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Critical Social Theory: Culture, History, and the Challenge of Difference

Critical Social Theory: Culture, History, and the Challenge of Difference

Craig Calhoun

ISBN: 978-1-557-86288-4 August 1995 Wiley-Blackwell 356 Pages


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In this outstanding reinterpretation - and extension - of the Critical Theory tradition, Craig Calhoun surveys the origins, fortunes and prospects of this most influential of theoretical approaches. Moving with ease from the early Frankfurt School to Habermas, to contemporary debates over postmodernism, feminism and nationalism, Calhoun breathes new life into Critical Social Theory, showing how it can learn from the past and contribute to the future.

1. Rethinking Critical Theory.

2. Interpretation, Comparison and Critique.

3. Cultural Difference and Historical Specificity.

4. Postmodernism as Pseudohistory: The Trivialization of Epochal Change.

5. Habitus, Field and Capital: Historical Specificity in the Theory of Practice.

6. The Standpoint of Critique? Feminist Theory, Social Structure and Learning from Experience.

7. The Politics of Identity and Recognition.

8. Nationalism and Difference: The Politics of Identity Writ Large.


"This is social theory at its very best. In a host of domains - concerning cultural difference, postmodernism, the politics of identity, and nationalism - Calhoun breaks new ground." Charles Taylor

"This is a very well informed and very rigorous critical survey of Critical Social Theory." Pierre Bourdieu

"A brilliant synthesis of theory and history: Calhoun works at the cutting edge, facing the future but carrying his traditions with him." Peter Beilharz

"This book explores Critical Theory's origins, but more importantly it also shows how certain contemporary writers, despite not usually being recognised as such, have as much claim to the title 'critical theorist' as did Adorno and Horkheimer. It is this essential extension of critical analysis into today's body of theoretical concerns that gives the book its particular importance." Alan Sica

* Addresses a key theme of contemporary critical theory.