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Critique and possibility in cultural sociology

Weiss-Hanrahan, Nancy; Amsler, Sarah


Nancy Weiss-Hanrahan

Sarah Amsler


Laura Grindstaff

Ming-Chen M. Lo

John R. Hall


Critique and judgment were once regarded as the distinguishing features of an emancipatory social science, yet their role in the study of culture has become contested in recent years. Cultural sociologists became disenchanted with critical theory in a period of identity-based politics that also signaled the exhaustion of Marxist conceptions of domination and liberation. But culture remains a critical site of political struggle and agency. In this chapter, we examine three insights that critical theory offers for understanding the complex relationship between culture and politics, and for orienting our action with others in a highly politicized and globally entangled world. We illustrate how understanding the autonomy of culture as problematic, critique as a cultural practice, and critical analysis as a cooperative social activity can create moments in which the emancipatory possibilities of culture can be critically evaluated and enlarged. Finally, we suggest that the success of this project relies on the development of cooperative, reflexive, intimate, and possibility-oriented forms of critique presently marginalized in the Eurocentric critical theoretical tradition and that elements of this tradition must therefore be reinvented again.


Weiss-Hanrahan, N., & Amsler, S. (2018). Critique and possibility in cultural sociology. In L. Grindstaff, M. M. Lo, & J. R. Hall (Eds.), Routledge handbook of cultural sociology, 64-72. Taylor & Francis (Routledge)

Acceptance Date Aug 8, 2018
Publication Date Oct 31, 2018
Deposit Date Nov 30, 2018
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Pages 64-72
Series Title Routledge international handbooks
Book Title Routledge handbook of cultural sociology
Chapter Number 7
ISBN 9781138288621
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This chapter is co-authored with Nancy Weiss-Hanrahan (George Mason University, US).

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