The Urban Review

, Volume 47, Issue 5, pp 847–867 | Cite as

Thinking Ourselves to Liberation?: Advancing Sociopolitical Action in Critical Consciousness



Freire advanced critical consciousness as a tool for the liberation of oppressed communities. Based on his ideas, scholars of theory and practice from myriad disciplines have written about how to advance critical consciousness (CC) among oppressed peoples. We reviewed CC theory and practice articles in scholarly journals with the goal of identifying key elements of CC, advancing practice, and aligning theory with insights from practice. The most prominent elements of CC theory we found were fostering awareness of sociopolitical circumstances, encouraging critical questioning, and fostering collective identity. Surprisingly, few theorists or practitioners gave extensive attention to the community action component of critical consciousness. This led us to give this component of CC close attention and to develop a framework that describes four aspects of “sociopolitical action.” We conclude with a recommendation that CC programming include targets or objectives for sociopolitical action from the outset of a project, rather than limiting CC groups to critical social analysis and problematization. Youth community organizing is a promising strategy for bridging the gap between critical social analysis and sociopolitical action. This approach calls for ongoing partnerships between career researchers and community-based, veteran activists with the expertise to help young people make the transition from insight to action.


Critical consciousness Critical social analysis Sociopolitical action 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roderick J. Watts
    • 1
    • 2
  • Carlos P. Hipolito-Delgado
    • 3
  1. 1.The Graduate CenterCity University of New York (CUNY)New YorkUSA
  2. 2.Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter CollegeNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.University of Colorado at DenverDenverUSA

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