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Identity Crises

A Social Critique of Postmodernity

1998
Author:

Robert G. Dunn

Identity Crises

A readable analysis of postmodernity that provides a cultural context for its rise.

Though the term “postmodern” looms large on our cultural landscape, rarely do we find a systematic and impartial discussion of the circumstances of its ascendance. Identity Crises offers just such an accounting. In this book, Robert G. Dunn situates the intellectual currency of “the postmodern” within the larger context of social and cultural change shaping the movement over the past several decades.

Dunn’s erudite, even-handed, and enlightening arguments explain contemporary culture and criticism as part of a distinct historical moment that entails new social relations as a consequence of new means of production. What is most impressive about this book is its scholarship, its willingness to engage and think through positions that sociologists have too often only ridiculed.

George Lipsitz, University of California, San Diego

Though the term “postmodern” looms large on our cultural landscape, rarely do we find a systematic and impartial discussion of the circumstances of its ascendance. Identity Crises offers just such an accounting. In this book, Robert G. Dunn situates the intellectual currency of “the postmodern” within the larger context of social and cultural change shaping the movement over the past several decades. Along the way, he offers a necessary corrective to both the sociological and historical shortcomings of cultural criticism and the cultural myopia of social science in considering the postmodern world.

Dunn explains contemporary culture and contemporary cultural criticism as part of a distinct historical moment, one that entails new social relations as a consequence of new means of production. In place of prevailing cultural and political constructions, Dunn proposes a “social relational” approach that explicitly recognizes the structural and situational contexts of identity formation. He conceptualizes issues of identity and difference in terms of social, cultural, and political transformations in the transition from modern to postmodern society. This provides a socio-historical perspective through which to consider the impact of consumption, mass media, globalization, and new social movements on identity-forming processes.

Unique to this undertaking and crucial to Dunn’s critique of poststructuralist and postmodern theories is his application of the theory of George Herbert Mead as a more effective means of theorizing identity and difference. Dunn’s focus on postmodernity as opposed to postmodernism serves to ground the analysis of identity and difference materially and socially.

Learned, evenhanded, and enlightening, Identity Crises is an essential demonstration of the connections between cultural theory and criticism, contemporary culture, and sociological analysis.

ISBN 0-8166-3072-0 Cloth $49.95xx
ISBN 0-8166-3073-9 Paper $19.95x
304 pages 5 7/8 x 9 March
Translation inquiries: University of Minnesota Press

Identity Crises

Robert G. Dunn is professor of sociology at California State University. His work has appeared in the journals Media, Culture, and Society; Theory, Culture, and Society; Socialist Review; California Sociologist; and The Sociological Quarterly.

Identity Crises

At last Dunn provides a grounded sociological vision with his balanced, careful, and learned assessment of the cultural and historical factors affecting postmodernity. He provides a profound sociological assessment of the evolution and the future of a postmodernist orientation. Dunn has performed a heroic task in evaluating and incorporating the many authorities into what he calls his ‘social critique.’

World Literature Today

Dunn’s erudite, even-handed, and enlightening arguments explain contemporary culture and criticism as part of a distinct historical moment that entails new social relations as a consequence of new means of production. What is most impressive about this book is its scholarship, its willingness to engage and think through positions that sociologists have too often only ridiculed.

George Lipsitz, University of California, San Diego

Clearly written and well-organized book. This is an excellent book that should be read by all sociologists.

Contemporary Sociology

Identity Crises

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction

1 Regrounding TheoryThe Social Relations of Identity and Difference
2 Modernity and PostmodernityTransformations in Identity Formation
3 On the Transition from Modernity to Postmodernity Transformations in Culture
4 Explaining the Destabilization of IdentityPostmodernization, Commodification, and the Leveling of Cultural Hierarchy
5 Identity, Politics, and the Dual Logic of Postmodernity Fragmentation and Pluralization
6 Redeeming the SubjectPoststructuralism, Meadian Social Pragmatism, and the Turn to Intersubjectivity

Conclusion Postmodernity and Its Theoretical Consequences

Notes
Bibliography
Index