Social Theory and the Idea of the West
- Date: Thursday 18 December 2014, 13:00 – 14:30
- Location: 12.21/25 Social Sciences Building
- Type: Seminars
- Cost: Free
Unifying this book is the thesis of a need to view criticism of European cognitive hubris in world history not as a trend of recent years but as a longstanding orientation of European letters.
This is a talk based on Dr Harrington's forthcoming book 'German Cosmopolitan Social Thought and the Idea of the West' (Cambridge University Press, 2015).
In this ground-breaking work, Austin Harrington draws on some neglected sources of early twentieth century German social thought to address some of the most pressing questions of our time. What place should be ascribed to the modern West in world history? What are some leading identities of Europe within this sphere of the West? How is an image of the success of Western institutional development since World War Two constructed on the basis of an image of European institutional failure prior to this event? Might some of the worst of Europe’s calamities of the 1930s have been avoided had certain fateful contingencies not intervened? Might a more liberal-democratic Germany have been secured after 1930 had no US stock market crash occurred on Wall Street?
Unifying this book is the thesis of a need to view criticism of European cognitive hubris in world history not as a trend of recent years but as a longstanding orientation of European letters. Opposition to such hubris reflects a continual attempt of European thought to ‘transcend from within’: to seek globally valid propositions always only from a starting-point of the most scrupulous attention to epistemic particularity. It is this enterprise, Harrington argues, that appears so powerfully in such early twentieth German movements of thought as historicism, phenomenology, Lebensphilosophie, the ‘sociology of knowledge’ and the ‘sociology of civilizations’ – and that makes these movements so vital to study today.