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This chapter investigates the political stakes that are often claimed for or attributed to literary and cultural critique. Looking at an uncanny convergence between Edward Said and Matthew Arnold, the chapter examines how and why intellectuals have invested critique with a political function. This function is frequently imbued with progressive tendencies, although the correlation between critique and left politics has also been hotly contested. Yet many commentators, including the practitioners of radical critique themselves, question whether critique can be equated to a politics at all. Instead of seeing critique as political, not political enough, or as a false politics, this chapter suggests that it may be more productive to understand critique as the impossible pursuit of political relevance and meaning, one that anticipates but is destined never to achieve its exigent ends.

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