Critical Theory and Political Possibilities: Conceptions of Emancipatory Politics in the Works of Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse, and Habermas

Critical Theory and Political Possibilities: Conceptions of Emancipatory Politics in the Works of Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse, and Habermas

Critical Theory and Political Possibilities: Conceptions of Emancipatory Politics in the Works of Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse, and Habermas

Critical Theory and Political Possibilities: Conceptions of Emancipatory Politics in the Works of Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse, and Habermas

Synopsis

Alway identifies and assesses new models of emancipatory politics in the Frankfurt Schools Critical Theory. She outlines the complexities of Critical Theory, and clarifies the logical connections between assumptions that inform the critical theorists' analyses of social conditions and their views on the possibilities for radical political practice.

Excerpt

Despite the criticisms and modifications of Marx by critical theorists, the promise of critical theory as originally formulated was that it had a practical intent, that it could and would lead to political revolutionary action.

Richard J. Bernstein The Restructuring of Social and Political Theory, 206

In recent years issues of political revolutionary action and theory with practical intent have been seemingly pushed aside and replaced by interest in discourses, texts, and difference. In light of profound economic, social, political, and cultural transformations, visions or strategies of change that transcend the local and the particular are regarded with some suspicion. Marxism, in its various forms and trajectories, is regarded as infected by the tendency toward totalization and is treated as a relic of a bygone era. A radical political perspective, once the mainstay of social and cultural critique, echoes weakly today: as Max Weber once wrote about the Protestant's desire to work in a calling, the promise of and commitment to revolutionary change only "prowls about in our lives like the ghost of dead religious beliefs." But emancipatory visions and interest in emancipatory politics have not faded entirely from contemporary social and cultural critique. Within the varieties of feminism and postmodernism in particular, efforts to reconceptualize emancipatory theory and practice are apparent. And both feminism and postmodernism offer new insights into social and political processes and new visions of liberation. These efforts to re-envision radical political theory and practice--and the discomfort with the Marxist model they represent--were, in many senses, anticipated in the work of the Frankfurt School critical theorists. In the following chapters I will outline and analyze the critical theorists' efforts to reconceptualize radical politics. In the end I believe their work promises more than it could deliver.

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