I presented the following lecture at Missouri State University on March 22, 2018: “Critical and Radical Theory: Toward the Reinvention of Critique in the Current Conjuncture.”
This paper proposes a critique of critical reason. Neither a full-scale rejection nor a simple internal modification, such a critique seeks to foreground both the strengths and limitations of some of the dominant strategies, methodologies and sociopolitical orientations of critical theory, broadly construed. The ultimate goal is hence affirmative and productive: to rethink critical social theory for the 21st century.
Although the general stakes of the paper touch on issues integral to ‘continental’ philosophy since at least Kant, it will specifically concentrate on the Frankfurt School heritage. It takes Horkheimer’s canonical essay, “Traditional and Critical Theory,” as its palimpsestic reference point in order to sketch the lineaments of a radical theory. Understood as an attempt to reflexively reinvigorate social theory beyond its now institutionalized forms of ‘traditional critical theory,’ it questions the latter’s persistent Eurocentrism and phallocentrism, its academic distance from political praxis, its contemporary professionalization as a brand of moral and political philosophy, and its gradual withdrawal from the daunting project of an analysis of society in toto (from psychic forces and aesthetics to political economy and history).
The overall objective of the paper will thus be to work through one of the major critical traditions in continental philosophy in order to push beyond it, subjecting it to a critique that aims at honing a radical edge too often dulled by the institution of ‘critical theory.’