troubling issues broke out.

There were those who declared that the very foundations of the social sciences were rotten; that, more often than not, what was supposed to be objective scientific knowledge was in fact a disguised form of ideology that lent support to the status quo; that the most striking characteristic of the social sciences was not their ability to illuminate existing social and political reality, but their inability to provide any critical perspective on what was happening; that the thinking exhibited in these disciplines gave a false legitimacy to the social technical control and manipulation that was infecting all aspects of human life. There was a growing skep-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.