Dialectical Anthropology

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 305–324

On the ethics and practice of contemporary social theory: from crisis talk to multiattentional method


DOI: 10.1007/s10624-009-9141-6

Cite this article as:
Boyer, D. Dialect Anthropol (2010) 34: 305. doi:10.1007/s10624-009-9141-6


Using an approach derived from the anthropology and sociology of knowledge, this article explores the historical emergence of European social theory and its contemporary place in the human sciences. I direct ethnographic attention to a sense of crisis or impasse in social theory’s capacity to frame and to analyze the complexity of contemporary relations in the world. By reanalyzing this crisis talk as a phenomenological reaction to the growing (sub)specialization of social theory, I offer a new way of thinking about social theory in terms of specialized analytical attentions. I also suggest how we can move from crisis talk to a new ethics of theoretical complementarity, inspired by Dilthey, which I term “multiattentional method.”


Anthropology of knowledgeSocial life of theoryCrisis discourseEthicsAttentionPhenomenologyPara-ethnographyDilthey

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rice UniversityHoustonUS