critical theory
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A critical theory is any approach to
social philosophy Social philosophy examines questions about the foundations of social institutions, social behavior, and interpretations of society in terms of Value (ethics), ethical values rather than empirical relations. Social philosophers emphasize understand ...
that focuses on society and culture to reveal, critique and challenge
power structure In political sociology, but also operative within the rest of the animal, animal kingdom, a power structure is a hierarchy of competence or aggression (might) predicated on power (social and political), influence between an individual and other ...
s. With roots in
sociology Sociology is a social science that focuses on society, human social behavior, patterns of Interpersonal ties, social relationships, social interaction, and aspects of culture associated with everyday life. It uses various methods of Empirical ...
and
literary criticism Literary criticism (or literary studies) is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often influenced by literary theory, which is the philosophical analysis, philosophical discussion of literature' ...
, it argues that social problems stem more from
social structure In the social sciences, social structure is the aggregate of patterned social arrangements in society that are both emergence, emergent from and determinant of the Structure and agency, actions of individuals. Likewise, society is believed to b ...
s and cultural assumptions than from individuals. It argues that
ideology An ideology is a set of beliefs or philosophies attributed to a person or group of persons, especially those held for reasons that are not purely epistemic, in which "practical elements are as prominent as theoretical ones." Formerly applied pr ...
is the principal obstacle to human liberation. Critical theory finds applications in various fields of study, including
psychoanalysis PsychoanalysisFrom Greek: + . is a set of theories and therapeutic techniques"What is psychoanalysis? Of course, one is supposed to answer that it is many things — a theory, a research method, a therapy, a body of knowledge. In what might ...
,
sociology Sociology is a social science that focuses on society, human social behavior, patterns of Interpersonal ties, social relationships, social interaction, and aspects of culture associated with everyday life. It uses various methods of Empirical ...
,
history History (derived ) is the systematic study and the documentation of the human activity. The time period of event before the invention of writing systems is considered prehistory. "History" is an umbrella term comprising past events as we ...
, communication theory,
philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the systematized study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, knowledge, values, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. Some ...
and
feminist theory Feminist theory is the extension of feminism into theoretical, fictional, or philosophical discourse. It aims to understand the nature of gender inequality. It examines women's and men's social roles, experiences, interests, chores, and femi ...
. Specifically, Critical Theory (capitalized) is a
school of thought A school of thought, or intellectual tradition, is the perspective of a group of people who share common characteristics of opinion or outlook of a philosophy, List of academic disciplines, discipline, belief, social movement, Schools of economic ...
practiced by the
Frankfurt School The Frankfurt School (german: Frankfurter Schule) is a school of social theory and critical philosophy associated with the Institute for Social Research, at Goethe University Frankfurt in 1929. Founded in the Weimar Republic (1918–1933), duri ...
theoreticians
Herbert Marcuse Herbert Marcuse (; ; July 19, 1898 – July 29, 1979) was a German-American philosophy, philosopher, social critic, and political philosophy, political theorist, associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory. Born in Berlin, Marcuse st ...
,
Theodor Adorno Theodor is a masculine given name. It is a German form of Theodore (name), Theodore. It is also a variant of Teodor. List of people with the given name Theodor * Theodor Adorno, (1903–1969), German philosopher * Theodor Aman, Romanian painter * ...
,
Walter Benjamin Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin (; ; 15 July 1892 – 26 September 1940) was a German Jewish philosopher, cultural critic and essayist. An eclectic thinker, combining elements of German idealism, Romanticism, Western Marxism, and Jewish mys ...
,
Erich Fromm Erich Seligmann Fromm (; ; March 23, 1900 – March 18, 1980) was a German social psychologist, psychoanalyst, sociologist, humanistic philosopher A philosopher is a person who practices or investigates philosophy Philosophy ...
, and
Max Horkheimer Max Horkheimer (; ; 14 February 1895 – 7 July 1973) was a German philosopher and sociologist who was famous for his work in critical theory as a member of the Frankfurt School of social research. Horkheimer addressed authoritarianism, militaris ...
. Horkheimer described a theory as critical insofar as it seeks "to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them." Although a product of
modernism Modernism is both a philosophy, philosophical and arts movement that arose from broad transformations in Western world, Western society during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The movement reflected a desire for the creation of new fo ...
, and although many of the progenitors of Critical Theory were skeptical of
postmodernism Postmodernism is an intellectual stance or mode of discourseNuyen, A.T., 1992. The Role of Rhetorical Devices in Postmodernist Discourse. Philosophy & Rhetoric, pp.183–194. characterized by skepticism Skepticism, also spelled scepticism ...
, Critical Theory is one of the major components of both modern and postmodern thought, and is widely applied in the humanities and social sciences today.Ritzer, George, ''Sociological Theory'', ''From Modern to Postmodern Social Theory (and Beyond)'', McGraw-Hill Higher Education, New York, New York, 2008, pp. 567–568. In addition to its roots in the first-generation Frankfurt School, critical theory has also been influenced by György Lukács and
Antonio Gramsci Antonio Francesco Gramsci ( , , ; 22 January 1891 – 27 April 1937) was an Italian Marxist philosopher A philosopher is a person who practices or investigates philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the systematized study of genera ...
. Additionally, second-generation Frankfurt School scholars have been influential, notably Jürgen Habermas. In Habermas's work, critical theory transcended its theoretical roots in
German idealism German idealism was a philosophical movement that emerged in Germany in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It developed out of the work of Immanuel Kant in the 1780s and 1790s, and was closely linked both with Romanticism and the revolutionary ...
and progressed closer to American pragmatism. Concern for social "
base and superstructure In Marxism, Marxist theory, society consists of two parts: the base (or substructure) and superstructure. The base refers to the mode of production which includes the Forces of production, forces and relations of production (e.g. employer–emp ...
" is one of the remaining
Marxist Marxism is a Left-wing politics, left-wing to Far-left politics, far-left method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a Materialism, materialist interpretation of historical development, better known as historical materialism, to understand S ...
philosophical concepts in much contemporary critical theory.Outhwaite, William. 9882009. ''Habermas: Key Contemporary Thinkers'' (2nd ed.). .


Overview

Scholars distinguish between Critical Theory (capitalized) as the product of several generations of German philosophers and social theorists of the
Frankfurt School The Frankfurt School (german: Frankfurter Schule) is a school of social theory and critical philosophy associated with the Institute for Social Research, at Goethe University Frankfurt in 1929. Founded in the Weimar Republic (1918–1933), duri ...
on the one hand, and on the other any philosophical approach that seeks to liberate people from all forms of slavery and actively works to create a world in accordance with human needs (usually called "critical theory", without capitalization). Philosophical approaches within this broader definition include
feminism Feminism is a range of socio-political movements and ideologies that aim to define and establish the political, economic, personal, and social equality of the sexes. Feminism incorporates the position that society prioritizes the male po ...
,
critical race theory Critical race theory (CRT) is a cross-disciplinary examination, by social Social organisms, including human(s), live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and whet ...
, and forms of
postcolonialism Postcolonialism is the Critical theory, critical academic study of the cultural, political and economic legacy of colonialism and imperialism, focusing on the impact of human control and exploitation of colonized people and their lands. More speci ...
.
Max Horkheimer Max Horkheimer (; ; 14 February 1895 – 7 July 1973) was a German philosopher and sociologist who was famous for his work in critical theory as a member of the Frankfurt School of social research. Horkheimer addressed authoritarianism, militaris ...
first defined critical theory (german: Kritische Theorie) in his 1937 essay "Traditional and Critical Theory", as a
social theory Social theories are analytical frameworks, or paradigms, that are used to study and interpret social phenomenon, social phenomena.Seidman, S., 2016. Contested knowledge: Social theory today. John Wiley & Sons. A tool used by social scientists, so ...
oriented toward critiquing and changing
society A society is a group of individuals involved in persistent social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial or social territory, typically subject to the same political Politics (from , ) is the set of activitie ...
as a whole, in contrast to traditional theory oriented only toward understanding or explaining it. Wanting to distinguish critical theory as a radical, emancipatory form of
Marxist philosophy Marxist philosophy or Marxist theory are works in philosophy that are strongly influenced by Karl Marx's Historical materialism, materialist approach to theory, or works written by Marxists. Marxist philosophy may be broadly divided into Western ...
, Horkheimer critiqued both the model of science put forward by
logical positivism Logical positivism, later called logical empiricism, and both of which together are also known as neopositivism, is a movement in Western philosophy whose central thesis was the verification principle (also known as the verifiability criterion ...
, and what he and his colleagues saw as the covert
positivism Positivism is an empiricist In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the systematized study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, knowledge, values, mind, and language. Such questions are of ...
and
authoritarianism Authoritarianism is a political system characterized by the rejection of political plurality, the use of strong central power to preserve the political ''status quo'', and reductions in the rule of law, separation of powers, and democratic votin ...
of
orthodox Marxism Orthodox Marxism is the body of Marxist Marxism is a Left-wing politics, left-wing to Far-left politics, far-left method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a Materialism, materialist interpretation of historical development, better kno ...
and
Communism Communism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around ...
. He described a theory as ''critical'' insofar as it seeks "to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them." Critical theory involves a
normative Normative generally means relating to an evaluative standard. Normativity is the phenomenon in human societies of designating some actions or outcomes as good, desirable, or permissible, and others as bad, undesirable, or impermissible. A Norm (ph ...
dimension, either by criticizing society in terms of some general theory of
values In ethics and social sciences, value denotes the degree of importance of something or action, with the aim of determining which actions are best to do or what way is best to live (normative ethics in ethics), or to describe the significance of dif ...
or norms (''oughts''), or by criticizing society in terms of its own espoused values (i.e. '' immanent critique''). Significantly, critical theory not only conceptualizes and critiques societal power structures, but also establishes an empirically grounded model to link society to the human subject. It defends the universalist ambitions of the tradition, but does so within a specific context of social-scientific and historical research. The core concepts of critical theory are that it should: * be directed at the totality of society in its historical specificity (i.e., how it came to be configured at a specific point in time) * improve understanding of society by integrating all the major
social science Social science is one of the branches of science, devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly used to refer to the field of sociology, the o ...
s, including
geography Geography (from Ancient Greek, Greek: , ''geographia''. Combination of Greek words ‘Geo’ (The Earth) and ‘Graphien’ (to describe), literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, i ...
,
economics Economics () is the social science that studies the Production (economics), production, distribution (economics), distribution, and Consumption (economics), consumption of goods and services. Economics focuses on the behaviour and intera ...
,
sociology Sociology is a social science that focuses on society, human social behavior, patterns of Interpersonal ties, social relationships, social interaction, and aspects of culture associated with everyday life. It uses various methods of Empirical ...
,
history History (derived ) is the systematic study and the documentation of the human activity. The time period of event before the invention of writing systems is considered prehistory. "History" is an umbrella term comprising past events as we ...
,
political science Political science is the science, scientific study of politics. It is a social science dealing with systems of governance and power, and the analysis of politics, political activities, political thought, political behavior, and associated c ...
,
anthropology Anthropology is the scientific study of humanity, concerned with human behavior, human biology, cultures, societies, and linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. It is called a scientific study because i ...
, and
psychology Psychology is the science, scientific study of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciousness, conscious and Unconscious mind, unconscious phenomena, including feelings and thoughts. It is an academic discipline of immens ...
Postmodern Postmodernism is an intellectual stance or Rhetorical modes, mode of discourseNuyen, A.T., 1992. The Role of Rhetorical Devices in Postmodernist Discourse. Philosophy & Rhetoric, pp.183–194. characterized by philosophical skepticism, skepticis ...
critical theory is another major product of critical theory. It analyzes the fragmentation of cultural identities in order to challenge modernist-era constructs such as metanarratives,
rationality Rationality is the quality of being guided by or based on reasons. In this regard, a person acts rationally if they have a good reason for what they do or a belief is rational if it is based on strong evidence. This quality can apply to an ab ...
, and universal truths, while politicizing social problems "by situating them in historical and cultural contexts, to implicate themselves in the process of collecting and analyzing data, and to relativize their findings."


Marx

Marx explicitly developed the notion of ''critique'' into the critique of ideology, linking it with the practice of
social revolution Social revolutions are sudden changes in the Social structure, structure and nature of society. These revolutions are usually recognized as having transformed society, economy, culture, philosophy, and technology along with but more than just ...
, as stated in the 11th section of his ''
Theses on Feuerbach The "Theses on Feuerbach" are eleven short philosophical notes written by Karl Marx as a basic outline for the first chapter of the book ''The German Ideology'' in 1845. Like the book for which they were written, the theses were never published i ...
'': "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it." In early works, including The German Ideology, Marx developed his concepts of false consciousness and of ideology as the interests of one section of society masquerading as the interests of society as a whole.


Adorno and Horkheimer

One of the distinguishing characteristics of critical theory, as Theodor W. Adorno and
Max Horkheimer Max Horkheimer (; ; 14 February 1895 – 7 July 1973) was a German philosopher and sociologist who was famous for his work in critical theory as a member of the Frankfurt School of social research. Horkheimer addressed authoritarianism, militaris ...
elaborated in their ''
Dialectic of Enlightenment ''Dialectic of Enlightenment'' (german: Dialektik der Aufklärung) is a work of philosophy and social criticism written by Frankfurt School philosophers Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno. The text, published in 1947, is a revised version of wh ...
'' (1947), is an ambivalence about the ultimate source or foundation of social domination, an ambivalence that gave rise to the "
pessimism Pessimism is a negative mental attitude in which an undesirable outcome is anticipated from a given situation. Pessimists tend to focus on the negatives of life in general. A common question asked to test for pessimism is "Is the glass half empt ...
" of the new critical theory about the possibility of human emancipation and
freedom Freedom is understood as either having the ability to act or change without constraint or to possess the power and resources to fulfill one's purposes unhindered. Freedom is often associated with liberty and autonomy in the sense of "giving one ...
. This ambivalence was rooted in the historical circumstances in which the work was originally produced, particularly the rise of
Nazism Nazism ( ; german: Nazismus), the common name in English for National Socialism (german: Nationalsozialismus, ), is the far-right politics, far-right Totalitarianism, totalitarian political ideology and practices associated with Adolf Hit ...
,
state capitalism State capitalism is an economic system in which the State (polity), state undertakes business and Commerce, commercial (i.e. Profit (economics), for-profit) economic activity and where the means of production are nationalization, nationalized as ...
, and
culture industry The term culture industry (german: Kulturindustrie) was coined by the critical theory, critical theorists Theodor Adorno (1903–1969) and Max Horkheimer (1895–1973), and was presented as critical vocabulary in the chapter "The Culture Industr ...
as entirely new forms of social domination that could not be adequately explained in the terms of traditional Marxist sociology. For Adorno and Horkheimer,
state intervention Economic interventionism, sometimes also called state interventionism, is an economic policy position favouring government intervention in the market process with the intention of correcting market failure In neoclassical economics, market ...
in the economy had effectively abolished the traditional tension between Marxism's "
relations of production Relations of production (german: Produktionsverhältnisse, links=no) is a concept frequently used by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their theory of historical materialism and in ''Das Kapital''. It is first explicitly used in Marx's publish ...
" and "material
productive forces Productive forces, productive powers, or forces of production (German language, German: ''Produktivkräfte'') is a central idea in Marxism and historical materialism. In Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels' own critique of political economy, it refer ...
" of society. The market (as an "unconscious" mechanism for the distribution of goods) had been replaced by
centralized planning A planned economy is a type of economic system where Investment (macroeconomics), investment, Production (economics), production and the allocation of capital goods takes place according to economy-wide economic plans and production plans. A plan ...
. Contrary to Marx's prediction in the '' Preface to a Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy'', this shift did not lead to "an era of
social revolution Social revolutions are sudden changes in the Social structure, structure and nature of society. These revolutions are usually recognized as having transformed society, economy, culture, philosophy, and technology along with but more than just ...
" but to
fascism Fascism is a far-right, Authoritarianism, authoritarian, ultranationalism, ultra-nationalist political Political ideology, ideology and Political movement, movement,: "extreme militaristic nationalism, contempt for electoral democracy and pol ...
and
totalitarianism Totalitarianism is a form of government and a political system that prohibits all opposition parties, outlaws individual and group opposition to the state and its claims, and exercises an extremely high if not complete degree of control and reg ...
. As such, critical theory was left, in Habermas's words, without "anything in reserve to which it might appeal, and when the forces of production enter into a baneful symbiosis with the relations of production that they were supposed to blow wide open, there is no longer any dynamism upon which critique could base its hope." For Adorno and Horkheimer, this posed the problem of how to account for the apparent persistence of domination in the absence of the very contradiction that, according to traditional critical theory, was the source of domination itself.


Habermas

In the 1960s, Habermas, a proponent of critical social theory, raised the
epistemological Epistemology (; ), or the theory of knowledge, is the branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge. Epistemology is considered a major subfield of philosophy, along with other major subfields such as ethics Ethics or moral philosophy ...
discussion to a new level in his '' Knowledge and Human Interests'' (1968), by identifying critical
knowledge Knowledge can be defined as Descriptive knowledge, awareness of facts or as Procedural knowledge, practical skills, and may also refer to Knowledge by acquaintance, familiarity with objects or situations. Knowledge of facts, also called pro ...
as based on principles that differentiated it either from the
natural sciences Natural science is one of the branches of science concerned with the description, understanding and prediction of natural phenomena, based on empirical evidence from observation and experimentation. Mechanisms such as peer review and repeat ...
or the
humanities Humanities are List of academic disciplines, academic disciplines that study aspects of human society and culture. In the Renaissance, the term contrasted with Divinity (academic discipline), divinity and referred to what is now called classi ...
, through its orientation to self-reflection and emancipation. Although unsatisfied with Adorno and Horkheimer's thought in ''
Dialectic of Enlightenment ''Dialectic of Enlightenment'' (german: Dialektik der Aufklärung) is a work of philosophy and social criticism written by Frankfurt School philosophers Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno. The text, published in 1947, is a revised version of wh ...
'', Habermas shares the view that, in the form of instrumental rationality, the era of
modernity Modernity, a topic in the humanities and social sciences, is both a historical period (the modern era) and the ensemble of particular socio-cultural norms, attitudes and practices that arose in the wake of the Renaissancein the " Age of ...
marks a move away from the liberation of enlightenment and toward a new form of enslavement. In Habermas's work, critical theory transcended its theoretical roots in
German idealism German idealism was a philosophical movement that emerged in Germany in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It developed out of the work of Immanuel Kant in the 1780s and 1790s, and was closely linked both with Romanticism and the revolutionary ...
, and progressed closer to American pragmatism. Habermas's ideas about the relationship between modernity and rationalization are in this sense strongly influenced by
Max Weber Maximilian Karl Emil Weber (; ; 21 April 186414 June 1920) was a German Sociology, sociologist, historian, jurist and political economy, political economist, who is regarded as among the most important theorists of the development of Modernity, ...
. He further dissolved the elements of critical theory derived from
Hegelian Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (; ; 27 August 1770 – 14 November 1831) was a German philosopher. He is one of the most important figures in German idealism and one of the founding figures of 19th century philosophy, modern Western philosophy. ...
German idealism German idealism was a philosophical movement that emerged in Germany in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It developed out of the work of Immanuel Kant in the 1780s and 1790s, and was closely linked both with Romanticism and the revolutionary ...
, though his epistemology remains broadly Marxist. Perhaps his two most influential ideas are the concepts of the
public sphere The public sphere (german: Öffentlichkeit) is an area in social relation, social life where individuals can come together to freely discuss and identify societal problems, and through that discussion influence political action. A "Public" is "of ...
and communicative action, the latter arriving partly as a reaction to new post-structural or so-called "
postmodern Postmodernism is an intellectual stance or Rhetorical modes, mode of discourseNuyen, A.T., 1992. The Role of Rhetorical Devices in Postmodernist Discourse. Philosophy & Rhetoric, pp.183–194. characterized by philosophical skepticism, skepticis ...
" challenges to the discourse of modernity. Habermas engaged in regular correspondence with
Richard Rorty Richard McKay Rorty (October 4, 1931 – June 8, 2007) was an American philosopher. Educated at the University of Chicago and Yale University, he had strong interests and training in both the history of philosophy and in contemporary analytic phi ...
, and a strong sense of philosophical
pragmatism Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition that considers words and thought as tools and instruments for prediction, problem solving, and action (philosophy), action, and rejects the idea that the function of thought is to describe, represent, ...
may be felt in his thought, which frequently traverses the boundaries between sociology and philosophy.


Modern critical theorists

Contemporary philosophers and researchers who have focused on understanding and critiquing critical theory include Axel Honneth,
Judith Butler Judith Pamela Butler (born February 24, 1956) is an American philosopher and Gender studies, gender theorist whose work has influenced political philosophy, ethics, and the fields of third-wave feminism, queer theory, and literary theory. In ...
, and Rahel Jaeggi. Honneth is known for his works ''Pathology of Reason'' and ''The Legacy of Critical Theory'', in which he attempts to explain critical theory's purpose in a modern context. Jaeggi focuses on both critical theory's original intent and a more modern understanding that some argue has created a new foundation for modern usage of critical theory. Butler contextualizes critical theory as a way to rhetorically challenge oppression and inequality, specifically concepts of gender. Honneth established a theory that many use to understand critical theory, the ''theory of recognition''. In this theory, he asserts that in order for someone to be responsible for themselves and their own identity they must be also recognized by those around them: without recognition from peers and society, critical theory could not occur. Like many others who put stock in critical theory, Jaeggi is vocal about capitalism's cost to society. Throughout her writings, she has remained doubtful about the necessity and use of capitalism in regard to critical theory. Most of Jaeggi's interpretations of critical theory seem to work against the foundations of Habermas and follow more along the lines of Honneth in terms of how to look at the economy through the theory's lens. She shares many of Honneth's beliefs, and many of her works try to defend them against criticism Honneth has received.


In academia


Postmodern critical social theory

Focusing on
language Language is a structured system of communication. The structure of a language is its grammar and the free components are its vocabulary. Languages are the primary means by which humans communicate, and may be conveyed through a variety of met ...
, symbolism, communication, and
social construction Social constructionism is a theory in sociology, social ontology, and communication theory which proposes that certain ideas about reality, physical reality arise from collaborative consensus, instead of pure observation of said reality. The ...
, critical theory has been applied in the social sciences as a critique of social construction and postmodern society. While
modernist Modernism is both a philosophy, philosophical and arts movement that arose from broad transformations in Western world, Western society during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The movement reflected a desire for the creation of new fo ...
critical theory (as described above) concerns itself with "forms of authority and injustice that accompanied the evolution of industrial and
corporate capitalism In social science and economics, corporate capitalism is a Capitalism, capitalist marketplace characterized by the dominance of hierarchical and bureaucratic corporations. Overview A large proportion of the economy of the United States and its l ...
as a political-economic system",
postmodern Postmodernism is an intellectual stance or Rhetorical modes, mode of discourseNuyen, A.T., 1992. The Role of Rhetorical Devices in Postmodernist Discourse. Philosophy & Rhetoric, pp.183–194. characterized by philosophical skepticism, skepticis ...
critical theory politicizes social problems "by situating them in historical and cultural contexts, to implicate themselves in the process of collecting and analyzing data, and to relativize their findings." Meaning itself is seen as unstable due to social structures' rapid transformation. As a result, research focuses on local manifestations rather than broad generalizations. Postmodern critical research is also characterized by the ''crisis of representation'', which rejects the idea that a researcher's work is an "objective depiction of a stable other." Instead, many postmodern scholars have adopted "alternatives that encourage reflection about the 'politics and poetics' of their work. In these accounts, the embodied, collaborative, dialogic, and improvisational aspects of qualitative research are clarified." The term ''critical theory'' is often appropriated when an author works in
sociological Sociology is a social science Social science is one of the branches of science, devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly used to r ...
terms, yet attacks the social or human sciences, thus attempting to remain "outside" those frames of inquiry.
Michel Foucault Paul-Michel Foucault (, ; ; 15 October 192625 June 1984) was a French philosopher, historian of ideas, writer, political activist, and literary critic. Foucault's theories primarily address the relationship between power and knowledge, and h ...
has been described as one such author.
Jean Baudrillard Jean Baudrillard ( , , ; 27 July 1929 – 6 March 2007) was a French sociology, sociologist, philosopher and French poetry, poet with interest in cultural studies. He is best known for his analyses of Media (communication), media, contemporary ...
has also been described as a critical theorist to the extent that he was an unconventional and critical sociologist; this appropriation is similarly casual, holding little or no relation to the
Frankfurt School The Frankfurt School (german: Frankfurter Schule) is a school of social theory and critical philosophy associated with the Institute for Social Research, at Goethe University Frankfurt in 1929. Founded in the Weimar Republic (1918–1933), duri ...
. In contrast, Habermas is one of the key critics of postmodernism.


Communication studies

From the 1960s and 1970s onward, language, symbolism, text, and meaning came to be seen as the theoretical foundation for the
humanities Humanities are List of academic disciplines, academic disciplines that study aspects of human society and culture. In the Renaissance, the term contrasted with Divinity (academic discipline), divinity and referred to what is now called classi ...
, through the influence of
Ludwig Wittgenstein Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein ( ; ; 26 April 1889 – 29 April 1951) was an Austrians, Austrian-British people, British philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy o ...
,
Ferdinand de Saussure Ferdinand de Saussure (; ; 26 November 1857 – 22 February 1913) was a Swiss Linguistics, linguist, Semiotics, semiotician and philosopher. His ideas laid a foundation for many significant developments in both linguistics and semiotics in the 2 ...
,
George Herbert Mead George Herbert Mead (February 27, 1863 – April 26, 1931) was an American philosopher, Sociology, sociologist, and psychologist, primarily affiliated with the University of Chicago, where he was one of several distinguished pragmatism, pragmati ...
,
Noam Chomsky Avram Noam Chomsky (born December 7, 1928) is an American public intellectual: a linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, social critic, and political activist. Sometimes called "the father of modern linguistics", Chomsky is ...
,
Hans-Georg Gadamer Hans-Georg Gadamer (; ; February 11, 1900 – March 13, 2002) was a Germans, German philosopher of the Continental philosophy, continental tradition, best known for his 1960 ''magnum opus'', ''Truth and Method'' (''Wahrheit und Methode''), o ...
,
Roland Barthes Roland Gérard Barthes (; ; 12 November 1915 – 26 March 1980) was a French people, French literary theory, literary theorist, essayist, philosopher, critic, and Semiotics, semiotician. His work engaged in the analysis of a variety of sign sys ...
,
Jacques Derrida Jacques Derrida (; ; born Jackie Élie Derrida; See also . 15 July 1930 – 9 October 2004) was an Algerian-born French philosopher. He developed the philosophy of deconstruction, which he utilized in numerous texts, and which was developed th ...
and other thinkers in linguistic and
analytic philosophy Analytic philosophy is a Academic discipline, branch and Philosophical tradition, tradition of philosophy using philosophical analysis, analysis, popular in the Western world and particularly the Anglosphere, which began around the turn of the 2 ...
,
structural linguistics Structural linguistics, or structuralism, in linguistics, denotes schools or theories in which language is conceived as a self-contained, self-regulating Semiotics, semiotic system whose elements are defined by their relationship to other element ...
,
symbolic interactionism Symbolic interactionism is a sociological theory that develops from practical considerations and alludes to particular effects of communication and interaction in people to make images and normal implications, for deductive reasoning, deduction a ...
,
hermeneutics Hermeneutics () is the theory and methodology of interpretation, especially the interpretation of Biblical hermeneutics, biblical texts, wisdom literature, and Philosophy, philosophical texts. Hermeneutics is more than interpretative principles ...
,
semiology Semiotics (also called semiotic studies) is the systematic study of sign processes (semiosis) and meaning making. Semiosis is any activity, conduct, or process that involves Sign (semiotics), signs, where a sign is defined as anything that commun ...
, linguistically oriented
psychoanalysis PsychoanalysisFrom Greek: + . is a set of theories and therapeutic techniques"What is psychoanalysis? Of course, one is supposed to answer that it is many things — a theory, a research method, a therapy, a body of knowledge. In what might ...
(
Jacques Lacan Jacques Marie Émile Lacan (, , ; 13 April 1901 – 9 September 1981) was a French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist. Described as "the most controversial psycho-analyst since Sigmund Freud, Freud", Lacan gave The Seminars of Jacques Lacan, yearl ...
, Alfred Lorenzer), and
deconstruction The term deconstruction refers to approaches to understanding the relationship between Text (literary theory), text and Meaning (linguistics), meaning. It was introduced by the philosopher Jacques Derrida, who defined it as a turn away from Pl ...
. When, in the 1970s and 1980s, Habermas redefined ''critical social theory'' as a study of communication, with communicative competence and communicative rationality on the one hand, and distorted communication on the other, the two versions of critical theory began to overlap to a much greater degree than before.


Pedagogy

Critical theorists have widely credited
Paulo Freire Paulo Reglus Neves Freire (19 September 1921 – 2 May 1997) was a Brazilian educator and philosopher who was a leading advocate of critical pedagogy. His influential work ''Pedagogy of the Oppressed'' is generally considered one of the foundat ...
for the first applications of critical theory to education/
pedagogy Pedagogy (), most commonly understood as the approach to teaching, is the theory and practice of learning, and how this process influences, and is influenced by, the social, political and Developmental psychology, psychological development of le ...
, considering his best-known work to be ''
Pedagogy of the Oppressed ''Pedagogy of the Oppressed'' ( pt, Pedagogia do Oprimido) is a book by Brazil, Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, written in Portuguese between 1967–68, but published first in Spanish in 1968. An English translation was published in 1970, with ...
'', a seminal text in what is now known as the philosophy and social movement of '' critical pedagogy''. Dedicated to the oppressed and based on his own experience helping Brazilian adults learn to read and write, Freire includes a detailed
Marxist Marxism is a Left-wing politics, left-wing to Far-left politics, far-left method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a Materialism, materialist interpretation of historical development, better known as historical materialism, to understand S ...
class analysis in his exploration of the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized. In the book, he calls traditional pedagogy the "
banking model of education ''Banking model of education'' () is a term coined by Paulo Freire to describe and critique the traditional education system in his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed. The name refers to the metaphor of students as containers into which educators mus ...
", because it treats the student as an empty vessel to be filled with knowledge. He argues that pedagogy should instead treat the learner as a co-creator of knowledge. In contrast to the banking model, the teacher in the critical-theory model is not the dispenser of all knowledge, but a participant who learns with and from the students—in conversation with them, even as they learn from the teacher. The goal is to liberate the learner from an oppressive construct of teacher versus student, a dichotomy analogous to colonizer and colonized. It is not enough for the student to analyze societal power structures and hierarchies, to merely recognize imbalance and inequity; critical theory pedagogy must also empower the learner to reflect and act on that reflection to challenge an oppressive status quo.See, e.g., Kołakowski, Leszek. 9761979. '' Main Currents of Marxism'' 3. W. W. Norton & Company. . ch. 10.


Criticism

While critical theorists have often been called Marxist intellectuals, their tendency to denounce some Marxist concepts and to combine Marxian analysis with other sociological and philosophical traditions has resulted in accusations of revisionism by Orthodox Marxist and by Marxist–Leninist philosophers. Martin Jay has said that the first generation of critical theory is best understood not as promoting a specific philosophical agenda or ideology, but as "a gadfly of other systems." Critical theory has been criticized for not offering any clear road map to political action (
praxis Praxis may refer to: Philosophy and religion *Praxis (process), the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted, practised, embodied, or realised *Models of Contextual Theology#Praxis model, Praxis model, a way of doing theology * Pr ...
), often explicitly repudiating any solutions. Those objections mostly apply to first-generation Frankfurt School, while the issue of politics is addressed in a much more assertive way in contemporary theory.


See also

* Outline of critical theory * Critical philosophy *
Critical race theory Critical race theory (CRT) is a cross-disciplinary examination, by social Social organisms, including human(s), live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and whet ...
* Information criticism * Marxist cultural analysis *
Cultural studies Cultural studies is an interdisciplinary field that examines the political dynamics of contemporary culture (including popular culture) and its historical foundations. Cultural studies researchers generally investigate how cultural practices re ...


Lists

* List of critical theorists * List of works in critical theory


Journals

* ''
Constellations A constellation is an area on the celestial sphere In astronomy and navigation, the celestial sphere is an abstraction, abstract sphere that has an arbitrarily large radius and is concentric objects, concentric to Earth. All objects in the ...
'' * ''
Representations ''Representations'' is an interdisciplinary journal in the humanities published quarterly by the University of California Press. The journal was established in 1983 and is the founding publication of the New Historicism movement of the 1980s. It c ...
'' * '' Critical Inquiry'' * ''
Telos Telos (; ) is a term used by philosopher Aristotle to refer to the Four causes#Final cause, final cause of a natural organ or entity, or of a work of human art. Intentional Potentiality and actuality, actualization of potential or inherent purpos ...
'' * '' Law and Critique''


References


Footnotes


Bibliography

* "Problematizing Global Knowledge." '' Theory, Culture & Society'' 23(2–3). 2006. . * Calhoun, Craig. 1995. ''Critical Social Theory: Culture, History, and the Challenge of Difference''. Blackwell. . – A survey of and introduction to the current state of critical social theory. * Charmaz, K. 1995. "Between positivism and postmodernism: Implications for methods." ''Studies in Symbolic Interaction'' 17:43–72. * Conquergood, D. 1991.
Rethinking ethnography: Towards a critical cultural politics
" '' Communication Monographs'' 58(2):179–94. . * Corchia, Luca. 2010
''La logica dei processi culturali. Jürgen Habermas tra filosofia e sociologia''
Genova: Edizioni ECIG. . * Dahms, Harry, ed. 2008. ''No Social Science Without Critical Theory'', (''Current Perspectives in Social Theory'' 25).
Emerald Emerald is a gemstone and a variety of the mineral beryl (Be3Al2(SiO3)6) colored green by trace amounts of chromium or sometimes vanadium.Hurlbut, Cornelius S. Jr. and Kammerling, Robert C. (1991) ''Gemology'', John Wiley & Sons, New York, p. ...
/JAI. * Gandler, Stefan. 2009. ''Fragmentos de Frankfurt. Ensayos sobre la Teoría crítica''. México: 21st Century Publishers/ Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro. . * Geuss, Raymond. 1981. ''The Idea of a Critical Theory. Habermas and the Frankfurt School.''
Cambridge University Press Cambridge University Press is the university press of the University of Cambridge. Granted letters patent by Henry VIII of England, King Henry VIII in 1534, it is the oldest university press in the world. It is also the King's Printer. Cambr ...
. . * Honneth, Axel. 2006. ''La société du mépris. Vers une nouvelle Théorie critique'', La Découverte. . * Horkheimer, Max. 1982. ''Critical Theory Selected Essays''. New York: Continuum Publishing. * Lindlof, T. R., and B. C. Taylor. 2002. ''Qualitative Communication Research Methods'' (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. * Morgan, Marcia. 2012.
Kierkegaard and Critical Theory
'. New York:
Lexington Books Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group is an independent publishing house founded in 1949. Under several imprints, the company offers scholarly books for the academic market, as well as trade books. The company also owns the book distributing compa ...
. * Rolling, James H. 2008.
Secular blasphemy: Utter(ed) transgressions against names and fathers in the postmodern era
" '' Qualitative Inquiry'' 14(6):926–48. – An example of critical postmodern work. * Sim, Stuart, and Borin Van Loon. 2001. ''Introducing Critical Theory''. . – A short introductory volume with illustrations. * Thomas, Jim. 1993. ''Doing Critical Ethnography''. London: Sage. pp. 1–5 & 17–25. * Tracy, S. J. 2000.
Becoming a character for commerce: Emotion labor, self subordination and discursive construction of identity in a total institution
" ''
Management Communication Quarterly ''Management Communication Quarterly'' is a peer-reviewed academic journal that covers the field of communication studies pertaining to management and organizational communication. The editor-in-chief is Rebecca Meisenbach (University of Missouri). ...
'' 14(1):90–128. – An example of critical qualitative research. * Willard, Charles Arthur. 1982.
Argumentation and the Social Grounds of Knowledge
'' University of Alabama Press. * — 1989. ''A Theory of Argumentation.'' University of Alabama Press. * — 1996.
Liberalism and the Problem of Knowledge: A New Rhetoric for Modern Democracy
'' Chicago:
University of Chicago Press The University of Chicago Press is the largest and one of the oldest university presses in the United States. It is operated by the University of Chicago and publishes a wide variety of academic titles, including ''The Chicago Manual of Style'', ...
.


External links

*
Gerhardt, Christina. "Frankfurt School." The International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest. Ness, Immanuel (ed). Blackwell Publishing, 2009. Blackwell Reference Online

"Theory: Death Is Not the End"
N+1 magazine's short history of academic Critical Theory.
Critical Legal Thinking
A
Critical Legal Studies Critical legal studies (CLS) is a school of critical theory that developed in the United States during the 1970s.Alan Hunt, "The Theory of Critical Legal Studies," Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 6, No. 1 (1986): 1-45, esp. 1, 5. Se DOI, 10.1 ...
website which uses Critical Theory in an analysis of law and politics. * L. Corchia
''Jürgen Habermas. A Bibliography: works and studies (1952–2013)''
Pisa, Edizioni Il Campano – Arnus University Books, 2013, 606 pages. * Sim, S.; Van Loon, B. (2009). Introducing Critical Theory: A Graphic Guide. Icon Books Ltd.


Archival collections


Guide to the Critical Theory Offprint Collection.
Special Collections and Archives, The UC Irvine Libraries, Irvine, Cal
Guide to the Critical Theory Institute Audio and Video Recordings, University of California, Irvine.
Special Collections and Archives, The UC Irvine Libraries, Irvine, California.
University of California, Irvine, Critical Theory Institute Manuscript Materials.
Special Collections and Archives, The UC Irvine Libraries, Irvine, California. {{Authority control Conflict theory Continental philosophy * Humanities Philosophical schools and traditions Social philosophy