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Writing a Critical Bibliography Review Essay

Writing a Critical Bibliography Review Essay

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Writing a Critical Bibliography Review Essay

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  1. Writing a Critical Bibliography Review Essay Rene Raymond R. Raneses, Jr.

  2. Parts of the Critical Bibliography Essay • Introduction • Introduction of the primary author/text and the place of the author/text in the argument pursued by the course • Presentation of the key themes pursued by commentators on the primary author/text • Reviewer’s assessment of how the commentators read the themes in their commentaries from the overarching argument of the course • Conclusion

  3. Introduction of the primary author/text: Brief Exposition • What do you think is the primary author/text’s main project in the work/s at hand? • MAIN ARGUMENT: Antonio Gramsci’s works demonstrate the weakness of a revolutionary theory that valorizes the role of civil society as a potential space for autonomously organizing revolutionary forces against the capitalist state. • SUPPORTING ARGUMENT: Gramsci shows that the Marxist theory of the State must pay attention to the cultural relations that are regulated subtly by state institutions. He then highlights how these cultural relations are folded into the main objectives of class domination via the State not just through coercive practices but also through consensual practices.

  4. Exercise: Extract the argument from the passages below : “In its most widespread form as economistic superstition, the philosophy of praxis loses a great part of its capacity for cultural expansion among the top layer of intellectuals, however much it may gain among the popular masses and the second-rate intellectuals, who do not intend to overtax their brains but still wish to appear to know everything, etc. As Engels wrote, many people find it very convenient to think that they can have the whole of history and all political and philosophical wisdom in their pockets at little cost and no trouble, concentrated into a few short formulae. They forget that the thesis which asserts that men become conscious of fundamental conflicts on the level of ideology is not psychological or moralistic in character, but structural and epistemological ; and they form the habit of considering politics, and hence history, as a continuous marc de dupes, a competition in conjuring and sleight of hand. "Critical" activity is reduced to the exposure of swindles, to creating scandals, and to prying into the pockets of public figures.” (Gramsci, “State and Civil Society” from Selections from The Prison Notebooks)

  5. SAMPLE ARGUMENT EXTRACTION:Step 1: Summarize the textual passage The philosophical emphasis on praxis may become popular and convenient because it is able to condense political wisdom into formulaic statements. Those who are swayed by this philosophy fail to see the structural and epistemological underpinnings of ideological conflicts and are more interested in the affairs of politicians-as-politicians-of-their-own-making. Step 2: Paraphrase it according to how you understood the summary. The problem with the aversion towards theory can lead to a failure to comprehend how the realities that one sees and engages with as the ones that matter for the revolution are already predefined ideologically – in structural and epistemological terms. Step 3: State your argument ForGramsci, the revolutionary struggle if it must understand the subtle operation of consensual power must at its core, be an intellectual struggle.

  6. Exercise: Extract the argument from the passage below: • The weakness of the Italian political parties (excepting to some extent the Nationalist party) throughout their period of activity, from the Risorgimento onwards, has consisted in what one might call an imbalance between agitation and propaganda-though it can also be termed lack of principle, opportunism, absence of organic continuity, imbalance between tactics and strategy, etc. The principal reason why the parties are like this is to be sought in the deliquescence of the economic classes, in the gelatinous economic and social structure of the country-but this explanation is somewhat fatalistic. In fact, if it is true that parties are only the nomenclature for classes, it is also true that parties are not simply a mechanical and passive expression of those classes, but react energetically upon them in order to develop, solidify and universalise them. This precisely did not occur in Italy, and the result of this "omission" is precisely the imbalance between agitation and propaganda or however else one wishes to term it. • (Gramsci, “State and Civil Society” from Selections from The Prison Notebooks)

  7. PRESENTATION OF COMMENTARIES • Commentaries on a primary author or text do any or all of the following: • Historicize the argument • Clarify a controversy among other scholars • Draw from the primary author a specific concept • Challenge the argument of the primary author/text (and may or may not) provide a different interpretation) • Compare, contrast and synthesize across different works or interpretations of those works • Link with or apply the author/text’s argument to a concrete/contemporary issue/problem

  8. Determine the purpose of this extract from a commentary: • For Gramsci, then, the relationship between Marxism and these three activities is clearly that of a global theory to a specific, concrete theory. They are theoretically interdependent. Their specificity can be apprehended only on an intellectual and speculative level. Outside Marxism, these activities claim an autonomous existence by adhering to strict scientific, positivistic principles. Incorporated in a Marxist framework, however, they retain only a relative autonomy; they are historicized and transformed into "critical economy," "critical science of politics," and "critical philosophy" (Gramsci, 1971:411; and 1966a:261). --- Leonardo Salamini, 1975

  9. Determine the purpose of this extract from a commentary: • Gramsci's points merit repetition. The elaboration of a critical conception of the world must find its starting point in the problems, beliefs, culture and mode of thought of the masses; it must emerge from the depths of history. Intellectuals, to the extent that they are better equipped to articulate ideas or to connect the feelings and thinking of the masses "dialectically to the laws of history,"‘ will have a major responsibility to facilitate, but not dictate, the emergence of a new hegemony. They will act as equal participants, not as the makers of history. In conclusion, on the vital question of the elaboration of a socialist conception of the world, Gramsci calls for active and equal participation of the masses and clearly dismisses any elitist model of intellectual work.

  10. Determine the purpose of this extract from a commentary: • In attempting to grapple with the complex problems of interpreting the fragmentary and elliptical nature of Gramsci's writings common emphases have emerged within many of the commentaries. For example, Geoff Eley (1984) has called for the historicizing or contextualizing of Gramsci's thought and action while also distilling elements useful for the present. This involves going beyond the privileged texts of the notebooks in order to promote an understanding of Gramsci's 'national-popular' or Italianate elements but without confining such features to a 'historicist prison'. Similarly, Alastair Davidson (1972) has emphasized the impor- tance of going beyond the exclusively textual approach in an effort to display an awareness of the real problems in which Gramsci lived while also extending the focus to look at aspects of his intellectual formation.8 Elsewhere, calls have been made for additional attention to be paid to the context of Gramsci's writings, although in some cases these demands have been made in a rather anecdotal or tokenist way (Diggins, 1988; Phillips and Bedeian, 1990; Walzer, 1988).

  11. Determine the purpose of this extract from a commentary: • Chaudhuri's two-step proposal involves, first, a return to the 'orginal point' of thie hegemonic process, and second, a movement from a lower to a higher moment of the universal. The first step implies a question- ing of the surrogate (i e, false) form of the universal and the uncovering of its 'truth content'. One obvious difficulty here is that while Chaudhuri rejects (quite correctly, in terms of dialectical logic) 'true synthesis' as a valid Marxist category, he asserts that there is an 'original truth content' which lies transvalued and displaced in the surrogate universal. He gives no indication as to what this might be, if not an original thesis/anti- thesis antinomy. The second difficulty is that the return to an original point and the subsequent movement to a higher universal would seem to imply that the displacement in hegemonic power can be completely erased; if this journey of counter-hegemony is indeed successful, the displacement might never have happened at all. I think it can'be argued that this part of Chaudhuri's proposal is wholly at variance with Gramsci's suggestions. Gramsci takes the form of displaced hegemonic power quite seriously..He not only asks: 'What is the truth-content which lies displaced in the surrogate universal?' (perhaps he does not ask this question at all); he also asks: 'What makes it necessary for the elite to construct a surrogate universal? What makes it possible for it to deploy the surrogate effectively?' Crucially, Gramsci seeks to establish, in their relation to each other within the hegemony process, the positions of the elite and the subaltern, as conscious historical subjects in-habiting autonomous cultural domains.

  12. Determine the purpose of this extract from a commentary: • Gramsci is important in this new era, because he anticipates some of our new problems well (e g, civil society, hegemony),and also because he addresses some of our old problems in a refreshing way (e g, the growth of civil society through the public sector, immediately undertaken by post-colonial states after the wars). Also, he anticipated heterogeneity in discourses of homogeneity in an era when people did not listen to him. He proposed to discover universals in the midst of differences in a way that might make post-modernists despise him today. That Gramsci is more relevant now is evident from the fact that more and more people are willing to listen to him today albeit in many different forms in unintended ways. In a globalised era if we are interested in upholding 'the third way' (to borrow an expression from Anthony Giddens), and in confronting extremes - economic, political and ideological - Gramsci provides very important contributions. Therefore, the resources of Gramsci are more importan today than ever before.

  13. Presentation of the Key Themes (1,0 words)

  14. CRITIQUE OF ECONOMISM The subject-consciousness of the revolutionary classes

  15. Reviewer’s assessment of how the commentators read the themes in their commentaries from the overarching argument of the course • How do the converges and divergences of the thematic approaches from the three readings help YOU in clarifying, strengthening or perhaps even problematizing your argument about the primary author/text? • What are the assumptions about the political order or the real world are implicit in a) the commentaries; b) the thematic convergences and divergences found in the commentaries; and c) your own manner of reading/understanding these commentaries and the thematic concerns?

  16. Reviewer’s assessment of how the commentators read the themes in their commentaries from the overarching argument of the course • From your own analysis, are these assumptions acceptable? How do these assumptions shape the analytical route taken by the commentator? How do these assumptions narrow possibilities of alternative interpretations? • Do you find it necessary to displace these assumptions and introduce perhaps a different set of assumptions?

  17. Reviewer’s assessment of how the commentators read the themes in their commentaries from the overarching argument of the course

  18. CONCLUSION • What questions about the primary author/text were answered by the commentaries? • What unanswered questions about the primary author/text remain/persist after reviewing the works of the commentators? • Why do these questions remain unanswered? • What assumptions among the commentators prevented them from answering these questions? • What methodological/interpretive lens were used by the commentators to read the primary author/text?

  19. GO BACK TO THE INTRODUCTION • WHAT DID I DO IN THIS PAPER? • Begin your introduction with your conclusion: “In this paper, I highlight a crucial gap in four commentaries on the works and thought of Antonio Gramsci: their failure to ground their interpretations on how for Gramsci, the subjectivity of the revolutionary proletariat is simultaneously historically determined but capable of asserting contextually-specific agency.” • Establish the significance of your conclusion within the epistemic community: “This failure prevents Marxist and Gramscian scholars from appreciating the unique capacity of the revolutionary proletariat to determine and define in a creative way his or her mode of engaging concrete political realities.” • Establish the significance of your conclusion in terms of understanding the primary text/author:“In failing to do so, scholarship on Gramsci and Marxism miss a central factor in Gramsci’s contribution to Marxism (insert now your interpretation of Gramsci here).”

  20. GO BACK TO THE INTRODUCTION • WHAT WILL THE READER EXPECT WHILE READING THE PAPER? • INFORM your reader about your assumptions: “In my engagement with Gramsci’sThe Prison Notebooks, I read from his analysis of the relationship of class and language a profound...” • ENUMERATE the themes explored by the commentaries: “Across the three commentaries discussed here, three themes and controversies about Gramsci can be discerned: first, his critique of economism, second…” • INDICATE how you assessed each theme. • TRANSITION to the first substantive part of the paper

  21. STYLISTIC CONCERNS • AVOID CUTE INTRODUCTIONS AND HANGING CONCLUSIONS. BE DECISIVE. • Sentence Formation • write in complete sentences • Effective Citation • Hana Pitkin, in the book “Fortune is a Woman”, she argues that…  what is wrong here? • For Pitkin, she examines the…  what is wrong here? • DIRECT QUOTES ARE NOT SELF-EXPLANATORY • Paragraph Structure • Each paragraph must have a thesis statement at the start and a transition statement at the end. • Effective use of Language • NO LEGALISMS (wherein, thereby, heretofore, whereas, wherefore, whereby) • NO COLLOQUIALISMS (don’t, can’t, I’m/ you) • DISTINGUISH IF THE CLAIM IS YOURS OR THE READER • Clarify your ANTECEDENTS.