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Encyclopedia > Critical theory (Frankfurt School)

Critical theory, in sociology and philosophy, is shorthand for critical theory of society or critical social theory, a label used by the Frankfurt School, i.e., members of the Institute for Social Research of the University of Frankfurt, their intellectual and social network, and those influenced by them intellectually, to describe their own work, oriented toward radical social change, in contradistinction to "traditional theory," i.e. theory in the positivistic, scientistic, or purely observational mode. In literature and literary criticism and cultural studies, by contrast, "critical theory" means something quite different, namely theory used in criticism. Social interactions of people and their consequences are the subject of sociology studies. ... The term philosophy derives from a combination of the Greek words philos meaning love and sophia meaning wisdom. ... The Frankfurt School is a school of neo-Marxist social theory, social research, and philosophy. ... The Institute for Social Research (German: Institut für Sozialforschung) is a research organization covering topics such as sociology and continental philosophy, best known as the institutional home of the Frankfurt School. ... University of Frankfurt may refer to two (or three) German universities: the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt am Main (Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main) in Frankfurt am Main the European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder) (Europa-Universität Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder)) in Frankfurt (Oder), or its historical predecessor which existed... Positivism can have several meanings. ... Open Directory Project: Literature World Literature Electronic Text Archives Magazines and E-zines Online Writing Writers Resources Libraries, Digital Cataloguing, Metadata Distance Learning Dictionary of the History of Ideas: Classicism in Literature The Universal Library, by Carnegie Mellon University Project Gutenberg Online Library Abacci - Project Gutenberg texts matched with Amazon... Literary criticism is the study, discussion, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. ... Cultural studies combines sociology, literary theory, film/video studies, and cultural anthropology to study cultural phenomena in industrial societies. ... In the humanities and social sciences, critical theory is a general term for new theoretical developments (roughly since the 1960s) in a variety of fields, informed by structuralism, post-structuralism, deconstruction, Marxist theory, and several other areas of thought. ...


The original critical social theorists were Marxists, and there is some evidence that in their choice of the phrase "critical theory of society" they were in part influenced by its sounding less politically controversial than "Marxism". Nevertheless there were other substantive reasons for this choice. First, they were explicitly linking up with the critical philosophy of Immanuel Kant, where the term critique meant philosophical reflection on the limits of claims made for certain kinds of knowledge and a direct connection between such critique and the emphasis on moral autonomy. In an intellectual context defined by dogmatic positivism and scientism on the one hand and dogmatic "scientific socialism" on the other, critical theory meant to rehabilitate through its philosophically critical approach an orientation toward revolutionary agency, or at least its possibility, at a time when it seemed in decline. Second, in the context of both Marxist-Leninist and Social-Democratic orthodoxy, which emphasized Marxism as a new kind of positive science, they were linking up with the implicit epistemology of Karl Marx's work, which presented itself as critique, as in Marx's "Capital: A Critique of Political Economy", wanting to emphasize that Marx was attempting to create a new kind of critical analysis oriented toward the unity of theory and revolutionary practice rather than a new kind of positive science. In the 1960's, Jürgen Habermas raised the epistemological discussion to a new level in his "Knowledge and Human Interests", by identifying critical knowledge as based on principles that differentiated it either from the natural sciences or the humanities, through its orientation to self-reflection and emancipation. Marxism is the political practice and social theory based on the works of Karl Marx, a 19th century philosopher, economist, journalist, and revolutionary, along with Friedrich Engels. ... Immanuel Kant (April 22, 1724 – February 12, 1804) was a German philosopher and geographer from Prussia, generally regarded as one of Europes most influential thinkers and the last major philosopher of the Enlightenment. ... A critic (derived from the ancient Greek word krites meaning a judge) is a person who offers a value judgement or an interpretation. ... Dogma (the plural is either dogmata or dogmas) is belief or doctrine held by a religion or any kind of organization to be authoritative. ... Positivism can have several meanings. ... Scientism is a relatively newly coined word that refers to certain epistemologies based on science. ... Marxism is the political practice and social theory based on the works of Karl Marx, a 19th century philosopher, economist, journalist, and revolutionary, along with Friedrich Engels. ... Vladimir Lenin in 1920 Leninism is a political and economic theory which builds upon Marxism; it is a branch of Marxism (and it has been the dominant branch of Marxism in the world since the 1920s). ... Social democracy is a political ideology emerging in the late 19th and early 20th centuries from supporters of Marxism who believed that the transition to a socialist society could be achieved through democratic evolutionary rather than revolutionary means. ... Epistemology, from the Greek words episteme (knowledge) and logos (word/speech) is the branch of philosophy that deals with the nature, origin and scope of knowledge. ... Karl Marx Karl Heinrich Marx (May 5, 1818 Trier, Germany – March 14, 1883 London, UK) was an influential German philosopher, political economist, and revolutionary organizer of the International Workingmens Association, two of whose books in particular, Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto (the latter with Friedrich Engels), laid the... Das Kapital (Capital) is a very large treatise of political economy written by Karl Marx in German. ... Habermas speaking with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, 2004 Jürgen Habermas (born June 18, 1929 in Düsseldorf, Germany) is a philosopher and social theorist in the tradition of critical theory. ... Knowledge is the awareness and understanding of facts, truths or information gained in the form of experience or learning (a posteriori), or through deductive reasoning (a priori). ... The term natural science as the way in which different fields of study are defined is determined as much by historical convention as by the present day meaning of the words. ... The humanities are a group of academic subjects united by a commitment to studying aspects of the human condition and a qualitative approach that generally prevents a single paradigm from coming to define any discipline. ...


The term critical theory, in the sociological or philosophical and non-literary sense, now loosely groups all sorts of work, e.g. that of the Frankfurt School, Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu, and feminist theory, that has in common the critique of domination, an emancipatory interest, and the fusion of social/cultural analysis, explanation, and interpretation with social/cultural critique. Michel Foucault Michel Foucault (October 15, 1926 – June 26, 1984) was a French philosopher and held a chair at the Collège de France, a chair to which he gave the title The History of Systems of Thought. His writings have had an enormous impact on other scholarly work: Foucault... Pierre Bourdieu Pierre-Félix Bourdieu (August 1, 1930-January 23, 2002) was a French sociologist. ... Feminist theory is the extension of feminism into theoretical, or philosophical, ground. ...


Notable figures in critical theory

Max Horkheimer (front left), Theodor Adorno (front right), and Jürgen Habermas in the background, right, in 1965 at Heidelberg Theodor Ludwig Wiesengrund Adorno (September 11, 1903 – August 6, 1969) was a German sociologist, philosopher, musicologist and composer. ... Benjamin, in 1938. ... Erich Fromm Erich Fromm (March 23, 1900 – March 18, 1980) was an internationally renowned German-American psychologist and humanistic philosopher. ... Henryk Grossmann (1881-1950) was born in Kraków and studied law and economics in Kraków and Vienna. ... Habermas speaking with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, 2004 Jürgen Habermas (born June 18, 1929 in Düsseldorf, Germany) is a philosopher and social theorist in the tradition of critical theory. ... Axel Honneth (1949-) is a professor at the Institut für Sozialforschung in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany (the so-called Frankfurt School. ... Max Horkheimer (front left), Theodor Adorno (front right), and Jürgen Habermas in the background, right, in 1965 at Heidelberg Max Horkheimer (February 14, 1895 - July 7, 1973) was a German philosopher and sociologist, known especially as the founder and guiding thinker of the Frankfurt School of critical theory. ... Alexander Kluge (born February 14, 1932 in Halberstadt) is a German film director and author. ... Herbert Marcuse Herbert Marcuse (July 19, 1898 – July 29, 1979) was a prominent German-American philosopher and sociologist of Jewish descent, member of the Frankfurt School. ... Friedrich Pollock (May 22, 1894 – 1970) was a German social scientist and philosopher. ... Alfred Sohn-Rethel (born January 4, 1899 in Neuilly-sur-Seine near, today in Paris; died April 6, 1990 in Bremen, Germany) was an economist, a philosopher especially interested in epistemology. ...

See also


  Results from FactBites:
 
Illuminations: Kellner (5249 words)
Critical theory from the 1930s through the 1960s was arguably on the cutting edge of social theory.[1] The critical theorists were among the first to analyze the new configurations of state and economy in the social formations of state capitalism.
Critical theory remains of intense interest for the present conjuncture and provides crucial resources for a renewal of critical social theory and democratic politics in the current age precisely because, like the 1930s, our age is undergoing vast transformations, some of which are promising and some of which are threatening.
Their critical questioning of Marxism was induced in part by historical conditions such as the demise of the labor movement, the spread of fascism and war, and oppressive developments in the Soviet Union which made it difficult to envisage critical theory as part of a revolutionary movement, or to unproblematically call for socialist revolution.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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