Critical Theory, Negative Dialectics, and the Project of Political Epistemology
As Chapter 1 suggests, the project of political epistemology presents profound similarities to critical theory. The present chapter examines these similarities and explores the lessons that participants in the project of political epistemology learn from the Frankfurt School thinkers, especially Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno. The first section of the chapter compares critical to traditional thinking. Traditional theory is not dialectical. It forgets the constitutive role of human interests, social activities, and also of itself qua theory in the makeup of the object. Consequently, traditional thinking takes the actual as a given. Critical theory, on the contrary, problematizes the “given” objective reality as antagonistic and changeable. The problematization of the object proceeds through uncovering its antagonistic nature. This first section, therefore, studies Georg Lukacs’s dialectical materialist account of reification and contradiction. Here, the point is that theoretical contradictions of bourgeois thought cannot be resolved theoretically. In other words, there is a constitutive relationship between societal and theoretical contradictions: Contradiction is indeed a cognitive/material reality, new incoherence.
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