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Critical Theory

  Critical theory is a form of sociological analysis associated with the 20th-century Frankfurt School of critical sociology. The notion of criticism is rather older than this though. It refers to the exercise of negative judgement.

During the Reformation, in the 16th century, textual criticism developed as a weapon of religious conflict—biblical criticism entailed the negative but objective judgement of ecclesiastical practice and dogma. For G. Hegel, criticism meant the process of uncovering hidden assumptions, the questioning of claims to authority and thus a way of emancipating society. Marx took the idea of criticism a step further and argued that to merely interpret the world was insufficient, efforts should be made to try and change it.

The critical theory of the Frankfurt School arose out of a dissatisfaction with the use of ‘criticism’ by institutionalized Marxism to legitimate the political decisions of the Communist Party. Critical theory rests on the assumption that in order to understand and explain social reality one cannot avoid evaluating and criticizing society\'s own self-understanding. A principle exponent of critical theory is Habermas. Habermas dismisses the idea of a neutral, apolitical science, based on a separation of facts and values, as untenable. He argues that questions of truth are inextricably bound up with political problems of freedom of communication and the exchange of ideas. DA

See also discourse; dominant ideology; hegemony; ideology; legitimation; positivism; social construction of reality; sociology of knowledge.Further reading Connerton (ed.), Critical Sociology; T. McCarthy, The Critical Theory of Jurgen Habermas.



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