Contemporary Social Criticism

Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn

in American Thought and Culture in the 21st Century

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780748626014
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748670673 | DOI:
Contemporary Social Criticism

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The challenge to democratic ideals forms the basis of this chapter, framed within the broader crisis in intellectual life explored in Chapters 5 and 13 of this volume by Kevin Mattson and Martin Halliwell. Taking texts by George Cotkin, Russell Jacoby and Sven Birkerts as starting points, in this essay the author, Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, considers the roots of the perceived decline in intellectual culture in the face of bureaucratic and market imperatives. The chapter considers the place of the public intellectual within a period of diminished possibilities and calls for a renewal of social criticism based on a revitalization of democratic politics and a sense of common purpose. The discussion concludes with a survey of other contemporary trends in the fields of globalization, religion, medicine, technology and environmentalism that indicate that social criticism takes many shapes and contours in the early twenty-first century, and serves to map out the second section of this volume.

Keywords: Public intellectual; Social Criticism; Democratic Politics; George Cotkin; Russell Jacoby; Sven Birkerts

Chapter.  5492 words. 

Subjects: Cultural Studies

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