Contingencies of Value: Alternative Perspectives for Critical Theory by Barbara Herrnstein Smith (Paperback, 1991)
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- DescriptionCharges of abandoned standards issue from government offices; laments for the loss of the best that has been thought and said resound through university corridors. While revisionists are perplexed by questions of value, critical theory--haunted by the heresy of relativism--remains captive to classical formulas. Barbara Herrnstein Smith's book confronts the conceptual problems and sociopolitical conflicts at the heart of these issues and raises their discussion to a new level of sophistication.Polemical without being rancorous, Contingencies of Value mounts a powerful critique of traditional conceptions of value, taste, judgment, and justification. Through incisive discussions of works by, among others, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Northrop Frye, Georges Bataille, Jacques Derrida, Richard Rorty, and Jurgen Habermas, Smith develops an illuminating alternative framework for the explanation of these topics.All value, she argues, is radically contingent. Neither an objective property of things r merely a subjective response to them, it is the variable effect of numerous interacting ecomies that is, systems of apportionment and circulation of goods. Aesthetic value, moral value, and the truth-value of judgments are exceptions, though traditional critical theory, ethics, and philosophy of language have always tried to prove otherwise.Smith deals in an original way with a wide variety of contemporary issues--from the relation between popular and high culture to the conflicting conception of human motives and actions in ecomic theory and classical humanism. In an important final chapter, she addresses directly the crucial problem of relativism and explains why a denial of the objectivity of value does t--as commonly feared and charged--produce either a fatuous egalitarianism or moral and political paralysis.
- Author BiographyBarbara Herrnstein Smith is Braxton Craven Professor of Comparative Literature and English at Duke University, where she is also Director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Science and Cultural Theory.
- Author(s)Barbara Herrnstein Smith
- PublisherHarvard University Press
- Date of Publication11/04/1991
- SubjectLiterary Criticism
- Place of PublicationCambridge, Mass
- Country of PublicationUnited States
- ImprintHarvard University Press
- Content Noteindex
- Weight381 g
- Width155 mm
- Height235 mm
- Spine12 mm
- Format DetailsTrade paperback (US)
- Edition StatementNew edition
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