Dec 17, 2008

critical theory and the International Criminal Court resolution

A little while back, regarding the Jan/Feb resolution, I mused,
[T]he topic lends itself to critical theory, if you're into that.
This prompted a commentator to respond.
Jim, near the top you mentioned this topic lending itself to critical theory. I have a student who I feel would be very interested in this line of argumentation. Unfortunately, I come from a policy background and I am not sure how to structure or present this type of argument in LD. It might also be helpful to hear one example of what you were thinking when you mentioned it earlier.
First, those unfamiliar with critical theory would do well to investigate the SEP's article on the subject.
[Critical theorists] do not merely seek to provide the means to achieve some independent goal, but rather (as in Horkheimer's famous definition mentioned above) seek “human emancipation” in circumstances of domination and oppression....

It follows from Horkheimer's definition that a critical theory is adequate only if it meets three criteria: it must be explanatory, practical, and normative, all at the same time. That is, it must explain what is wrong with current social reality, identify the actors to change it, and provide both clear norms for criticism and achievable practical goals for social transformation.
So, to maintain a classic LD advocacy, it's important to use critical theory (or a subset, such as feminist theory) as your criterion, with a value of "human emancipation" or "freedom" or "autonomy" or "value pluralism" or somesuch.

To some degree, critical theorists support an affirmative stance:
In discussions of theories of globalization, the fact of global interdependence refers to the unprecedented extent, intensity, and speed of social interactions across borders, encompassing diverse dimensions of human conduct from trade and cultural exchange to migration (Held, et al 1999). The inference from these facts of interdependence is that existing forms of democracy within the nation-state must be transformed and that institutions ought to be established that solve problems that transcend national boundaries (Held 1995, 98-101).
However, a tension exists between cosmopolitan theorists and, say, post-colonialists or anti-hegemonists who reject globalization or multinational initiatives as tools of (predominantly Western) capitalism.

See also Wikipedia's list of critical theory topics for an introduction to many of the schools and big names within critical theory.

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