By S. Aronowitz
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Extra resources for Against Orthodoxy: Social Theory and Its Discontents
In a large measure he succeeds, but in the wake of his rejection of the linguistically infused “French turn” in Marxist theory—which was heavily influential in cultural studies during the late 1970s—and the fact that only in the last decade before his death in late 1987 was he aware of the work of the Bakhtin Circle, his major theoretical interventions, particularly Marxism and Literature (1974), are labored compared, say, to the evocative The Country and the City (1973). For example, between his many explorations of literature and social context and his theoretical work, there is a distinct problem in the lucidity of the writing itself.
But if the object of cultural studies a priori is a “whole way of life,” then one may not take the path of rejecting high cultural works. “High” is a part of this way of life no less than bikers’ banter, the response of women to daytime “telly,” or shop-floor culture in a car assembly plant. For if fiction is a form of social knowledge, one may treat literary texts ethnographically, and this is the culmination of Williams’s methodological legacy. To understand the subtlety of Williams’s approach—one that reveals the degree to which his democratic passion is upheld, even as he insists on the importance of retaining elements of the Great Tradition—we may consult his comments on the pedagogical significance of addressing the high/low controversy.
We will argue that, in general, there were two basic responses by the social sciences to the critique of positivism. These responses were, in the end, not that different from each other, in that they both turned to method in order to secure their right to produce knowledge. The first response was explicitly methodological or hermeneutic, and the second was antifoundational or phenomenological. The hermeneutic response in the social sciences turned to an explicit reformulation of method, redesigning methods to deal with the particularities of the social sciences, thereby continuing its project of studying social phenomena.
Against Orthodoxy: Social Theory and Its Discontents by S. Aronowitz