Cultural vs. Social Theory
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This paper will explore the need for a distinctive methodological approach to interdisciplinary inquiry in the cultural as distinct from the social sphere. The challenge of multidisciplinary research within a complex nexus of fields requires clarity in methodological choices and assumptions. Such methodological assumptions require viable models of the field of inquiry. On the basis of two models borrowed from Adorno and Benjamin (force field and constellation), I argue for a structural differentiation between the social and cultural domains of inquiry along the lines of the difference between conceptual and figurative modeling. In accordance with the inherently figurative structure of the cultural domain, I address questions regarding the appropriate form of engagement with the cultural text. I use a short text by Kafka, “Before the Law,” as a touchstone, taking issue with one of the more lucid engagements of Derrida with a literary work, in an essay of the same title as Kafka’s short story. An alternative response to Derrida’s, in the light of Kafka’s own commentary on the text, is offered, such that the peculiar continuity is accented between the object and the mode of inquiry appropriate to the cultural text. The general implications for methodology in cultural inquiry are drawn out by way of conclusion.