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The Flight from Ambiguity

Essays in Social and Cultural Theory

The essays turn about a single theme, the loss of the capacity to deal constructively with ambiguity in the modern era. Levine offers a head-on critique of the modern compulsion to flee ambiguity. He centers his analysis on the question of what responses social scientists should adopt in the face of the inexorably ambiguous character of all natural languages. In the course of his argument, Levine presents a fresh reading of works by the classic figures of modern European and American social theory—Durkheim, Freud, Simmel and Weber, and Park, Parsons, and Merton.

260 pages | 5.875 x 9 | © 1985

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Political Science: Political and Social Theory

Rhetoric and Communication

Sociology: General Sociology

Table of Contents

1. The Flight from Ambiguity
2. Ambiguity and Modernity
3. The Flexibility of Traditional Cultures
4. Emile Durkheim, Univocalist Manqué
5. Useful Confusions: Simmel’s Stranger and His Followers
6. Ambivalent Encounters: Disavowels of Simmel by Durkheim, Weber, Lukács, Park, and Parsons
7. Rationality and Freedom, Inveterate Multivocals
8. Freud, Weber, and Modern Rationales of Conscience
9. On Subjective and Objective Rationality in Simmel . . . and Weber . . . and Parsons
Epilogue: Two Cheers for Ambiguity in Science
Appendix: Weber’s Summary Formulation Regarding the Forms of Rationality

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