January 30, 2006

bullets on chapter 1 of critical theory

Exploring the Meaning of Critical Theory for Adult Learning
- this chapter explains what theory is and why it is valid despite postmodernist attempts to discredit all grand theories as particularistic ways of viewing the world that strive to extend themselves to individuals or societies with very different ways of understanding.

What is Theory?
- A set of explanatory understandings that help us make sense of some aspect of the world
- Teleological

The Utility of Theory
- To explain, reduce suffering, and keep hope for a better world alive
- It can shed light on the limitations external structures exhibit upon ones abilities to achieve his or her goals
- It is as good as its ability to represent the world and is discarded in the event that a better theory comes along
- Teachers must be willing to document experiments at critical pedagogy

The Meaning of Criticality in Critical Theory
Four Traditions of Criticality
- Ideology critique: understanding the way cultural systems (capitalism) create a hegemonic structure which teaches us to embrace the very things which lead to our demise (reducing relationships to commodities)
- Psychoanalysis and psychotherapy: overcoming childhood traumas often caused by societal structures to achieve fulfillment.
- Analytic philosophy and logic: argument analysis and ways of reasoning
- Pragmatist constructivism: understands that individuals form their own meanings and that through experimentation we can learn to create more democratic and just living environments.

Marxism and Critical Theory
- Marxophobia: equating Marxism with Stalinism
- conversing with Marx as human not a god
- It’s easier than it looks.
- Normative

What is so critical about Critical Theory?
Five Distinctive Characteristics
- The commodity exchange economy is seen to have invaded our interpersonal relationships, our relation to objects, and to ourselves
- It is meant to transform these adverse relations
- asks its object of analysis to recognize it as valid
- It is a normative theory in which we try to achieve a democratic vision that acknowledges our shared human existence and our obligation to strive for greater equality and freedom
- It is not testable as a theory until its vision has become a reality

Outlining Critical Theory’s Relevance for Adult Learning
The Centrality of Learning
- We must seek to understand how adults learn to recognize the oppressive ideologies in which they live, and how they learn to challenge these ideologies
- How we learn to view our world as interconnected with others, and how this can lead to greater equality and a more democratic framework within which to live

The Critical Posture toward Critical Theory
- It acknowledges itself as a culturally specific ideology, and advocates a fluid set of understandings and judgments that should be open to critique
- retracts from being overconfident in its assumptions, and should always acknowledge its weaknesses
- It should not shy away from imperially based experiments