Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Critical Theory - short summary

Critical Theory
         Traditional theory is oriented only to understanding or explaining society
         Critical theory, in contrast, is social theory oriented toward critiquing and changing society as a whole.
         A critical theory provides the descriptive and normative bases for social inquiry aimed at decreasing domination and increasing freedom in all their forms
Critical Theory: Narrow and Broad
         Critical Theory has a narrow and a broad meaning in philosophy and in the history of the social sciences
         In the narrow sense it designates several generations of German philosophers and social theorists in the Western European Marxist tradition known as the Frankfurt School
        Max Horkheimer
        Theodor Adorno
        Herbert Marcuse
        Leo Lowenthal
        Erich Fromm

         Although this “narrow” conception of critical theory originated with the Frankfurt School, it also prevails among other recent social scientists, such as
        Pierre Bourdieu,
        Louis Althusser and arguably
        Michel Foucault and
        Bryan Reynolds,
        as well as certain feminist theorists and social scientists.

         According to these theorists, a theory is critical to the extent that it seeks human emancipation
        “to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them” (Horkheimer 1982, 244)
         Because such theories aim to explain and transform all the circumstances that enslave human beings, many “critical theories” in the broader sense have been developed.
        world systems theory,
        feminist theory,
        postcolonial theory,
        critical race theory,
        critical media studies,
        queer theory,

         Core concepts are
        That critical social theory 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)
        That Critical Theory should improve understanding of society by integrating all the major social sciences, including economics, sociology, history, political science, anthropology, and psychology
        The normative orientation of Critical Theory, at least in its form of critical social inquiry, is therefore towards the transformation of capitalism into a “real democracy”

         A critical theory is adequate only if it meets three criteria:
        It must be explanatory: explain what is wrong with current social reality
        It must be practical: identify the actors to change it
        It must be normative: provide both clear norms for criticism and achievable practical goals for social transformation
         It must satisfy all three of these criteria at the same time

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