Critical theory is a social philosophy pertaining to the reflective assessment and critique of society and culture in order to reveal and challenge power structures. With origins in sociology, as well as in literary criticism, it argues that social problems are influenced and created more by societal structures and cultural assumptions than by individual and psychological factors. Maintaining that ideology is the principal obstacle to human liberation, critical theory was established as a school of thought primarily by the Frankfurt School theoreticians Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Erich Fromm, and Max Horkheimer. The latter sociologist described a theory as critical insofar as it seeks "to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them."

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  • Critical theory is a social philosophy pertaining to the reflective assessment and critique of society and culture in order to reveal and challenge power structures. With origins in sociology, as well as in literary criticism, it argues that social problems are influenced and created more by societal structures and cultural assumptions than by individual and psychological factors. Maintaining that ideology is the principal obstacle to human liberation, critical theory was established as a school of thought primarily by the Frankfurt School theoreticians Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Erich Fromm, and Max Horkheimer. The latter sociologist described a theory as critical insofar as it seeks "to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them." In sociology and political philosophy, the term Critical Theory describes the Western-Marxist philosophy of the Frankfurt School, which was developed in Germany in the 1930s and draws on the ideas of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. Though a "critical theory" or a "critical social theory" may have similar elements of thought, the capitalization of Critical Theory as if it were a proper noun particularly stresses the intellectual lineage specific to the Frankfurt School. Modern critical theory has additionally been influenced by György Lukács and Antonio Gramsci, as well as second-generation Frankfurt School scholars, notably Jürgen Habermas. In Habermas' work, critical theory transcended its theoretical roots in German idealism and progressed closer to American pragmatism. Concern for social "base and superstructure" is one of the remaining Marxist philosophical concepts in much of contemporary critical theory. Postmodern critical theory analyzes the fragmentation of cultural identities in order to challenge modernist-era constructs such as metanarratives, rationality, and universal truths, while politicizing social problems "by situating them in historical and cultural contexts, to implicate themselves in the process of collecting and analyzing data, and to relativize their findings." (en)
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  • Critical theory is a social philosophy pertaining to the reflective assessment and critique of society and culture in order to reveal and challenge power structures. With origins in sociology, as well as in literary criticism, it argues that social problems are influenced and created more by societal structures and cultural assumptions than by individual and psychological factors. Maintaining that ideology is the principal obstacle to human liberation, critical theory was established as a school of thought primarily by the Frankfurt School theoreticians Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Erich Fromm, and Max Horkheimer. The latter sociologist described a theory as critical insofar as it seeks "to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them." (en)
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  • Critical theory (en)
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