Showing posts with label critical theory. Show all posts
Showing posts with label critical theory. Show all posts

Friday, June 30, 2023

Critical Theory

Critical Theory vs. critical thinking
Cheat Sheet No. 2.

This is a weekly column consisting of letters to my perspicacious progeny. I write letters to my grandkids — the Stickies — eventual selves to advise them and haunt them after they've become grups and/or I'm deleted.  

Trigger Warning: This column rated SSC — Sexy Seasoned Citizens — Perusal by kids, callowyutes, or grups may result in debilitating psychological trauma.  


Featuring Dana: Hallucination, guest star, and charming literary device  

"People of various and sundry hues claiming that all people of pallor are racists born with unearned privilege is pure, unadulterated bonkercockie." -Me 

From Cheat Sheet No. 1: Cheat Sheets are a sort of distillation of all the stuff I would like to mention, or reiterate, to the Stickies and my daughter and son-in-law in the event of my sudden demise.

(I'm turning 70 this year.)

Hopefully, this will provide some life guidance and provide comfort for their devastated hearts (and for the lack of cash left on the table).

Dear Stickies and Gentlereaders,

To explain, in my semi-humble opinion, what Critical Theory is, I would first explore what critical thinking is.

Long story short (this is a cheat sheet after all) critical thinking is one of the hoogely important reasons that I, and hopefully you, find myself living in one of the unbelievably prosperous and reasonably free countries that are the products of Western Civilization.

Nowadays, the term Western Civilization has been demoted by many to merely Western culture. For reasons of political correctness, it's no longer cool in certain circles to espouse that despite its flaws it's the best H. sapiens have done so far. 

To think critically means to use logic and reason to try and get to the bottom of something while setting aside, at least as much as possible, emotion. To think like a good scientist for example. To seek out, continuously, what is objectively true (enough) to be of use to almost everyone. 

{Continuously? True (enough)? Almost everyone?} 

The writer finds a way to cleverly dodge the endless bonkercocky devoted to debating whether anything is actually objectively true, Dana, whether there's such a thing as settled science, or whether it's possible for a human being to ever completely set aside emotion (it ain't, trust me).

Suffice it to say, to a practical, pragmatic, and well-adjusted adult, true enough will suffice till the next paradigm-busting breakthrough comes along. Please google the terms Scientific Revolution and Age of Enlightenment for edification and clarification. 

The only thing Critical Theory has in common with critical thinking is the word critical. Critical thinking aims to figure out what something is, how it works, how it got that way, etc. Equipped with this information, and by adding a dash of evolved tradition and a pinch of what we've learned the hard way (history), you can then try to figure out what to do with this knowledge. 

Used more or (often) less wisely, and with a bit of luck, flawed, imperfect H. sapiens have managed to construct the most advanced civilization the planet Earth has seen so far, assuming of course you think prosperity and freedom are good things. 

Critical Theory, on the other hand, is the opposite approach. Choose a desired result, Utopia, and then set aside human nature, what's realistically possible, the law of unintended consequences, history, etc. — and then get to work. 

The first step is to destroy the existing traditions and institutions that stand in the way of establishing heaven on Earth. This ain't easy since, as Karl Marx warned us, many people are so dumb they don't realize they're somebody's victim and need to wake up (be awokened?).     

Critical theory is that kid you knew in high school that never got tired of saying, "Real communism has like, never really been tried." 

What can an intelligent, highly-educated (and embarrassed) Marxist do in the 1930s when it's been revealed that the Russian revolution has unleashed a bloodthirsty ideological monster that will murder, give or take, 100,000,000 counter-revolutionaries by the time the world is partying 'cause it's 1999? 

And worse yet, for some mysterious reason, the world's oppressed masses, due to their false consciousness... 
("False consciousness denotes people’s inability to recognize inequality, oppression, and exploitation in a capitalist society..." -Encyclopaedia Britannica) 

...have declined an invitation to the party and aren't burning down the house, and everything else, as foretold by St. Karl?

A group of professors (the "Frankfurt School") in Germany, and others, coalesced around Critical Theory. Still Marxism, but New and Improved! They weren't about continuously, often painfully, seeking out the Good, the True, and the Beautiful (a preoccupation of many a critical thinker).   

"A critical theory is any approach to social philosophy that focuses on society and culture to attempt to reveal, critique, and challenge power structures." (My emphasis.) Max Horkheimer said that Critical theory seeks "to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them."

In other words: Western Civilization isn't the result of thousands of years of groping around in the dark, trying to find the best possible way to live, given that we're flawed by nature and Utopia is impossible. It's merely how people that conducted/conduct their lives accordingly have enslaved everyone that doesn't. 

But killing the nay-sayers, starting from scratch, and organizing one, big, happy commune wherein everyone shared everything equally didn't work out very well in Russia.

Plan B? Figuratively burning it down by revolutionizing the institutions one at a time. The professors who invented the Frankfurt school fled Germany to avoid being killed by the Nazis and landed on U.S. college campuses. 

{Did they say thanks?}

The virus slowly but steadily spread from there, eventually bonded with postmodernism, and is now an epidemic. Everyone can "self-identify" as whatever they please, truth is whatever anyone says it is, and the de facto motto of many in the West is: If it feels good, do it.   

Bottom line: Wokies genuinely believe that there are only two kinds of people in the world, the oppressors and the oppressed, and that the tenets and traditions of so-called Western Civilization are merely a paradigm devised by Caucasian males to exploit everyone else. 

Wokies genuinely believe that if you don't accept this you're asleep and thus not worth debating much less being allowed to freely state your heretical views. Confess your sins or be canceled.

Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day

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Friday, December 9, 2022

Welcome to the Golden Age

Everyone's right... about everything. 

Image by Chaos07 from Pixabay

This is a weekly column consisting of letters to my perspicacious progeny. I write letters to my grandkids — the Stickies — eventual selves to advise them and haunt them after they've become grups and/or I'm deleted.  

Trigger Warning: This column is rated SSC — Sexy Seasoned Citizens — Perusal by kids, callowyutes, or grups may result in a debilitating meltdown.  


Featuring Dana: Hallucination, guest star, and charming literary device 

"An acre in Middlesex is better than a principality in Utopia." -Macaulay 

Dear Grandstickies and Gentlereaders,

I have to admit, I never saw it coming, this golden age we now find ourselves in I mean. In fact, I didn't even know we were living in a golden age till Scott Adams, the Dilbert dude, mentioned it in one of his daily video blogs.

{Dilbert dude?}

Mr. Adams created the Dilbert comic strip in 1989 and has been cranking 'em out 24x7x365 ever since. Nowadays he also does a Facebook live stream, 24x7x365, that features his take on current events. He even cranks it out when he's traveling or on vacation.

{Perhaps that's why he's rich and you're not.}

Perhaps, but I think that it's because of my carefully crafted work/life balance, myriad interests that have nothing to do with work, and the fact that I know how to relax and smell the bayberry candle. 

{You mean coffee? I don't get...}

I'd like to get back to that golden age thing I mentioned, please. 

{Well! far be it from me!}

Mr. Adam's pointed out that there's an upside in dealing with the daily deluge of information; there's an upside in the struggle to keep from drowning in the Information Ocean.

Everyone's right - about everything. 

It matters not what the alleged fact is, it's easy to find someone, perhaps several someones, willing to posit a yeahbut, or a maybebut, and confirm what you know to be true in your heart of hearts. 

{Wait-wait-wait. Didn't some famous dead pasty patriarch say, "Facts are stubborn things?"} 

Yup, John Adams, America's second president. “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

In his defense, the internet didn't come along till about 175 years after he was deleted; he just didn't know any better. Nowadays, virtually unlimited access to virtually unlimited information posted by (potentially) 8,000,000,000 or so Earthlings has made it possible to prove just about anything. 

If you know for certain that the World Trade Center was brought down by a covert cabal that included the CIA, the Olsen twins, the Council on Foreign Relations, Mark Zuckerberg, Dr. Fauci, and a handful of members of Skull and Bones to be named later — you'll have no problem proving it. 

Not only will you have no problem proving it you'll also have no problem establishing contact and forging alliances with like-minded H. sapiens via various websites and social media platforms and "calling out" said covert cabal to your heart's content.   

I'm so old that I have vivid memories of when television shows were only shown on televisions and traditional theory (a.k.a. critical thinking) was revered, was one of the reasons Western Civilization was revered, for having made it possible for life to be considerably less "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" than it had been for millennia for the average Joe, Joan, or J. Bagadonuts.  

Wikipedia: Critical thinking is the analysis of available facts, evidence, observations, and arguments to form a judgment. 

That is to say, we trousered apes attempt to use rational thought to overcome our frequently irrational natures and to discover what is objectively true (or at least close enough) to cure disease, perfect indoor plumbing, etc. 

That's all well and good, but traditional theory is focused on understanding/explaining society, that is to say, how things are, not necessarily how things should be. The next step is to try and work out what should be based on what we know, in conjunction with our fellow H. sapiens.

But this is the Golden Age, remember?  Critical Theory is in full flower, and certain of our intellectual betters have figured out how things should be for us. Marxist utopianism never died, nor has it faded away, it's alive and well and has morphed into (trumpets sound) Critical Theory.

Why should we mere individuals waste time laboriously working out what actually works and what doesn't when it's now widely known that our "social problems stem more from social structures and cultural assumptions than from individuals?" 

It's time to wipe the slate clean...

{What's a slate?}

...and start over again. Myriad academics/activists/etceterists are busy working out the details via various versions of Critical Theories that have been invented, many seemingly out of thin air. 

Social theory
Literary theory
Race theory
Queer theory
Thing theory
Critical theory of technology
Critical theory of legal studies
Critical pottery theory
Gender theory
Etcetera theory

Utopia is just around the corner, welcome to the golden age.  

Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day

{Wait-wait-wait, Thing theory is a thing?}  

Absabalutely, but I agree with Dr. Severin Fowles of Columbia. "Fowles describes a blind spot in Thing Theory, which he attributes to a post-human, post-colonialist attention to physical presence. It fails to address the influence of 'non-things, negative spaces, lost or forsaken objects, voids or gaps – absences, in other words, that also stand before us as entity-like presences with which we must contend.'"

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Friday, April 1, 2022

Critical (Everything) Theory

Traditional theory vs. Critical Theory.

This is a weekly column consisting of letters to my perspicacious progeny. I write letters to my grandkids
 — the Stickies
 — eventual selves to advise them and haunt them after they've become grups and/or I'm deleted. 
Best perused on a screen large enough for even your parents to see and navigate easily.   

Trigger Warning: This column is rated SSC — Sexy Seasoned Citizens — Perusal by kids, callowyutes, or grups may result in a debilitating meltdown.  

Featuring Dana: Hallucination, guest star, and charming literary device  

"It is much easier to be critical than to be correct." -Benjamin Disraeli 

Dear (eventual) Grandstickies and Great-Grandstickies (and Gentlereaders),

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP), a critical theory "...must be explanatory, practical, and normative, all at the same time." This concise definition is a distillation of the broken-hearted Marxist's philosophy developed by the scholars of the "Frankfurt School," who developed the theory back in the 1930s.

This was prior to them fleeing Germany and heading for the USA so as to understandably avoid being rounded up by Heir Hitler and friends who had devised a rather unpleasant final solution to rid themselves of all sorts of folks they didn't much care for that Ghengis Khan would've envied.

{Explanatory, practical, and normative?}

From the SEP: " must explain what is wrong with current social reality, identify the actors to change it, and provide both clear norms for criticism and achievable practical goals for social transformation" (my emboldening).

{Right... Okidoke.}

From me (well, from my research): A mere traditional theory attempts to account for/explain the reason something occurs in the world. 

Critical Theory starts with a conclusion, that the traditional social arrangements most H. sapiens take for granted, particularly those folks who are the children of what used to be called Western Civilization, are an unmitigated mess. 

And furthermore, most of the he/she/theys who take them for granted are too damn dumb to realize that we need to burn 'em down and start over, from scratch. Hey hey, ho-ho, current social reality's gotta go.  

One of my heroes, James Lindsey, explains the big three thusly. A critical theory: 

1. Must have an idealized vision for society.

2. It must explain how the existing society doesn't live up to that vision

3. It must inspire social activism on behalf of achieving that perfect world. 

{Bend over. This is going to hurt for a bit, but in the end, you'll thank me? Wait-wait-wait. Heartbroken Marxists? What's critical theory got to do with Marxism?}

Ever hear one of Lenin's "useful idiots" declaring that communism is actually a good idea, that it just hasn't been properly implemented, yet? Well, the critical theorists were upset about what had happened in Russia after the revolution and which was becoming harder and harder to ignore/explain away. 

Also, they were pissed off at the working class for not overthrowing the corrupt bourgeoisie in various and sundry countries and setting up dictatorships of the people. 

Marx had got it wrong, the proles were easily duped by rising standards of living, consumer goods, and "...the technological developments that allow cultural products, such as music, movies, and art, to be distributed on a massive scale," among many other things

{You made that quote up!}

Nuh-uh! it's from Simply Psychology and an article that was the first hit that came up when I googled critical theory. Not exactly light reading, although an excellent analysis, it explains in (mostly) everyday English what critical theory is, but without much in the way of details as to how its acolytes are going about implementing it. 

What's a Wokie to do? After all, "cultural hegemony" ensures that "...the rule of the dominant group is achieved by the spread of ideologies—beliefs, assumptions, and values—through social institutions such as schools, churches, courts, and the media, among others."

Easy-peasy. Train and indoctrinate a dedicated guerilla army whose soldiers think they're saving the world, and then turn them loose. There are now Critical Theories of pedagogy, law, gender, globalization, race, geography, literature, etceterature. 

Critical Race Theory is currently getting a lot of attention, Dick and Jane (dated Boomer reference) feel guilty about their white privilege. 

“Let’s be clear: Critical race theory is not taught in elementary schools or high schools. It’s a method of examination taught in law school and college that helps analyze whether systemic racism exists,” -Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers

Technically speaking, that statement is not a lie, your honor. 

The ball did get rolling in law schools and colleges, but it's now bouncing all over the country. CRT ain't being taught in grade schools, it's being implemented in grade schools, as outlined in this article

Remote learning and helicopter parenting aren't all bad. Joe and Joan Bagadonuts, and Zach and Meadow Bagabrie, now know what's going on in this, that, and even that other school, the one they can't afford to send Dick and Jane to. 

Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day

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