Epistemology should be the axe that breaks the ice of a traditionalism that covers and obstructs scientific enlightenment. This book explores the arguments between critical theory and epistemology in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Focusing on the first and second generations of critical theorists and Luhmann's systems theory, it examines how each approaches epistemology. The book offers a critique of the Kantian base of critical theory's epistemology in conjunction with the latter's endeavour to define political potential through the social function of science. The concept of dialectics is explored as the negation of the irrational and, furthermore, as the open field of epistemological conflict between rationality and irrationality. The book traces the course of arguments that begin with Dilthey's philosophy of a rigorous science, develop with Husserl's phenomenology, Simmel's and Weber's interest in the scientific element within the social concerns of scientific advance. In structuralism, the fear of dialogue prevails. The book discusses the epistemological thought of Pierre Bourdieu and Gilles Deleuze in terms of their persistence in constructing an epistemological understanding of social practice free from the burdens of dialectics, reason and rationality. It also enquires into issues of normativity and modernity within a comparative perspective on modernism, postmodernism and critical theory. Whether in relation to communication deriving from the threefold schema of utterance- information- understanding or in relation to self- reflexivity, systems theory fails to define the bearer or the actor of the previous structural processes. Critical realism attempted to ground dialectics in realism.
This book offers a unique and timely reading of the early Frankfurt School in response to the recent 'affective turn' within the arts and humanities. It revisits some of the founding tenets of critical theory in the context of the establishment of the Institute for Social Research in the early twentieth century. The book focuses on the work of Walter Benjamin, whose varied engagements with the subject of melancholia prove to be far more mobile and complex than traditional accounts. It also looks at how an affective politics underpins critical theory's engagement with the world of objects, exploring the affective politics of hope. Situating the affective turn and the new materialisms within a wider context of the 'post-critical', it explains how critical theory, in its originary form, is primarily associated with the work of the Frankfurt School. The book presents an analysis of Theodor Adorno's form of social critique and 'conscious unhappiness', that is, a wilful rejection of any privatized or individualized notion of happiness in favour of a militant and political discontent. A note on the timely reconstruction of early critical theory's own engagements with the object world via aesthetics and mimesis follows. The post-Cold War triumphalism of many on the right, accompanied by claims of the 'end of history', created a sense of fearlessness, righteousness, and unfettered optimism. The book notes how political realism has become the dominant paradigm, banishing utopian impulses and diminishing political hopes to the most myopic of visions.
Critical theory and demagogic populism provides a detailed analysis of the
relevance of the Frankfurt School’s work to understanding contemporary populism.
It draws on the research that the Institute for Social Research conducted
concerning domestic demagogues during its period of ‘exile’ in the USA. The book
argues that the figure of the demagogue has been neglected in both orthodox
‘populism studies’ and in existing critical approaches to populism such as that
of Ernesto Laclau. Demagogic ‘capture’ of populist movements and their legacies
is thus a contingent prospect for ‘left’ and ‘right’ populist movements. An
account of ‘modern demagogy’ is thus detailed, from the Institute’s own
dedicated demagogy studies through to their dialogue with Weber’s work on
charismatic leadership, the US liberal critique of demagogy and Freud’s group
psychology. The Institute’s linkage of ‘modern demagogy’ to the culture industry
speaks to the underestimation in ‘populism studies’ of the significance of two
other ‘modern phenomena. The first is ‘cultural populism’ – the appeal to a
folkloric understanding of ‘the people’ and/or ‘their culture’. The second is
the pivotal role of modern means of communication, not only in the recent
prominence of social media but demagogic exploitation of all media since the
rise of literacy and the widening of the suffrage in the nineteenth century. The
dialectical dimensions of these processes are also highlighted in reconstructing
the Institute’s work and in extending these analyses through to the present. The
book so concludes by weighing up potential counter-demagogic forces within and
beyond the culture industry.
Populism, neoliberalism, and globalisation are just three of the many terms used
to analyse the challenges facing democracies around the world. Critical Theory
and Sociological Theory examines those challenges by investigating how the
conditions of democratic statehood have been altered at several key historical
intervals since 1945. The author explains why the formal mechanisms of
democratic statehood, such as elections, have always been complemented by civic,
cultural, educational, socio-economic, and, perhaps most importantly,
constitutional institutions mediating between citizens and state authority.
Critical theory is rearticulated with a contemporary focus in order to show how
the mediations between citizens and statehood are once again rapidly changing.
The book looks at the ways in which modern societies have developed mixed
constitutions in several senses that go beyond the official separation of
legislative, executive, and judicial powers. In addition to that separation, one
also witnesses a complex set of conflicts, agreements, and precarious
compromises that are not adequately defined by the existing conceptual
vocabulary on the subject. Darrow Schecter shows why a sociological approach to
critical theory is urgently needed to address prevailing conceptual deficits and
to explain how the formal mechanisms of democratic statehood need to be
complemented and updated in new ways today.
This volume collects and revises the key essays of Gunther Teubner, one of the
world’s leading sociologists of law. Written over the past twenty years, these
essays examine the ‘dark side’ of functional differentiation and the prospects
of societal constitutionalism as a possible remedy. Teubner’s claim is that
critical accounts of law and society require reformulation in the light of the
sophisticated diagnoses of late modernity in the writings of Niklas Luhmann,
Jacques Derrida and select examples of modernist literature. Autopoiesis,
deconstruction and other post-foundational epistemological and political
realities compel us to confront the fact that fundamental democratic concepts
such as law and justice can no longer be based on theories of stringent
argumentation or analytical philosophy. We must now approach law in terms of
contingency and self-subversion rather than in terms of logical consistency and
Die Aufklärung, die ein radikales Verstehen bewirkt, ist immer politisch.
Jürgen Habermas, Hermeneutik und Ideologiekritik1
[T]he sciences are too important to be left exclusively to scientists, and
indeed they have not been.
Norman Stockman, Antipositivist Theories of the Sciences2
Is there a winter of epistemological
Epistemology should be the axe that breaks the ice of a traditionalism that
covers and obstructs scientific enlightenment. This is an idea inspired by the
work of Franz Kafka.3 CriticalTheory and Epistemology is a
In this chapter, I want to show how the contemporary (re)turn to objects initially serves as a useful corrective to social or political theories that fail to properly engage with the object world (this includes forms of traditional Marxism
that often presume ‘reification’ to be a perennial evil, rather than a particular
social relation). I take this as an opportunity for a timely reconstruction of early
Criticaltheory and feeling
criticaltheory’s own engagements with the object world via aesthetics and
mimesis. This is most evident in Siegfried
his book has aimed to examine dialectics in modern epistemology and to
compare it with criticaltheory, not ‘in order to’ but ‘because’ the latter can
offer innovative means of dialectical theorizing. In this way, criticaltheory has
the potential to advance twenty-first-century epistemology.
The prevailing idea in critical realism, as elaborated in the final chapter, was
that dialectics can provide the best path to innovation in the science. The book
attempted to avoid old and traditional modes such as ‘biographies’ of scientific
would soon overcome through acceptance of one’s circumstantial limitations. For instance, in The Enchiridion, Epictetus offers the following guidance: ‘When therefore we are hindered, or disturbed, or grieved, let
us never attribute it to others, but to ourselves; that is, to our own principles.
Criticaltheory and feeling
An uninstructed person will lay the fault of his own bad condition upon others.
Someone just starting instruction will lay the fault on himself. Some who is
perfectly instructed will place blame neither on others nor on himself.’
Thinking through feeling: criticaltheory and the affective turn
The assumption that thought profits from the decay of the emotions, or
even that it remains unaffected, is itself an expression of the process of
In this opening chapter, I will begin by offering an overview of the particular
form of criticaltheory on which this book will focus, namely that of the first-
generation Frankfurt School, since I believe that there is still much of interest
within this tradition of thought for our present time. I will then set out the contemporary