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Whither the social sciences? It sometimes seems as if this diverse and fluid field is permanently at def com 3: defining and defending its borders, skirmishing with science, all while the tenured generals snipe at each other. These manoeuvres sometimes pass over possibly the most important question of all: what is at stake in the study of society and culture? This question is central to anthropology, characterized as it is by the self-reflexive intimacy between its philosophy and methodology. Clifford Geertz--one of the architects of the modern discipline at least since his influential 1973 book, The Interpretation of Cultures--thankfully offers a lucid, enlightening and wonderfully readable series of 11 essays, which consider the history, philosophy and future of not just anthropology but the social sciences, in a style sure to appeal to both academics and lay readers. As a title, Available Light is an apt and playful reflection on the position of the anthropologist, who can only experience what are always only partial truths in the light available at the moment of encounter. Its subtitle, Anthropological Reflections upon Philosophical Topics indicates the extent to which the vocations have moved closer not only as they share many of the same questions, but as philosophers have come to believe that the answers to those great questions of meaning--to the degree that there can be any--are to be found in the fine detail of lived life.
Geertz's own empirical pursuit of the role of ideas in behaviour has lead him through Javanese religion, Balinese states and Moroccan bazaars, modernisation, Islam, kinship, law, art and ethnicity--all drawn upon in these essays. He also ruminates upon the moral anxieties of fieldwork, in chapters such as "Thinking as a Moral Act", "Anti Anti-Relativism"--with its stinging punchline "if we wanted home truths, we should have stayed at home"-- and "The Uses of Diversity", opening up issues pertinent to all intellectual pursuits. He goes on to establish the role of anthropology within broader intellectual and philosophical circles by addressing the work of Charles Taylor, Thomas Kuhn, William James and Jerome Bruner. For anyone involved or interested in the social sciences, Geertz offers a powerful sense of the importance and value of such study: "the impact of the social sciences upon our lives will finally be determined more by what sort of moral experience they turn out to embody than by their merely technical effects or by how much money they are permitted to spend." --Christine Buttery --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
In cadenced prose, noted anthropologist Geertz examines his own life, education and work and the ways in which the fields of anthropology and philosophy might benefit each other, in a collection of essays reprinted from such journals as the Antioch Review and Common Knowledge. His recollections of the intellectual excitement in post-War World II colleges, filled with people on the brink of a new life and paid for by the G.I. Bill, reveal an intriguing facet of American intellectual history as well as the author's roots as an anthropologist. His now-famous fieldwork in Java in 1952 becomes a point of departure for other intellectual explorations. Geertz can be quite provocative--in discussing the ethical dimensions of anthropology, he concludes that "thought is conduct and is to be morally judged as such." He is also exacting, as when he claims that "anthropologists will simply have to make something of subtler differences, and their writing will grow more shrewd." His most challenging arguments for contemporary thinkers come at the end, when he discusses the impact of postmodernism on various disciplines and whether cohesive identities are possible in our world. Carefully teasing out how the study of cultural "differences" and "similarities" can work--"the trick is to get them to illuminate one another"--Geertz once again makes an important contribution to how we think and live in the world today. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.