Critical Intellectuals: from Legislators to Interpreters to Mediators?

UntitledA lecture by profesor Gregor McLennan organized by Centre for Science, Technology, and Society Studies (Institute of Philosophy AV ČR), Program Prvouk 19 “Interdisciplinary sciences”, Department of Historical Sociology FHS UK and CEFRES.

Where: Jinonice, U Kříže 8, Praha 5 – room 6022.

Language: English.

The lecture is going to be held within the frame of the cycle “Historical Sociology Confrontations”.

Zygmunt Bauman once characterized the shift from modernity to postmodernity in terms of the changing style of intellectuals, from the model of the ‘legislator’ to that of the ‘interpreter’. With the blurring of any sharp contrast between modernity and postmodernity, a third figure, that of the ‘mediator’, has come to the fore. Working through various ways in which the rather bland connotations of mediation can be upgraded and energized, I identify the late Stuart Hall as an outstanding mediator in the last 50 years of critical social thought – though this involves questioning some received wisdom about Hall within cultural studies itself. And it turns out that one condition of being a notable intellectual mediator is the retention of a definite degree of ‘legislation’, in this case Hall’s continued (if stretched) allegiance to Marxism. I then consider (also affirmatively) the very different case of Ernest Gellner, who is sometimes thought to have been so legislatively modernist (and thus also ‘Eurocentric’ and ideologically ‘secularist’) as to have little to offer the ‘postsecular’ frame of understanding that is increasingly prominent in our times.

Gregor McLennan is Professor of Sociology and Head of the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies at the University of Bristol. Building on previous writings on Marxism, pluralism, sociology and cultural studies, Prof McLennan’s more recent work has examined the theoretical challenges posed by contemporary postcolonialism and postsecularism.

– Filip Vostal (FLÚ AV ČR, CEFRES)
– Nicolas Maslowski (FHS UK)
– Marek Skovajsa (FHS UK)