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Cultural and aesthetic critique (under attack in a market-driven world) confront a secular age that has eroded beliefs in history’s happy endings guaranteed by revolution or religion that once grounded politically engaged criticism. Such criticism dedicated itself to deciphering the barbaric truths often concealed within bourgeois cultures most civilized expressions. Hegel noted an early symptom of this critical condition when he noted that by the nineteenth century art, as a vehicle of historical progress, had ended. Religion and philosophy as credible expressions of universal truths have now ended as well. Yet the need for just alternatives to absolute violence remains imperative. In the absence of universals, critique most credibly claims its place as a discipline dedicated to the analysis and transmission of meanings, their translation and transmission from one cultural enclave or community to another. Translation rather than decipherment seems the uniquely indispensable role of criticism in a secular age.

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