I was very pleased to participate in the conference “Critique in German Philosophy” at Depaul University in Chicago from November 9th to 11th. Click here for the program. An abstract of my paper, entitled “Making a Specter Out of Marx: The Reformist Agenda of Contemporary Critical Theory,” can be found below.
This paper examines the demise of Marxism in contemporary critical theory. It begins by foregrounding the central importance of Marxist critique to the early Frankfurt School, which was explicitly dedicated to mobilizing theoretical tools for social emancipation from capitalism. By marshaling and reinvigorating the reflexive strategy of the first generation of critical theorists, which consists in resituating subjects and knowledge claims in the objective social world, it explores the need for a social critique of contemporary ‘critical reason,’ and more specifically of the ways in which the second and third generations of the Frankfurt School have made a specter out of Marx. It is in this light that it examines whether the combined decrescendo of certain Marxist discourses within the academy and the ear-piercing crescendo of imperial neoliberalism has many self-proclaimed critical theorists working at counter-purposes: paying rhetorical lip service to a vague Marxian heritage while defanging its critical bite and realigning ‘critique’ on a reformist agenda within the dominant system of capitalism and corporate political rule under liberalism. The taming of critical theory in the age of neoliberal hegemony leads, in conclusion, to a broader conjunctural question: can critique be radicalized in order to shake it out of its neoliberal academic slumbers?