How can we interpret and compare different cultures? And how are we to judge, when our interpretations differ? In this book, Joseph D. Lewandowski exposes, evaluates, and rethinks the answers proposed by current schools of critical social theory. Scholars have conducted the study of culture in two general ways: as an observer science, where behaviour and world-views are measurable, rational, and subject to impartial examination; and as an interpretive art, where a scholar, relying on the help of indigenous consultants, actually participates in the understanding of cultures. In view of increasingly manifest problems with both stances, Lewandowski proposes an alternative, one that capitalises on the strengths of both schools of interpretation and in fact underpins the work of major social theorists of the modern era, including Adorno, Foucault, and Bourdieu. Gathering insights from a wide array of anthropologists, archaeologists, and philosophers and applying them to case studies in the United States, Lewandowski develops a practical model of culture and method of interpretation that are built around the concept of "constructing constellations."
According to this concept - drawn from the work of Simmel, Kracauer, Benjamin, and Adorno - cultures are made up of social fields, embedded social practices that are continually created and patterned in certain ways, akin to constellations. The constellations of embedded actions and beliefs in different settings, such as ghetto life in New York or the world of boxing in Chicago, are, Lewandowski argues, observable, measurable, and ultimately comparable. Joseph D. Lewandowski is assistant professor of philosophy at Central Missouri State University.