The New Task of the Humanities


Writers bringing into play the term culture in order to make sense of developments since the end of the Cold War are usually working in the social sciences. Culture has been a focus of research in the social sciences for a long time. However, and saying this is not trivial at the present point, there is a whole group of disciplines exclusively dedicated to culture: the humanities. Making use of the term culture, social scientists usually rely on particular positions or schools within the humanities. They do so implicitly or explicitly, but above all in a rather random fashion. It is not always clear why a certain writer relies on a particular school within the humanities rather than on another one.

The relationship between the humanities and the social sciences forms a long and sometimes painful story. Among the recent episodes counts the reliance of the humanities on the social sciences as a source of inspiration for working out methods of interpretation – or reading. Not all too certain, as it appears, about their place and function in the present day world, the humanities have developed the habit of walking in the second row after particular other disciplines, be it the social sciences, be it management science or international trade.  It may be warm and cosy there, but the humanities may overlook the new task and responsibility which is theirs and – in view of all the experience, subtlety and patience in approaching cultural realities accumulated and cultivated only by the humanities – theirs alone: Rethinking, redefining, reinventing the ways we understand culture in order to become capable of describing and adequately responding to the cultural problems we are facing today and will be facing even more in the future.

The process of globalisation and the new problems and conflicts this process either is producing or bringing to light, require a dramatic repositioning of the humanities and a redefinition of their relation to the social sciences.  Contributing to this task defines the research focus of the CSGCD.

 

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Last updated: 2004/10/25 01:01