grappling with similar questions

grappling with similar questions

(this broader European development of Critical Theory is sometimes called “the continental school” or “continental philosophy”). This work merges in the North American context of the 1960s with antiwar, feminist, gay rights, Black power, Indigenous peoples, The Chicano Movement, disability rights, and other movements for social justice.

Many of these movements initially advocated for a type of liberal humanism (individualism, freedom, and peace) but quickly turned to a rejection of liberal humanism. The logic of individual autonomy that underlies liberal humanism (the idea that people are free to make independent rational decisions that determine their own fate) was viewed as a mechanism for keeping the marginalized in their place by obscuring larger structural systems of inequality. In other words, it fooled people into believing that they had more freedom and choice than societal structures actually allow. Many of these social justice activists critiqued these societal structures and argued that social institutions were organized in ways that perpetuated the marginalization of women, and of Black, Indigenous, Chicano, disabled, and LGBT peoples. Many of these revolutionary movements were led by young activists, and their ideas were in part informed by the theoretical and scholarly literature they were studying in universities. The politics of the social justice movements aligned with academic research showing that society is structured in ways that marginalize some to the benefit of others.

Social Stratification: The concept that social groups are relationally positioned and ranked into a hierarchy of unequal value (e.g., people without disabilities are seen as more valuable than people with disabilities). This ranking is used to justify the unequal distribution of resources among social groups.

This broad-brush sketch of Critical Theory is not the whole story. Critical Theory neither begins in Europe nor ends in the United States and Canada. Critical Theory’s analysis of how society works continues to expand and deepen as theorists from indigenous, postcolonial, racialized, and other marginalized perspectives add layers to our collective understanding. Thus, to engage in a study of society from a critical perspective, one must move beyond common sense–based opinions and begin to grapple with all the layers that these various, complex, and sometimes divergent traditions offer.

STOP: “I’m looking out the window and there’s a rock there,

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