Academic journal article Madhya Pradesh Journal of Social Sciences

Cultural Theory: Classical and Contemporary Positions

Academic journal article Madhya Pradesh Journal of Social Sciences

Cultural Theory: Classical and Contemporary Positions

Article excerpt

Cultural Theory: Classical and Contemporary Positions

Editor: Edwards Tim, 2007

Sage Publications, London, 21.99 [pounds sterling], ISBN 978-0-7619-4863-6 (PB)

Despite an increasing attention to questions of culture, cultural theory and cultural turn, we are not clear what all this means. This volume--by bringing together original papers on the issues of cultural theory--asks what is the legacy of sociology and wider social inquiry in understanding the significance of culture, cultural practices or cultural theory. The volume tries to enlighten readers on cultural significance of sociology and the sociological significance of culture. Culture per se, either centres on notions of art and style or simply defined as ways of life. This is precisely where the perceived conflict between post-structural theory and classical tradition of social science originate. While social sciences have been concerned with culture as a way of life, understanding visual culture has tended to reside under the auspices of the arts. Of late, these two separate world-views are being collided to form what is now recognised as the 'turn of culture'. The term 'cultural turn' has two dimensions: (i) substantive turn to culture in terms of empirically demonstrable developments in media, economy, technology and globalisation and (ii) the epistemological turn to culture which has broken away from Marxism with rise of post-structural theory.

The volume is divided in three parts. First part is on the legacy of sociology. The second part is related to the contemporary cultural theory. The third part is on the contemporary cultural analysis. The five chapters of part I focus on classical tradition in sociology and the importance of Frankfurt School in understanding contemporary cultural theory. The key within this is the supposed 'break' with the Marxism that is commonly seen to lead to the formation of cultural studies yet this is variously demonstrated to be as mythical as it is real. It is argued that the Frankfurt School acted as a forerunner for contemporary notions of cultural economy. This continuity pulls apart the so-called rupture between cultural studies and Marxist theory. It has also been argued that Simmal's work on money and the metropolis not only constitutes an important analysis of modernity but is also an entree into contemporary cultural analysis. In fact, the Frankfurt School was the forerunner of contemporary media studies. The so called break with Marxism is misplaced. This theme is picked up by all the chapters of the first part of the volume. It is further argued that the centrality of linguistic turn rather than cultural turn in causing the drift away from Marxist theorising. And that culture is central to Gidden's analysis that informs his influential theory of structuration and his wider sociology of modernity; where without naming culture, the cultural significance of Sociology is legitimised.

Four chapters in part two take the readers toward the contemporary terrain of cultural theory. We are perhaps reading three strongly interlinked key themes. First, that the supposed and oft-quoted break of cultural theory with classical sociology (and particularly Marxism) is often overstated. Second, significant continuities as well as conflicts exist between apparently diverse and contrasting strains of theorising. Third, those contrasts that do exist are often contextually based and, more specifically, related to differing traditions of Western thoughts.

In Part three, the readers are introduced to more applied and topical dimensions of contemporary cultural theory. The reverent theme through this part is an engagement with inter-disciplinary argument for what one might call subject hybrids. It is argued that neither the traditions of sociology nor cultural studies alone are wide enough to incorporate the complexities of contemporary culture. It is also argued that the legacy of Frankfurt School for contemporary feminist praxis is inevitable. …

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