The Norms of Answerability: Social Theory Between Bakhtin and Habermas

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Greg M. Nielsen brings Mikhail Bakhtin's ethics and aesthetics into a dialogue with social theory that responds to the sense of ambivalence and uncertainty at the core of modern societies. Nielsen situates a social theory between Bakhtin's norms of answerability and Jurgen Habermas's sociology, ethics, and discourse theory of democracy in a way that emphasizes the creative dimension in social action without reducing explanation to the emotional and volitional impulse of the individual or collective actor. Some of the classical sources that support this mediated position are traced to Alexander Vvedenskij's and Georg Simmel's critiques of Kant's ethics, Hermann Cohen's philosophy of fellowship, and Max Weber's and George Herbert Mead's theories of action. In the shift from Bakhtin's theory of interpersonal relations to a dialogic theory of societal events that defends the bold claim that law and politics should not be completely separated from the specificity of ethical and cultural communities, a study of citizenship and national identity is developed.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Bakhtin is a hot topic, and the Bakhtin scholarship behind this book is first rate. This book also makes an original contribution to discussions on post-national democracy.” — Brian C. J. Singer, author of Society, Theory, and the French Revolution: Studies in the Revolutionary Imaginary
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780791452271
  • Publisher: State University of New York Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2002
  • Pages: 251

Meet the Author

Greg M. Nielsen is Associate Professor of Sociology at Concordia University and Adjunct Professor in the Graduate Programme in Social and Political Thought at York University. He is also the author of Le Canada de Radio-Canada: Sociologie Critique et Dialogisme Culturel.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Theory on the Borders of Sociology 1
Ch. 1 Diversity and Transcultural Ethics 23
Disciplinary Orientations 27
Decentered Subjects and Critiques of Discourse Ethics 31
The Creative Side of the Normative 36
The Normative Side of Creativity 42
Between the Creativity and Normativity of the Act 46
Ch. 2 Communicative Action or Dialogue? 49
Communicative Action and Moral Development 50
The Limits of Universal Reason 56
Dialogism: Mixing the Word and Style 59
Ch. 3 The World of Other's Words 67
Bakhtin and Voloshinov on the Subject of the Utterance 69
Social and Ethical Worlds of Dialogue in Dostoevsky 72
The Frankfurt Tradition 77
Habermas's Break 80
Genres of Discourse in Literature and in Theory 81
From Dostoevsky to Calvino 83
Convergence and Difference 86
Ch. 4 On the Sources of Young Bakhtin's Ethics (Kant, Vvedenskij, Simmel, Cohen) 89
Kant's Three Postulates 93
Vvedenskij's Fourth Postulate 94
Simmel's Shadow 96
Bakhtin and the Formal Ought 99
Cohen's "Discovery of Man as Fellowman" 102
Influences and Steps 106
Ch. 5 Action and Eros (Kant-Weber-Bakhtin) 109
Kant: Duties Toward the Body Concerning the Sexual Impulse 110
Weber: Action, Ethics, and Eros 112
Bakhtin: The Fourth Postulate and Body-Dialogue 117
Eros and Action Today 122
Ch. 6 Reflexive Subjectivity (Mead-Bakhtin) 125
Philosophical and Disciplinary Orientations 129
Between Consciousness and Language: The Ambiguity of Experience 129
Murder, Confession, and Community 133
Why the Subject Is Behind Us 134
Action Inside and Outside the Subject 136
Ch. 7 Citizenship and National Identity 143
On the Dialogue Between Ethnos and Demos 147
Identity 150
For and against the Nation 155
Ch. 8 A Dialogue on the Nation in Postnational Times 167
The Nation as a Sociology of Culture: The Quebec Case 172
Habermas: The Nation as Subjectless Communication 183
Taylor: The Nation as a Politics of Concession 188
Kymlicka: On National Minorities 196
Associational Sovereignty: A Fourth Way? 198
Ch. 9 Conclusion: On Culture and the Political 201
Notes 209
Bibliography 225
Index 241
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