I do not like isms; I would much prefer not to have this chapter in the book at all. However, my students have insisted that it is necessary, since they feel they need some guidance in their reading of what others write. And in truth I often mention isms myself in this book. Isms can be useful shorthand; and even with the best of intentions it is hard to break out of the discourse of our community. One reason I am hesitant to discuss isms is that I have no confidence that philosophers or social scientists will agree with the way in which I demarcate them in this chapter — if only because I do not fully agree with the way anyone I have read has defined them. And I do not want, nor do I want readers, to get involved in a debate over the ‘true nature’ of the isms and what they ‘really’ entail. Just keep in mind that isms exist only in the sense in which we construct them and so, given that different people construct them very differently, we have a discursive problem.
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