LGS Thoughtpiece

Institutionalizations of Critical Theory

Posted: Monday 09 Aug 2010
by LGS 0 comments

Many of us, throughout the world, participated in the petition campaign to support the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy, which is, amongst other things, a home for some of the most well-known critical theorists in the United Kingdom. Kingston University not only integrated the CRMEP into its own institutional structure: the University has also now created a graduate school in critical theory. Institutional support for critical theory has never been more important, as we currently face a devastating world economic crisis.

We have never been more in need of a community of scholars and alliances between institutions to promote the rich tradition of critical theory which begins in German idealism, including Karl Marx, and moves into the twentieth century through the Frankfurt School and the great leaders of the Afro-Caribbean philosophical tradition, such as Frantz Fanon and C.L.R.James. The Humanities Institute at Birkbeck College recently institutionalized a Critical Theory Summer School, which had its opening session at the beginning of this summer, and showed how much interest there is amongst young scholars and graduate students in this tradition and intellectual legacy.

The key issue for us now is institutionalization, because there is no doubt that just at the moment when it is most needed, critical theory is most under attack. The graduate school established by Kingston in London will be one more locale where critical theorists can pursue their work in a community of scholars. At a time when thinking itself is often disparaged unless it is directly tied in to some immediate technological benefit to capitalist society, it is not surprising that the very idea of a university is under attack. One aspect, then, of critical theory—as the philosopher Jacques Derrida long ago reminded us—is to fight for the idea of the university, which promises students the chance to grapple with all the richness of worldwide philosophy. Without such a chance, we are in danger not only of losing the university as a place of thinking, but undermining one of the foundations of democracy, which is precisely the notion of a community of scholars not directly controlled by the state, and certainly not by the latest demands of advanced capitalism.

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