• Rhetoric, Culture and Society – The Fate of Culture

    116 001 | CCN: 31238

    The Fate of Culture

    Instructor: Pheng Cheah

    Location: Wheeler 224

    Date / Time: Mo/We 2:00pm - 3:59pm

    4 Units

    Culture is both one of our most widely used words and a concept that is inherently difficult to define. In this course, we will study the rise and development of the concept of culture in late eighteenth and early nineteenth century European philosophy as well as the vicissitudes and future of that concept in the contemporary age of mass media. Topics and questions to be explored include the following: what is the distinction between a state of nature and a state of culture? How and why does “culture” gradually evolve from a process of self-cultivation that is linked to universal human progress into a name for the general realm of artistic objects and intellectual products that supposedly embody the highest achievements and values of humane society? We will also consider Marx’s materialist critique of culture as an ideological instrument used by the middle class to facilitate the exploitation of the working class. Finally, we will examine various theories of cultural crisis that focus on the decline of normative culture and its spiritual power in the modern world of bureaucratic administration, modern consumerism, advanced technology, mass communications, and the entertainment industry (Max Weber, Benjamin, Horkheimer and Adorno, and Hannah Arendt), as well as theories of postmodernity (Lyotard). We will also consider the impact of social media on culture.

    Required Texts (subject to change):

    J-J. Rousseau, The Discourses and Other Political Writings (Cambridge U.P., 1997)

    G. W. F. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of World History. Introduction: Reason in History (Cambridge U.P., 1980)

    Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology (International Publishers, 1970)

    Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment (Continuum, 1976)

    Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Postmodern Explained (Minnesota U.P., 1992)

    [Additional essays by Immanuel Kant, Max Weber, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Hannah Arendt and Maurizio Lazzarato]