Students want to know: 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.
Table of Contents
Part I: American Studies and Cultural Studies 1. The Americanization of Cultural Studies 2. British New Left Cultural Studies' Transnational Critiques of the United States Part II: Historical Studies and Literary Studies 3. On the history of Radical history and Cultural Studies 4. Complicity Critiques, the Artful Front, and Political Motivation Part III: Beyond Critique for Critiques' and Career's Sake 5. Popularism 6. Critique as Ism
“Pfister offers an illuminating discussion of how strategy can go beyond theoretical preoccupations to effect change. Throughout, Pfister draws usefully on his experience in the classroom and offers insights that will be rewarding for teachers of progressive critique. … The scope and accessibility of the book make it potentially important not only for specialists in cultural studies, American studies, and left studies, but also for academics and teachers in the social sciences and humanities and non-academics alike who are interested in the history and future of progressive critique. … Critique for What? Is, in short, an exceptional intellectual history that explains why critique matters and how it can be made to matter more.”
—The Journal of American Studies
"Absolutely excellent and incredibly rich, almost unique in its meditations."