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Dialogue, Culture, Critique: The Sociology of Culture and the New Sociological Imagination

Jeffrey C. Goldfarb
International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society
Vol. 18, No. 3/4, The New Sociological Imagination (Spring - Summer, 2005), pp. 281-292
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20059686
Page Count: 12
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Dialogue, Culture, Critique: The Sociology of Culture and the New Sociological Imagination
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Abstract

In this paper, I show how the consideration of the role of the intellectual in democratic society informs an understanding of the critical project of the sociology of culture. This leads to a review of general sociological approaches to the problem of culture as they contribute to a critical project, suggesting the need for a distinctive conceptualization of the object of inquiry, "culture as the arts and sciences, broadly understood." This approach requires making crucial distinctions, as well as studying key correlations. The distinctions are between: (1) Culture and Ideology, (2) High Culture and Autonomous Culture, and (3) Power and Knowledge. The correlations are between: (1) The Arts and Sciences, and Everyday Life, and (2) The Arts and Sciences, and Politics. At a time when the alternative to globalization is far from certain (this is what I get from the implicit debate between Calhoun and Beck), when the grounds for critique seem to be based on little more than nostalgic utopianism (this is how I understand Touraine's prognosis of the end of society) or nostalgic pessimism (see Bauman) or hopeful pragmatism (Beck), I believe it is necessary to get closer to the pits of critical reflection and creative action in the cultural sphere. Casanova points to this in his consideration of religion in public life, even globalized relition (Casanova). Sassen (1998) suggests that we must understand globalization and its alternatives in their concrete local manifestations. Here, I would like to investigate secular alternatives, attempting to localize the critique of the global, showing how the traditions and projects of culture as the arts and sciences inform a collective intelligence with democratic deliberative dimensions (Pierre Levy). This is a call to keep alive critique in the postmodern circumstance, as part of an incomplete project of critical reflection and democratic action, a call for a sociology of culture as a key instrument for a renewed sociological imagination. The paper is centered on dialogue, (the relative autonomy of) culture, and critique.

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