Nihilism, American Style: The Americanization of the Idea of Culture

dc.contributor.advisor Helbling, Mark en_US Kim, Kevin D. en_US
dc.contributor.department American Studies en_US 2009-03-06T19:40:09Z 2009-03-06T19:40:09Z 2002-12 en_US 2002-12 en_US
dc.description xxiii, 357 leaves en_US
dc.description.abstract There are at least three major moments of nihilism in American intellectual history. Against European tradition, Emerson had advanced a conception of culture that was radically interpretive, pluralistic and anti-foundationalist, and this eventually worked its way back into the United States through the social sciences (via Nietzsche and then Weber). Likewise, American pragmatist philosophy, conceiving science as serving plural values rooted in human needs, originated with Emerson. The various European conceptions of value had always conceived value as objective and transcendent, and this was reflected in the European ideas of culture; the chasm between subject and object was a feature of the Western intellectual tradition. This notion of transcendent value was discredited, it led in the European tradition to a crisis of nihilism. In contrast, the early American culture idea united (subjectivity) values and culture with objectivity (science and technique); this revolutionary conception conceived value as immanent and not transcendent, and some critics felt that this was a nihilistic betrayal of eternal truths and ideals. By the middle of the twentieth century, especially in the United States, the close union of subject and object characteristic of early twentieth-century American academic theory led to a new kind of nihilism, in the form of the technocratic subordination of values to technique and the negation of existential meaning by rationality in American thought and society. The early balance between an interacting subject and object was lost in positivist pragmatism and in the functionalist social sciences. Since the 1960s, the response to this crisis was ultimately counter-cultural protest, and consisted of undermining the legitimacy of the technocracy by attacking rationality in general. On the theoretical level, this was accomplished primarily by collapsing the distinction between subject (culture) and object (science). However, this libertarian rebellion drew its values of self-expression and self-fulfillment largely from consumerism, and in its quest for greater individual empowerment laid the groundwork for the information age by equating technology with personal creativity. This is an ambiguous victory over the technocracy. en_US
dc.publisher University of Hawaii at Manoa en_US
dc.relation Theses for the degree of Master of Arts (University of Hawaii at Manoa). American Studies; no. 3034 en_US
dc.rights All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner. en_US
dc.rights.uri en_US
dc.title Nihilism, American Style: The Americanization of the Idea of Culture en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US
dc.type.dcmi Text en_US
local.identifier.callnumber CB5 .H3 no. 3034 en_US
local.thesis.degreelevel MA en_US