Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Problem with "Culture"

This is regarding a number of posts on the importance of "culture" for the application of economics to the humanities. I just want to point out that the word "culture," very fashionable in the academic world of the humanities these days, is a camouflaged or newly dressed "society." "Society," as we know, has been used in the social science approach to a number of disciplines, which are relativized with respect to "society." "Society" thus becomes the basis for examining human phenomena. Of course, this hierarchizing gives the upper hand to social scientists or anyone using social scientist-related approaches. Naturally, this hierarchizing necessarily gives the upper hand to a collectivist view of things, from which spring the various collectivist approaches to understanding human beings and how they act, including our now very old friend, Marxism ("materialism," etc.). Collectivist approaches and those who practice them are thus conferred superiority over anything else being studied. Thus, for example, the economic law of marginal utility might not apply in Papuan society (excuse me, "culture"). This approach is being extended to the understanding of science by many "historians of science," whereby even scientific laws can be made to depend on social formations (excuse me, "culture"). I recommend as a counter to all this Antony Flew's wonderful Thinking About Social Thinking, where one can easily replace the word "society" with our "new" one, "culture."
Dario Fernandez-Morera, author of American Academia and the Survival of Marxist Ideas.

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