International Network of Critical Theory | Directory of Programs, Centers, and Projects

Critical Theory

Kalamazoo College

The central goal of critical theory is to analyze the various forces that shape contemporary societies, to diagnose their crises, antagonisms, and ruptures, and to identify and mobilize agents of social change.

Critical theory is a term that describes a wide array of approaches to understanding and criticizing the myriad relations of domination characterizing contemporary society.  Although there are many disagreements among critical theorists, most agree about the terrain under consideration:  how do human beings create the social world, and how are they created by it, in ways that disempower social agents and disfigure their desires?  Or, what is the relationship between structure and agency, and what does this tell us about relations of power and domination? Human freedom and social justice are generally the ethical ideals animating these investigations, so that critical theory is necessarily both descriptive and normative in nature while it presumes a close connection between theory and practice.  Most simply, critical theorists ask, what is wrong with our world, and how can we make it better?  At a deeper methodological level, critical theorists also see themselves as practitioners with a distinctive orientation to knowledge.

Interdisciplinary in nature and drawing from numerous fields in the humanities and social sciences, critical theory offers a genealogy of social reality, on the one hand, and a genealogy of its own critical stance within that reality, on the other.  Many critical theorists presume that language both creates and interprets reality, that agents are historically constituted, or that knowledge is bound up with power relations so that there is no objective “outside” from which to view the “truth.”  Thus, critical theory poses a challenge to many of the traditional disciplines, which assume that facts can be ascertained and deployed outside a normative framework.

Contact Information
Christopher Latiolais, Professor
Jennifer Einspahr, Chair

Kalamazoo College
1200 Academy Street
Kalamazoo, Michigan
United States
https://reason.kzoo.edu/criticaltheory/
latiolai@kzoo.edu
269 337 7076

Region
North America

Academic Program
Certificate (includes emphasis, specialization, or concentration)

Year Established
2009