On the Concept of Non-normative Critique
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Proponents of non-normative critique reject what they see as judgmental notions of critique. These pre-suppose a superior insight on the part of the theorist taking a paternalist and suspicious attitude toward others. Their alternative begins ith the understanding of participants, but they take a distance from that perspective in their view of critique. With Foucault, they see critique solely as the attempt to problematize situations showing their contingent nature, leaving the participant to decide. This position is not well founded. Social critique is immanent, but is inherently normative. Understanding is evaluation, if the social inquirer is to critically encounter the participants’ perspective and not maintain the perspective of a descriptive sociologist. He or she must in fact be able to evaluate the norms and practices of the participants, otherwise the engagement is not on an equal level. This process is a reciprocal one. Critique is always mutual critique. The participants are equally able to critically evaluate the perspective of the inquirer just as the inquirer evaluates those of the participants he or she studies.