Friday, April 26, 2013
3rd paragraph (revised)
A systematic and more or less “universalist” approach, such as the one that I am proposing here, encourages a skeptical view of exceptionalism in general as well as in its individual manifestations: the recognition of patterns repeated from one discourse to another tends to undermine the entire intellectual project. Since universalism has its own well-known pitfalls, though, my use of it here will be largely heuristic. In other words, I am not proposing a universalist theory of culture, but looking for commonalities among discourses that make claims for particularism. It will not be my concern, either, to debunk or disprove exceptionalist claims one by one, either on empirical or ideological grounds. A historian, for example, might attempt to refute Unamuno’s notions of “casticismo” or “intrahistoria” through empirical research, but the ways in which these concepts invoke typically exceptionalist tropes reveal them to be suspect on their face. By the same token, it is easy to see that certain versions of exceptionalism are politically conservative, but even seemingly progressive narratatives should not escape scrutiny.