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My response to the thoughtful and insightful critical discussions of my book, The End of Progress, offered by Reha Kadakal, George Steinmetz, Karen Ng, and Kevin Olson…
My response to the thoughtful and insightful critical discussions of my book, The End of Progress, offered by Reha Kadakal, George Steinmetz, Karen Ng, and Kevin Olson, restates its motivation and rationale to defend my interpretive claims regarding Adorno, Foucault, Habermas, Honneth, and Forst by applying standards drawn from the first two theorists that are consonant with postcolonial critical theory to the perspectives, claims, and theoretical contributions of the latter three theorists. Habermas, Honneth, and Forst presume a historical present that has shaped the second, third, and fourth generations of the Frankfurt School they represent – a present that appears to be characterized by relative social and political stability – a stability that only applies in the context of Europe and the United States. Elsewhere, anti-colonial struggles, proxy wars, and even genocides were related to the persistent legacies of European colonialism and consequences of American imperialism. Yet, critical theory must expand its angle of vision and acknowledge how its own critical perspective is situated within the postcolonial present. The essays of Kadakal and Ng express concerns about my metanormative contextualism and the question of whether Adorno’s work can be deployed to support it. Steinmetz challenges my “process of elimination” argument for metanormative contextualism and asks why I assume that constructivism, reconstructivism, and problematizing genealogy exhaust the available options for grounding normativity. Olson calls for a methodological decolonization to complement the epistemic decolonization I recommend. Critical theory should produce critical theories of actually existing societies, rather than being preoccupied with meta-theory or disputes over clashing paradigms.
This review of Amy Allen’s book, The End of Progress (2016), first addresses the structure of the book and focuses on specific points made in individual chapters…
This review of Amy Allen’s book, The End of Progress (2016), first addresses the structure of the book and focuses on specific points made in individual chapters, including the affinity between postcolonial theory and the approaches of Adorno and Foucault in subjecting the notion of historical progress to “withering critique,” and Allen’s alternative approach to decolonization; Habermas’ aim to put critical theory on a secure normative footing; Honneth’s stance that the history of an ethical sphere is an unplanned learning process kept in motion by a struggle for recognition; Forst’s attempt to reconstruct Critical Theory’s normative account through a return to Kant rather than Hegel; and Allen’s claim that her approach is fully in the spirit of Critical Theory and could be seen as continuation of Critical Theory’s first generation, as in Adorno, and how it is a “genealogical” approach that draws on Adorno’s negative dialectics and critique of identity thinking, as well as on Nietzsche’s conception of genealogy, as developed by Foucault. The second part of my response raises three issues: (1) Allen’s partial compromise with the idea of progress; (2) whether critical theory would profit from engagement with other critical theories and theories of ethics, beyond postcolonial theory; and (3) nonwestern theories shed a different light on the question of Allen’s critique, a theme that also draws attention to the gesture of decolonizing, the distinctions between colonialism and empire, and the sociology of knowledge production.
The main purpose of this essay is to reflect on the nature of justification. To this end, the analysis draws on Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot’s De la justification…
The main purpose of this essay is to reflect on the nature of justification. To this end, the analysis draws on Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot’s De la justification. Les économies de la grandeur 1 [On Justification: Economies of Worth 2 ]. More specifically, the article aims to examine the extent to which Boltanski and Thévenot’s conceptual framework, widely known as ‘the sociology of critical capacity’, 3 permits us to demonstrate that processes of justification 4 are vital to the symbolically mediated construction – that is, to both the conceptual and the empirical organization 5 – of social life. In order to prove the validity of this contention, the inquiry explores the meaning of ‘justification’ in relation to the following dimensions: (1) existence, (2) ethics, (3) justice, (4) perspective, (5) presuppositions, (6) agreement, (7) common worlds, (8) critique, (9) practice and (10) justification itself. By way of conclusion, the article maintains that processes of justification constitute an essential ingredient of human reality.
To defend the thesis that critical theory has become unable to call into question and challenge the main impulses of modern capitalist societies. The reason for this is…
To defend the thesis that critical theory has become unable to call into question and challenge the main impulses of modern capitalist societies. The reason for this is that the capacities of language on the one hand and the hermeneutic processes that underlie the process of “recognition” are insufficient to counter the power of socialization to shape subjectivity and the cognitive and evaluative capacities of subjects.
I provide a critical reading of the methodology of linguistic and recognitive theories of intersubjectivity by means of a theory of domination derived from Rousseau which shapes the cognitive and epistemic powers of subjects thereby weakening their capacity to be socialized via the media of language and social recognition.
By divorcing our cognitive ideas about the social world from the social-ontological processes that shape and deform it under capitalism, this brand of critical theory succeeds in sealing off the mechanisms of social domination and power relations that were at the heart of the enterprise from its inception.
Critical theory must move toward a more comprehensive theory of the social totality in order for it to retain its critical character.
The paper questions the main ideas held by the mainstream of critical theory such as its reliance on hermeneutic and linguistic forms of consciousness and social praxis as well as a theoretical reliance on pragmatic theories of mind and Mead’s conception of socialization.
This chapter offers a review of Amy Allen’s The End of Progress: Decolonizing the Normative Foundations of Critical Theory (2016) and presents the book as having both a…
This chapter offers a review of Amy Allen’s The End of Progress: Decolonizing the Normative Foundations of Critical Theory (2016) and presents the book as having both a negative and positive aim. Its negative aim is to offer a critique of the Eurocentric narratives of historical progress that serves the function of normative grounding in the critical theories of Jürgen Habermas and Axel Honneth. Its positive aim is to provide a new approach to the normative grounding of critical theory that eschews Eurocentric narratives of progress through the idea of metanormative contextualism. For Allen, metanormative contextualism is developed through an engagement with the works of Adorno and Foucault. This chapter raises some critical questions concerning the position of metanormative contextualism, arguing that there are significant differences between Adorno and Foucault that render the position unstable. Specifically, Adorno’s normative conception of truth, alongside his critical naturalism presented through the notion of natural history, makes him ill-suited as a representative of Allen’s metanormative contextualism and complicates the contributions of Foucault’s genealogical analyses. The chapter concludes that a careful consideration of Adorno’s views reveals him to be opposed to the two central tenets of metanormative contextualism as defined by Allen.
This chapter rethinks the future of critical theory by engaging Amy Allen’s recent work. Allen does the Frankfurt School a great service by drawing a sharp-edged picture of some significant problems. I aim to think along with her in a spirit of shared sympathies that follow sometimes divergent paths. I agree with Allen’s critique of Frankfurt tendencies toward Eurocentrism, progress thinking, and historical teleology. However, I also argue that critical theory must be more thoroughly reconfigured to adequately address the struggles and wishes of our age. Specifically, recent work of the Frankfurt School displaces critique in two important ways. The first is a tendency to work at a paradigmatic, meta-level of analysis rather than focusing on concrete problems. The second is a tendency to rely on democratic procedure for normativity without taking account of the tensions and contradictions in actual political cultures. In place of these uncritical tendencies, we need more interpretive and freely experimental critical strategies. One example is an interpretive approach that problematizes political cultures, revealing the tensions ignored by proceduralism. Another example lies in the rich archives of postcolonial thought that have had such a large impact on contemporary political and social life. Postcolonial critique is a non-dogmatic and flexible form of interpretation that has great potential to address problems of racism, international inequality, and the false universalism of many of our ideals.
Allen’s critique of current Frankfurt School theory presents the joint methods of “problematizing genealogy” and “metanormative contextualism” as alternative for the…
Allen’s critique of current Frankfurt School theory presents the joint methods of “problematizing genealogy” and “metanormative contextualism” as alternative for the normative grounding of critical theory. Through a close reading of Allen’s critique, I investigate whether Allen’s identification of philosophy of history is an accurate diagnosis of the problems of the normative grounding of current Frankfurt School theory, whether Allen’s distinction between metanormative and normative levels is tenable for critical theory, and whether Allen’s methodology constitutes a viable alternative for the normative grounding of critical theory. As an alternative, I suggest scrutinizing the grounding strategies of current Frankfurt School theory to expand beyond their genealogy in Enlightenment thought, and address the question of what made the affirmative form of thought underlying current Frankfurt School theory a historical possibility. Expanding on Allen’s reiteration of the mediated nature of categories, I suggest that the stark contrast between forms of thought underlying first- and second-generation Frankfurt School critical theory needs to be understood not in relation to philosophy of history but against the backdrop of the specific context of the European historical present that informs its normative universe.