Critical Theory in Critical Times: Transforming the Global Political and Economic Order

Book – Can Critical Theory today have a “critical” function in the several meanings of the term — crisis-induced, non-affirmative, indispensable, and cutting edge? Whether there is a well-formed answer to that question depends on whether there is a sufficiently unified understanding of what Critical Theory is. Understood historically, Critical Theory is scholarly work in the early Frankfurt School tradition of combining philosophical analysis and speculation with state-of-the-art social, political and legal research. In their critique of capitalist economy and society, Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, the key members of the founding generation, relied on Hegelian-Marxist background assumptions that no longer claim universal philosophical comprehensibility, as most authors in this volume seem to concur. Adorno and Horkheimer also put little faith in democracy. The work of Jürgen Habermas and authors in his wake, in contrast, is characterized by a parallel commitment to democracy as a basic and non-instrumental normative presupposition of law and progressive politics, and at the same time to a less metaphysically demanding style in philosophical argument, including a stronger appreciation of the need for critique itself to spell out what kind of presuppositions it invokes. This democratic turn in Critical Theory has understandably come under pressure as the regulatory power of the democratic state is waning, as global capitalism is overriding its redistributive potential, as nationalist entrepreneurs celebrate massive electoral gains, while the internal and external historical injustices of democratic states are being addressed and the historical pre-eminence of the West is being challenged.



About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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