Classical and modern social theorists commonly claim that “objective” knowledge is possible, although knowledge can be distorted by ideology, as Marx says; or it can be interpreted and understood using a cultural lens, as Weber notes; or it can only be translated into our language which has no “natural” connection with reality, as Durkheim believes. In line with Durkheim, structuralists argue that Truth is not something we “discover”, or can “own”, but it is a structure that our society creates. However, it is possible to analyze Truth by treating it as a social fact, or as part of the social system. Poststructuralism moves beyond this: It regards all absolutes as constructions; scientific knowledge, divine authority, meaning, Truth, Reality, Beauty, and even biological sex are all social constructions. As this movement was growing in popularity in the 1970s, some other important things were happening. First, the horrors in Eastern Europe were being revealed in detail, and Marxism and socialism were facing a large backlash. Second, the importance of the media as an agent for social change was being realized. There was great interest in the role of the media in defining reality for us. Many poststructuralists turned to an analysis of the media, claiming that society was fragmentary, full of images, saturated by the media. They argued that everything was relative, ephemeral, and short-lived: in other words, postmodern. Postmodernists reiterate that objective knowledge is not possible; it is nothing but an ideological discourse, an instrument to control our behavior and life. Especially, a hyper-reality is increasingly being created by digital media. Only recently, postmodernists have faced strong criticisms as being irresponsible to address some “real” problems such as the pandemic, climate change, and other existential threats. These risks are real, not hyper-real, as postmodernists claim.
Given this backdrop, critically evaluate the opposing claims made by (1) structuralists, (2) poststructuralists or postmodernists, and (3) the “third group” of theorists such as Pierre Bourdieu, Bruno Latour, Donna Haraway, Joseph Schumpeter, and Ulrich Beck among others who try to bridge between structure and agency, between humans and non-humans. Which group’s arguments are the most convincing to you? Do you think that objective knowledge about our reality is possible? Support your arguments with evidence and reason.
Write your essay in eight pages using a 12-point Times New Roman font, double-spaced, and 1-inch margin on all sides. Properly cite the original works (not the lectures). Add a cover page with a suitable title and another page for the references.
The grading will be based on the following components:
- The essay has a title, an introduction, the body, and a conclusion, and all works cited in the text are appropriately referenced in the references section. Any citation style is okay, but it must be consistently and properly followed. The essay must be proofread for grammatical and spelling mistakes.
- The essay should not just describe each theory. It must engage in a critical review of each theoretical argument related to the debate. The essay should show a clear understanding of the debate, related readings, and the literature beyond the readings if needed.
- The analysis of the third position is more critical as it should reflect your analytical capacity and understanding of the debate. You should have your own opinion as you evaluate each position. You can synthesize the different points of view or offer a completely new explanation of your own.
- The justification to support or reject one position must be convincing based on reasoning and/or empirical evidence.