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Critical Theory

Early Critical Theorists

Critical theory can be traced all the way back to Hegel. The original Frankfurter Schule, represented by Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, and Herbert Marcuse, traces its origins from the interwar period. The German critical theory group was primarily characterized by their insistence that social theory must play a role in changing the world, an attempt to elaborate on the idea of theory with practical intent. (Reed, 1999).

These first generation philosophers were indebted to the Kantian notion of autonomy and Hegel's and Marx's elaboration of a philosophy of praxis. In the face of the failure of the Enlightenment project and the rise of fascism, these theorists despaired of the liberating power of reason (Reed). They, and the political theologians of the time, believed that social inquiry undertaken with the intent of exposing social injustice required stronger normative foundations than a theory of reason could provide (McCarthy, 1991).

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