16 April 2008

The cultural apparatus and "French Theory"

Scott McLemee on François Cusset's French Theory: How Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, & Co. Transformed the Intellectual Life of the United States (translated by Jeff Fort):
To put it another way: the very category of “French Theory” itself is socially constructed. Explaining how that construction came to pass is Cusset’s project. He looks at the process as it unfolded at various levels of academic culture: via translations and anthologies, in certain disciplines, with particular sponsors, and so on. Along the way, he recounts the American debates over postmodernism, poststructuralism, and whatnot. But those disputes are part of his story, not the point of it. While offering an outsider’s perspective on our interminable culture wars, it is more than just a chronicle of them.

Instead, it would be much more fitting to say that French Theory is an investigation of the workings of what C. Wright Mills called the “cultural apparatus.” This term, as Mills defined it some 50 years ago, subsumes all the institutions and forms of communication through which “learning, entertainment, malarky, and information are produced and distributed ... the medium by which [people] interpret and report what they see.” The academic world is part of this “apparatus,” but the scope of the concept is much broader; it also includes the arts and letters, as well as the media, both mass and niche.


Anonymous said...


I don´t know what French Theory really means but for sure I do know that Charles Mills published a great piece what working out basis processes, some fifty years ago, in his "the cultural apparatus",


Angela Brown

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