Gender, Culture, and Power: Toward a Feminist Postmodern Critical Theory

Gender, Culture, and Power: Toward a Feminist Postmodern Critical Theory

Gender, Culture, and Power: Toward a Feminist Postmodern Critical Theory

Gender, Culture, and Power: Toward a Feminist Postmodern Critical Theory

Synopsis

Agger develops a critical theory which confronts the challenges of feminism and postmodernism in order to address postmodernity adequately. Drawing on first-generation critical theory of Horkheimer, Adorno, and Marcuse and second-generation critical theory of Habermas, Agger argues for the priority of critical theory over the antitotality perspectives of postmodernism and feminism. Although Frankfurt critical theory, postmodernism, and feminism are often viewed as divergent, Agger develops an argument for synthesis, outlining what he calls the logic of feminist postmodern critical theory. He then applies the logic to particular social, political, textual, and cultural problems. Building especially on the feminist critique of the domination of women's reproductive activities by a male standard of value, this new theoretical logic connects social problems heretofore seen as separable, especially those which derive from the intellectual agenda of multiculturalism.

Excerpt

My aim in this book is to develop a third-generation critical theory, surpassing but learning from the first-generation critical theory of Horkheimer, Adomo, and Marcuse and the second-generation critical theory of Habermas. The next generation of critical theorists needs to confront challenges from feminism and postmodernism in order to address postmodern capitalism adequately (see Jameson 1991). Although Frankfurt critical theory, postmodernism, and feminism are often viewed as divergent, I will develop an argument for synthesis, outlining what I call the logic of feminist postmodern critical theory (Chapter 4). I then apply this logic to particular social, political, sexual, textual, and cultural problems of today (Chapters 5 and 6). I develop this logic of a new critical theory through readings of postmodernism (Chapter 2) and feminism (Chapter 3), preceded by this opening stage setting (Chapter 1), in which I lay out the relationship between critical theory and postmodernity and argue for the priority of critical theory's totality theory over the antitotality perspectives of postmodernism and feminism, albeit learning from them.

I suggest a version of critical theory incorporating the most politically acute insights of postmodernism and feminism. In this project, I risk hierarchizing nouns like critical theory over the adjectives (e.g., postmodern and feminist) qualifying them. All such exercises in naming are political in their implication of priority and must be recognized as such. I am interested in combining the best insights of theories that embrace total social explanation (e.g., Marxism) and that refuse total explanation (e.g., postmodernism and feminism). Some readers may accuse me of reconciling the irreconcilable--Lyotard with Adorno, Kristeva with Marcuse, Foucault . . .

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