10. The critical philosophy: ‘changing reality’ INTRODUCTION According to commentators like Drucker (1989) and Harvey (1989), the Western, capitalist world underwent a transformation in cultural mood and economic expectations during the 1970s. That a change transpired in one way or another seems uncontentious, but the nature of the change, its content and implications, fuel ongoing debate. For some, the change skimmed the surface, characterized by a rise in fads, fashions, advertising and shallow spectacle, while for others, the change foreshadowed a pervasive new force that undermined the search for universal truth and meaning (Huysens, 1984). Notwithstanding the continuing arguments about exactly how Western society shifted, there was some consistency in the kinds of cultural and commercial issues that made headlines. One obvious area focused on how socalled conventional boundaries of thinking had been overthrown. The rules governing the ways things had always been done loosened almost to the point of chaos. For example, artists, designers, architects and intellectuals began experimenting with new concepts and ideas that not only challenged the traditional approaches, but discarded them altogether. It seemed as though society had become more than a complex assemblage of values and cultural imperatives. Instead, ambiguity and contradiction were the new norm, and assumptions about absolute truth, meaning and value became reclassified as individual issues. Cultural universality began to give way to cultural relativism. At the same time, business organizations started to soften their management philosophies and learned to capitalize on changing patterns of consumption (Firat, Dholakia and Vinkatesh, 1995). The...
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