Students want to kw: What does one do with critique? Fortunately, some of the most provocative self-critical intellectuals, from the postwar period to the postmodern present, have wrestled with this. Joel Pfister, in Critique for What?, criss-crosses the Atlantic to take stock of exciting British and US cultural studies, American studies, and Left studies that challenge the academic critique-for-critique's-sake and career's-sake business and ask: Critique for what and for whom? Historicizing for what and for whom? Politicizing for what and for whom? America for what and for whom?Here New Left revisionary socialists, members of the unpartied Left, cultural studies theorists, American studies scholars, radical historians, progressive literary critics, and early proponents of transnational analysis interact in what amounts to a lively book-length strategy seminar. British political intellectuals, including Raymond Williams, E. P. Thompson, Stuart Hall, and Raphael Samuel, and Americans, including F. O. Matthiessen, Robert Lynd, C. Wright Mills, and Richard Ohmann, reconsider the critical project as social transformation studies, activism studies, organizing studies. Eager to prevent cultural studies from becoming cynicism studies, Critique for What? thinks creatively about the possibilities of using as well as developing critique in our new millennium.
Joel Pfister is Professor of American Studies and English at Wesleyan University. He has written three books, including Individuality Incorporated: Indians and the Multicultural Modern (Duke University Press, 2004), and is a coeditor of Inventing the Psychological: Toward a Cultural History of Emotional Life in America (Yale University Press, 1997).