Civil Society and Lebanon: Toward a Hermeneutic Theory of the Public Sphere in Comparative Studies

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This study pursues a hermeneutic and dialogic conception of the public sphere. Through a critical assessment of the development of the closely related ideas of civil society and a democratic public sphere, Specifically, this study explores Ibn Khaldoun's notion of Asabiya and its impact on the constitution of civil society and the public sphere in Lebanon, paying particular attention to the notions of power and authority within the context of this indigenous concept in particular, and Lebanese (and Arab) culture in general. "Professor Dawahare has applied a set of complex theories to the Lebanese situation, and the result has been to better explain Lebanese politics as well as to probe new theoretical terrain. The study is comprehensive and represents a better use of theory to produce insights into one of the most complex political systems in the Middle East region than many other recent works on the subject. This book will be of interest to both social theorists and Middle East Scholars." John D. Stempel, Director The Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, University of Kentucky
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About the author

Dawahare teaches political science at Georgetown College where he also serves as Director of the Office of College Communications. He is a former journalist.

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Published on
Dec 31, 2000
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Philosophy / Hermeneutics
Political Science / History & Theory
Social Science / Sociology / General
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Fredric Jameson, in The Political Unconscious, opposes the view that literary creation can take place in isolation from its political context. He asserts the priority of the political interpretation of literary texts, claiming it to be at the center of all reading and understanding, not just a supplement or auxiliary to other methods current today.

Jameson supports his thesis by looking closely at the nature of interpretation. Our understanding, he says, is colored by the concepts and categories that we inherit from our culture's interpretive tradition and that we use to comprehend what we read. How then can the literature of other ages be understood by readers from a present that is culturally so different from the past? Marxism lies at the foundation of Jameson's answer, because it conceives of history as a single collective narrative that links past and present; Marxist literary criticism reveals the unity of that uninterrupted narrative.

Jameson applies his interpretive theory to nineteenth- and twentieth-century texts, including the works of Balzac, Gissing, and Conrad. Throughout, he considers other interpretive approaches to the works he discusses, assessing the importance and limitations of methods as different as Lacanian psychoanalysis, semiotics, dialectical analysis, and allegorical readings. The book as a whole raises directly issues that have been only implicit in Jameson's earlier work, namely the relationship between dialectics and structuralism, and the tension between the German and the French aesthetic traditions.

The Political Unconscious is a masterly introduction to both the method and the practice of Marxist criticism. Defining a mode of criticism and applying it successfully to individual works, it bridges the gap between theoretical speculation and textual analysis.

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