The Future Direction of Critical Theory


The current state of democratic society in the postmodern world is that of crisis. Since the Enlightenment, society worked toward incremental perfection, but the “perfect” society has all but lost its meaning in postmodern times. Democratic inhabitants may be finally free to create themselves and their world in the way that they want without meddling authority, but they are powerless to decide just what that ought to look like. Although society has freed its members from the lifestyles prescribed by the political system, scientific reason, and morality, it has been unable to replace their now-vacant niches with anything constructive. The collective “good” of the people has no face and has fallen to the wayside. Democratic society has deteriorated into a consumer society whose aim is nothing more than free, but superficial, self-creation through accumulation of commodities.

For decades, sociology’s critical theory, championed by Jürgen Habermas, established as its goal the complete emancipation of humankind, but now that that emancipation from domination has been attained in liberal societies, it does not appear so enticing. Where is the happiness and wisdom that was supposed to accompany individual liberty? Why, despite society’s casting aside of its self-imposed shackles, is life filled with more uncertainty than ever? Perhaps the answer lies in the type of freedom achieved in the postmodern world. Modern society had been so concerned with the negation of the ideology of the state and the new, class-like technocratic consciousness that it failed to realize that it was actually pulling the rug out from under itself. It even went so far as to condemn the very nature of that rug. What the contemporary individual believes to be freedom is actually the lack of ground to stand upon.

The structure of society has transformed in the transition from modernity to postmodernity, and critical theory is left to ponder the difference between the presently accomplished negative freedom and the empowering positive freedom which is true autonomy. Consumer society’s negatively free individuals are as apathetic to the common good as ever, and do not participate in the democratic process of creating a world. Societal emancipation toward a capable and wise positive freedom must occur on a collective level, however, and that requires communal participation in democracy. A forum must be created where collective self-reflection may transpire and generate a self-conscious rationality by which society may be created in a historically-aware manner once again. The future of critical theory, then, must focus mainly on the creation of a civil society instead of the negation of factors that hinder its realization.

39 comments:

  1. 生活總是起起伏伏,心情要保持快樂才好哦!! ........................................

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  2. 旁觀自己的悲傷是解脫,主觀自己的悲傷是更加悲傷........................................

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  3. 在莫非定律中有項笨蛋定律:「一個組織中的笨蛋,恆大於等於三分之二。」.................................................................

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  4. 一個人就像一個分數,他的實際才能是分子,他對自己的評價是分母。分母越大,則分數的價值越小。..................................................

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  5. 婚姻對男人來說是賭他的自由,對女人而言卻是賭她的幸福。.................................................................

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  6. 好的開始並不代表會成功,壞的開始並不代表是失敗..................................................

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  7. 先將一個人的生活過好,才有能力過好兩個人的生活................................................

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  8. 成功多屬於那些很快做出決定,卻又不輕易變更的人。而失敗也經常屬於那些很難做出決定,卻又經常變更的人............................................................

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  9. 感謝分享~希望有更多的好文章分享給大家.................................[/url]...............

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  10. i found out that your article is nothing more than a true reality we are facing in our society. im glad to have your well-describe and elaborated ideas. wishing to see you again in your next article.

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  11. Very interesting, and true. There was a shift on the understanding of "freedom" during 15th century with the Cluny reform and the "two swords" conflict.

    The core idea of liberalism back then, as explained by Ockham, was emancipation from "worldly needs" by means of a theologically understood freewill and, later on with the cartesian revolution, as moral autonomy achiabable by reason.

    The problem lies on the fact that back then reason was thought as being something similar (universal) on every individual, as it was understood strictly within a mathematical world-view. This was translated then by Kant, who abstracted this approach and came up with the "categorical imperative", which would allow everyone to come to the same kind of morality.

    However, since the end of the xix century science have been engaging with deconstructive theories that question the univocity of reason, understanding it more in terms social paradigms that in terms of innate qualities, undermining the universality of reason and autonomy.

    Similarly, in terms of politics and economics, freedom stop being understood as the emancipation of worldly needs, and became an idea related more to "do whatever you want".

    Postmodernity, therefore, is marked by the imperative of freedom in one hand, and the lack of any authority in the other, as reason itself was relativized. That has been explained by philosophers since the beginning of the xx century as the lack of a "transcendental value".
    This is what makes people feel lost in the world and want to focus only on themselves in a narcisistic way.

    There are several attempts to overcome this condition, and bring back some kind of "life goal" into peoples life. And as you point out, the redefinition of freedom is what matters. In my view, this needs to consider ideas like sovereignty and control over one's own life and over the means that support it... as in "go back to the land!"

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