Critique, Crisis, and the Elusive Tribunal

Authored by: Judith Butler

The Routledge Companion to the Frankfurt School

Print publication date:  November  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138333246
eBook ISBN: 9780429443374
Adobe ISBN:


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The chapter queries what forms critical theory may assume today, taking stock of the fact that it takes different forms across regions of the world and in light of a felt historical sense that there is no recourse to an ultimate tribunal in formulating judgments about what is happening and what is to be done. To understand the global reach and forms of critical theory, contemporary scholars must develop a practice of translation, making room for those aspects of critical thought that do not translate easily into the established vocabularies and frameworks of its practice. Against those who claim that critical theory is merely negative or exclusively subjective, the chapter seeks to show how critique is bound up with the urgencies of its own historical time and with the objects of its analysis, and seeks to establish ways of interpreting and evaluating historical forms of domination and subjugation without reproducing the forms of knowledge through which those forms achieve their naturalized status within thought. Engaging with the works of Kant, Koselleck, and Benjamin, the chapter seeks to show how critical judgments may emerge from within a historical time marked by the abandonment of populations and in which the operations of law and the ideals of justice are far apart, and can articulate modes of analysis and maintaining ideals of justice yet to be realized.

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