The Spectacle of Critique: From Philosophy to Cacophony, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Spectacle of Critique

From Philosophy to Cacophony, 1st Edition

By Tom Boland


164 pages

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Paperback: 9780367479046
pub: 2020-01-14
Hardback: 9781138564299
pub: 2018-08-01
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pub: 2018-07-27
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Far from being the preserve of a few elite thinkers, critique increasingly dominates public life in modernity, leading to a cacophony of accusation and denunciation around all political issues. The technique of unmasking ‘power’ or ‘hegemony’ or ‘ideology’ has now been adopted across the political spectrum, where critical discourses are routinely used to suggest that anything and everything is only a ‘construct’ or even a ‘conspiracy’. This book draws on anthropological theory to provide a different perspective on this phenomenon; critique appears as a liminal predicament combining imitative polemical and schismatic urges with a haunting sense of uncertainty. It thereby addresses a central academic concern, with a special focus on political critique in the public sphere and within social media. Combining historical interrogations of the roots of critique, as well as examining contemporary political discourse in relation to populism, as seen in presidential elections, historical commemorations and welfare reform, The Spectacle of Critique uses anthropology and genealogy to offer a new sociology of critique that problematises critique and diagnoses its crisis, cultivating acritical and imaginative ways of thinking.

Table of Contents


1. The Tragedy of Critique

2. The sound and the fury: The insights and limits of the critique of critique.

3. The Experience of Critique: Inside Permanent Liminality

4. Critique is History? Understanding a tradition of tradition-breaking

5. Unthinking Critical Thinking: The Reduction of Philosophy to Negative Logic

6. The Cacophony of Critique: Populist Radicals and Hegemonic Dissent

7. Asocial media: An auto-ethnography of on-line critiques

8. Towards acritical theory



About the Author

Tom Boland is Lecturer in Sociology at Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland. His research focuses on critique, literature and unemployment. He is the author of Critique as a Modern Social Phenomenon and co-author of The Sociology of Unemployment.

About the Series

Contemporary Liminality

Contemporary Liminality

This series constitutes a forum for works that make use of concepts such as ‘imitation’, ‘trickster’ or ‘schismogenesis’, but which chiefly deploy the notion of ‘liminality’, as the basis of a new, anthropologically-focused paradigm in social theory. With its versatility and range of possible uses rivalling and even going beyond mainstream concepts such as ‘system’ ‘structure’ or ‘institution’, liminality is increasingly considered a new master concept that promises to spark a renewal in social thought.

In spite of the fact that charges of Eurocentrism or even ‘moderno-centrism’ are widely discussed in sociology and anthropology, it remains the case that most theoretical tools in the social sciences continue to rely on taken-for-granted approaches developed from within the modern Western intellectual tradition, whilst concepts developed on the basis of extensive anthropological evidence and which challenged commonplaces of modernist thinking, have been either marginalised and ignored, or trivialised. By challenging the assumed neo-Kantian and neo-Hegelian foundations of modern social theory, and by helping to shed new light on the fundamental ideas of major figures in social theory, such as Nietzsche, Dilthey, Weber, Elias, Voegelin, Foucault and Koselleck, whilst also establishing connections between the perspectives gained through modern social and cultural anthropology and the central concerns of classical philosophical anthropology Contemporary Liminality offers a new direction in social thought.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General