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Introduction to Social & Political Philosophy: Critical Theory

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Mark Thorsby

on 24 April 2014

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Transcript of Introduction to Social & Political Philosophy: Critical Theory

Introduction to Social & Political Philosophy
Introduction to Critical Theory
1) Marxism after Marx

2) Vulgar Marxism & The Frankfurt School
(1922)

3) What is Critical Theory?
-Traditional Theories - explanatory
-Critical Theory - emanicpatory

4) The Problem of Class Consciousness

5) The Freudian Infusion into Marxism
Herbert Marcuse
Process = Dialect of Liberation
The Consequence of Subjective Reason
Max Horkheimer
Mark Thorsby
http://www.marxists.org/subject/frankfurt-school/
KEY THINKERS
George Lukacs - "History and Class Consciousness"
Frederich Pollack - Director of the Intitute
Max Horkheimer - "Dialectic of Enlightenment" & "The Eclipse of Reason"
Erich Fromm - "Escape from Freedom" & "Being & Becoming"
Herbert Marcuse - "Eros & Civilization" & "One-Dimensional Man
Theodore Adorno - "Dialectic of Enlightenment" & "Negative Dialectics"
Walter Benjamin - "Illuminations" & "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"
Jurgen Habermas - "The Theory of Communicative Action"
Agnes Heller - "Towards a Marxist Theory of Value"
Nancy Fraser - "Unruly Practices: Power, Discourse, and Gender in Contemporary Social Theory"
Axel Honneth - "The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts"
ECLIPSE OF REASON
COUNTER-REVOLUTION AND REVOLT
What is Reason?
Two Types of Reason:

A) Subjective Reason - instrumental reasoning
Purpose > Reason > End
Means
B) Objective Reason - Reason is treated as a 'measuring rod'
Purpose > End
REASON
Type
Focus
Objective Reason

Subjective Reason
Concepts

Probabilities
"The theory of objective reason did not focus on the co-ordination of behavior and aim, but on concepts... subjective reason proves to be the ability to calculate probabilityu and thereby co-ordinate the right means witha given end." (4)
Both forms of reason have always existed, but today all forms of reason have been reduced to the subjective.
This reduction has led or contributed to a crisis of class consciousness
THE CRISIS
"The present crisis of reason consists fundamentally in the fact that at a certain point thinking either became incapable of conceiving such objectivity at all or began to negate it as a delusion" (6)
Because subjective reason is a means, the purposes towards which we seek cannot be evaluated using reason. Moral judgements are reduced to forms of emotivism (personal objections). There are No real moral problems, only subjective 'illusions'.
The subordination of reason is in direct conflict intellectual pioneers of the Enlightenment
Reason no longer determines the ends, it merely works as a means to attain specific ends.
The Dialectic of Reason
Classical Philosophy - Objective Reason reigns
Socrates: reason is universal insight, determines beliefs, regulates relations between man/man & man/nature
Characteristics of OR
criterion of objective truth
the application of OR is not neutral
OR as the Original Basis for Science
'science' = the implementation of objective reason
Objective Reason attacks mythology & tradition
In SR, 'science' becomes subordinate to speculation
Modern Philosophy
16th Century French Philosophy: An abdication of religion in favor of reason
Example)
Montaigne's interogation of the individual
Characteristics:
Reason comes to signify a concilitaory attitude (9)
"No doctrine is worth defending to the death"
The Dialectic of Reason
Modern Philosophy
More Characteristics
Reason begins to denote the point of view of scholars
Rationalist Philosophers
From Descartes to Spinoza: Reason becomes a means to avoid philosophical skepticism
God is retained philosophically, but not grace
Ethics becomes secularized as an entire paradigm is shattered
Individuals are prompted to think for themselves. (12)
The Effect of the Reformation
Two Forces in Conflict
1) Calvinism
2) Empiricism
In order to solve this tension, Religion and Science get neutralized as seperate 'parts' of the culture through a formalization of reason
Formalization fo Reason = Reason becomes a formal process
The Dialectic of Reason
Liberalism & Tollerence
2 meanings for tollerence
1) Freedom from rule of dogmaticism
2) Neutral to al "spiritual content" and tends towards relativism
Self-Interest becomes the dominant category of liberalism
On Language
1) "Concepts have become 'streamlined', rationalized, labor-saving devices. It is as if thinking itself had been reduced to the level of industrial processes, subject to a close schedule - in short, made part and parcel of production."

2) Reason and language become just another tool

3) The Era of Relativism: 'ideas become advertisements'

4) "The difference between thinking and acting is held void. Thus every though is regarded as an act; every reflectiona thesis, and every thesis a watchword... As soon as a thought or a word becomes a tool, one can dispencse with actually 'thinking' it, that is, with going through the logical acts involved in verbal formation." (16)

5) Reason becomes a fetish (16)

Regarding Science & Ethics
1) Science becomes the sole authority

2) Science supplants old values and 'cherished beleifs'
a) Science as a system of empirical classifications
b) Science is neutral to the question of why 'justice' is better than 'injustice'

DANGER: When reason is emasculated, it becomes subject to ideological manipulation ("subjective reason conforms to anything") (17)

Quite unintentionally, the Enlightnement has resulted in the liquidation of reason.
POLITCIAL CONSEQUENCS
1) Social Contract Theorists are not resonsible
example) Locke's defense of the majority rule is based on a notion of 'natural reason'

2) Without Objective Reason, the democratic principle becomes entirely dependant on the "interests of the people" (interests become entirely economic in character)

3) No guarentee against tyrrany - reason will not protect us (20)
REGARDING THE UNITED STATES
1) The US framers crafted a system of majority rule with an ingenious system of checks and balances, but they assumed Objective Reason
Example) John Adams refers to certain 'intuitive truths'

2) The intuitive truths embedded in our social inheritance are severed with Subjective Reason

3) Public Opinion becomes a substitute for reason

4) Discourse is transformed into propoganda
MORE PROBLEMS GENERATED BY SUBJECTIVE REASON
1) Problems of Value emerge - the Artist/Prisoner Problem

2) Recognition Problems:
"If a group of enlightened people were about to fight even the greatest evil imaginable, subjective reason would make it almost impossible to point simply to the nature of the evil and to the nature of humanity, which make the fight imperative. Many would at once ask what the real motives are" (22)

3) Rights become Imperilled

4. The Process of Subjective reason culminates in totalitarianism
1) Revolution requires a spontaneous liberation from "what has been made of them in the society in which they live" (46)

2) Marcuse calls for an Intense Counter-Education and Organization (47)

The goal of the counter revolution is the establishment of a new set of relations:
a) free relations among individuals
b) a new relation with nature

There is no immediate transition from needs to political goals.

Revolution a la the dialect of liberations requires "comprehended contradictions" (49)

THE KEY PROBLEM OF CONSCIOUSNESS
What Makes a Revolution a Revolution?
1) Revolutions must revolutionize 'the human being' (49)

2) The Sexual Revolution was not a revolution
"For instance, the sexual revolution is no revolution if it does not becomes a revolution of the human being, if sexual liberation does not converge with political morality" (49)


On Democracy & Revolution
1) The necessity of revolution is mounting
"The capitalist enterprise is rapidly approaching its inherent limits on a global scale and is resorting to intensified violence and intensified co-option"

2) Today revolution is in a pubertarian stage and needs a "spirit of seriousness"

3) Democracy provides structural hope to the problem in its structural use of autonomous local bases
Counter-Revolution & the Universities
"The dominion of this democracy still leaves room for the building of autonomous local bases. The increasing technological-scientific requirements of production and control make the universities into such a base." (54)

1) A concerted effort to build up counter-institutions

2) Universities can address the problem of consciousness

3) Promote more nonauthoritarian learning and decisive student participation

"For history indeed repeats itself; it is this repetition of domination and submission that must be halted, and halting it presupposes knowledge of its genesis and of the ways in which it is reproduced: critical thinking." (56)
CRITICAL THEORY
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