Reading Jameson dogmatically



Publication Details

Buchanan, I. 2002, 'Reading Jameson dogmatically', Historical Materialism: research in critical Marxist theory, vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 223-243.


From the title, it might be thought that this review is going to complain that the books surveyed here are not sufficiently critical, that they are somehow too dogmatic – meaning ‘slavish’ – in their approach. But, in fact, my complaint is going to be the very opposite: in my view, these six commentaries on Fredric Jameson’s work are not sufficiently dogmatic in attitude. The critical and the dogmatic are not the structural opposites they may seem to be; indeed, properly speaking, these terms are incommensurable, belonging as they do to unrelated paradigms of reading. For instance, it makes no sense to speak of a critical reading of the Bible, it can only be read dogmatically, because the only thing that counts is the truth; likewise, it makes no sense to speak of a dogmatic reading of a newspaper, it can only be read critically because it does not pretend to offer truth, rather it claims to furnish facts. Things are not always so black and white, the proper approach to be taken is not always so obviously signalled as it is in the two examples given. Theoretical works such as Jameson’s offer an admixture of facts and truths which perhaps suggests that one’s style of reading should be similarly heterogeneous, a little dogmatic and a little critical, or perhaps a little dogmatic and a lot critical, or whatever other permutation one might come up with. But, of course, such an option is not available: that they are mutually exclusive means one has to decide between reading dogmatically or critically.

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