Archaeology of Criticism



"The idea of critical social science is a medium by which many people today express their most profound longings. Thus, understanding critical social science is a way of understanding an important part of the world of thought and action in which we live.

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Critical social science pictures humans as fallen but only in purely secular terms, and as redeemable through their own capacity to transform their lives in radical ways. By means of analysis and effort, humans are thought to be capable of solving their own problems through an enlightened re-ordering of their collective arrangements. This is an expression of the Enlightenment ideal that through reason humans can achieve a form of existence which is free and satisfying to them.

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[C]ritical social science is an attempt to understand in a rationally responsible manner the oppressive features of a society such that this understanding stimulates its audience to transform their society and thereby liberate themselves." [Brian Fay, Critical Social Science 2, 3, 4 (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1987)]

"The right use of any art or discipline leads out of it--as the right use of words leads to a heightened awareness both of the referents of words and of the knowledge, feelings, experiences that cannot be expressed or communicated by words." [Wendell Berry, Standing By Words 85-86 (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1983)]

"[A]n increasingly common practice in the contemporary academy is precisely to look outside the narrowest disciplinary boundaries for potential insight in solving the puzzles presented by one's own disciplinary materials. To adopt Claude Levi-Strauss's famous notion, the essence of the post-modernist, post-structuralist interpreter is to be a bricoleur, who resourcefully and opportunistically borrows whatever tools might be available to solve particular problems at hand. There are obvious similarities between bricolage and contemporary pragmatism. The bricoleur is not a self-conscious theorist. What justifies using any given tool is its usefulness. There is no theoretically a priori way of deciding what tools are either 'essential' or 'absolutely inappropriate.' . . . . Ironically, it is only after one gives up the dream of a single tool useful on every occasion that one begins to see the merits of the diverse tools available for construction, whether of buildings or of theories." [Sanford Levinson & M. Balkin, Law, Music, and Other Performing Arts, 139 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1597, 1604-05 (1991)]


  Contents: Archaeology of Criticism