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Critical Theory: A Very Short Introduction Paperback – March 18, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0199730070 ISBN-10: 0199730075 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

Review


"This is the only book of its kind: it's a readable, yet expertly crafted, tour through the Frankfurt School, along with a forceful account of why the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory still matters a decade into the new millennium. I can't recommend it highly enough." --Jeffrey T. Nealon, professor of English, Penn State University; co-editor of Rethinking the Frankfurt School


"The book's forthright critique and call to transformation are a breath of
fresh air."-- Joan Braune, Philosophy in Review


About the Author


Stephen Eric Bronner is Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Director for Global Relations at the Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights, Rutgers University.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1st edition (March 18, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199730075
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199730070
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.4 x 4.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #226,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

A very worthwhile read for anyone who is interested in finding out more about the subject area.
Shadows
The author of this book also on a few occasions uses very tendentious language to describe his political opponents, resorting even to crass epithets on one occasion.
Dr. Bojan Tunguz
Critical theory's insight was to attempt to show the fuller implications of Marxist thought, especially the ignored or neglected insights of the young Marx.
Anand Commissiong

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By John Powers on June 9, 2011
Format: Paperback
It is difficult to ask an academic to sum up a tradition, complete with the main theories and an introduction to its most seminal thinkers, in a little over 100 pages. It is an even more difficult task to take on the challenge of doing that for a tradition as complex and rich as Critical Theory. As a tradition Critical theory demands much of the reader- an understanding of the main themes and terminology in Marxist theory, Freudian Psychoanalysis, Weberian Social theory and an aptitude for intertwining each of these strands in an attempt to fabricate a greater social reality. Professor Bronner is extremely proficient at accomplishing this and making it digestible for even a critical theory novice. The language he uses, considering the complexity of the concepts vital to the tradition, is flowing and natural. It is clear that Professor Bronner has a unique control over the various concepts in critical theory. Furthermore, in keeping with the critical theory tradition, he maintains a historicity throughout by trying to capture the milieu in which these ideas came about. So far as I can tell, the purpose of these introductory books is to whet the palate of the reader and to push them to discover more of these traditions. Professor Bronner does this and more and I would recommend this to anybody who wanted to begin to approach society through a 'ruthless critique of everything existing'.
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47 of 58 people found the following review helpful By simon matthew on July 10, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This short little volume is an interesting introduction to critical theory, a philosophic mode of analysis that began with with dissident Marxist theorists Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer in the 1930s and continues in the present day in the work of thinkers such as Jurgen Habermas. Critical theory is concerned with what has traditionally been known as the "super-structure" in Marxist theory, that is, the culture, institutions, political power structures, roles, rituals, and state formations that accompany the mode of production for the things we live on. Critical theorists seek to analyze this superstructure, often with the intention of analyzing ways in which it can be modified in liberating ways. This volume highlights the incredible diversity in the thought of prominent critical theorists, from the often conservative and elitist writings of Horkheimer, to the sexually libertine musing of Marcuse and their strong retort in the very mild Erich Fromm. Yet this introduction suffers from some very large failings, most prominent of which are the author's cheap digs at figures or institutions he considers insufficiently progressive; he refers to "Tea Baggers" and "Fox News" as if their irrationality need not be demonstrated, something I'm inclined actually to agree with but that is wholly inappropriate for an academic title. I'm no fan of the Glenn Beck, but for someone who touts the virtues of the Habermasian public sphere I think it entirely necessary to engage with the content of his concerns and those of his followers if any progress is to be made.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Anand Commissiong on August 6, 2011
Format: Paperback
This little book does a wonderful job of concisely giving an intellectual history of critical theory and showing the many commitments it has. One reviewer here suggested that all critical theory seems to be about is alienation and oppression. Perhaps because I studied under Prof. Bronner, but it seems that, insofar as these two areas are of paramount importance for conceptions of justice, I'm not sure what else one could expect to take on in thinking about politics and social relations in the contemporary world. Moreover, these are huge concerns with complicated causes and difficult possible solutions. And the book does an excellent job of laying out the various understandings of the causes of alienation (which is the internal effect) and oppression (which is the external, systemic cause of alienation and suffering) under specifically capitalist, and more generally, modern political systems. In any event, since it sprang out of left or Marxist thought as well as historical-economic circumstances, contemporary critical theory took on a particular character and orientation toward these questions. The cirtical theory that developed in the Frankfurt School in Germany indelibly shaped the method of social analysis. It developed not so much against orthodox Marxism as it was an attempt to deal with the apparent shortcomings in the system that became clear as evidenced by the tenaciously strong influence liberal capitalism still exerted, and the highly problematic, anti-humanist tenor of fasicsm and Soviet-style communism that developed in response. Critical theory's insight was to attempt to show the fuller implications of Marxist thought, especially the ignored or neglected insights of the young Marx. This necessarily took the analysis into new areas of culture, psychoanalysis, and so on. As the title of this review suggests, this book does a thorough job of touching on all of these highly complex threads in a slender 144 pages.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Critical Theory" refers to a particular intellectual superstructure that has been home to a large segment of Western left from the decade or so prior to the World War II until today. Since the 1980s at least, it has also infiltrate much of the humanities and social sciences in the US, and it seems to be providing an overarching conceptual and methodological paradigm for much of what goes on in those departments these days. That, at least, is my impression of what this short book aims to depict as "Critical Theory." I could be totally wrong, though, because just like most of the "Critical Theory" literature itself, this short introduction is full of flowery language that exudes intellectual confidence without making many concrete claims. From reading between the lines my impression is that "Critical Theory" developed in Germany in 1920s (where it was known as "Frankfurt School") as a reaction against orthodox Marxism. Many of the Marxists were disillusioned with the way that communism was implemented in Soviet Union, and became disenchanted with implementing it as a viable social system. They jettisoned the economic aspects of Marxism, distanced themselves even further from any "existing system of thought," and felt free to criticize the existing social systems without any constraints that social sciences, philosophy, economics or any other organization of thought or empirical evidence would impose on them. It is not surprising that within such a mindset intellectuals with dominant personalities will assert themselves and create a new canon of texts that will unite them and their followers and keep them separate from other intellectual and academic trends.Read more ›
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