Rage and Hope Home Page
Site Contents
Critical Theory Explained
Critical Theorist: Michael Apple
Critical Theorist: Paolo Freire
Critical Theorist: Henry Giroux
Critical Theorist: Peter McLaren
About Us: Information About Site Developers
Systems of Human Inquiry Web Project Page
Rage and Hope
Critical Theory

Overview of Critical Theory

Critical Theory is a broad tradition based upon the use of the critique as a method of investigation (McCarthy, 1991). The primary characteristic of this school of thought is that social theory, whether reflected to educational research, art, philosophy, literature, or business, should play a significant role in changing the world, not just recording information. The first generation of critical theorists working in Frankfurt between WWI and WWII, rejected rationalism, or the positivist understanding of research, although not scientific analysis as a whole, and embraced modernism and the philosophies of Kant, Hegel, and Marx.

It is possible that critical theory is the "revival in high culture of the conceptual agility which held primitive cultures in bond" (Broderick, 1997). It may be that critical theory is the "intellectual return of that repressed hunger for coherence, even if that yearning is expressed, paradoxically, in a discourse feverish with multiplicity, fracture, ingenious dissemination and pun" (Broderick).

Curriculum study in the United States has progressed from the critical theory of the early Frankfurt school to researchers who now attempt to become actively engaged in promoting social change within the education system and the culture itself. They seek to promote change by "becoming part of the self-consciousness of oppressed social groups (Hoy and McCarthy, 1994)". These researchers have rejected the realism of the past to embrace theories from postmodernism.


Overview of Critical Theory
Early Critical Theorists Realism Modernism Postmodernism Links  
Updated: 11/27/99
Laurie Williams