A Virginia school district has decided that critical questions about Critical Theory “will not be tolerated.” Free speech is great and all, they say, but it is “outweighed” by the importance of dealing with social injustice and systemic racism. In other words, if taxpayers don’t like spending thousands of their dollars on foolish and destructive indoctrination for their kids, that is just too bad. They are, by default, in the wrong.
What is “Critical Theory” Anyway?
Its roots actually go back to some of those dastardly dead, white European intellectuals. Specifically it originated among neo-Marxists, mostly German ones. Marx divided the world into classes. Class warfare is what drives history. “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles,” he wrote in The Communist Manifesto. It’s the haves and the have nots, oppressors and the oppressed.
Marx called for “the ruthless criticism of all that exists.” Because the privileged class holds the power, they design and control all of the systems. The oppressed are morally obligated to join together (“Workers of the world, unite!”) for change. Marxist critique is seen as the way to unmask the systems that justify oppression. It precedes and inaugurates activism that leads to the dismantling of those systems.
Later Marxist scholars, like those of the famed, “Frankfurt School,” applied this idea to all areas of culture and society. This is why some people call Critical Theory “cultural Marxism.” Their ideas lived on in particular academic circles. Writers borrowed from postmodern thinkers like Michel Foucault. From him they got the idea that everything is about power. Every norm, every shared truth about history or science, every moral precept — all of it is “constructed” as an exercise of power.
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