Good Examples of Bad Critical Theory Continued.

I knew contemporary critical theory had moved away from engaging with Marx, but I had no idea how much it had done so. In the period from 2008 to the present there are a grand total of zero articles in Constellations, Telos or Thesis Eleven on any of the following topics: the current social crisis, Marx and critical theory or reconsidering critical theory in light of the current crisis.


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Deep in the adjunct crackhole.
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10 Responses to Good Examples of Bad Critical Theory Continued.

  1. Anjie Zheng says:

    Not exactly a related comment, but the contemporary Telos, or more precisely Telos ever since its newfound (well, not so new) and ongoing appreciation for the Nazi legal theorist and jurist Carl Schmitt, group has become, more or less, a right wing journal. It appears to be rather pluralistic in its right wing politics, whether it’s reprinting books by Ernst Juenger and Carl Schmitt, publishing an English translation of a book by the neoconservative “anti-German” political scientist Matthias Kuentzel, and receiving plaudits from Alain de Benoist (a major figure on the European New Right), Michael Ledeen, Fred Siegel (Manhattan Institute), etc.

    Otherwise, its contemporary work, in print and online, appears to be a hodgepodge of…. well, everything. But that’s just my un-scientific, passing observation.

    • HR says:

      Definitely true, which points out what sort of fucked situation critical theory is in when its still one of the leading outlets for contemporary work on Adorno.

  2. CB says:

    I noticed the same thing. The chair of my philosophy department is a former phd student under Habermas, and a graduate of the frankfurt school. I decided to critique Axel Honneth’s theory of reification from a Marxist perspective, and found literature was surprisingly scarce on the topic. Moreover, Honneth seems completely ignorant of anything Marx ever said….

    • HR says:

      But it would be cool if someone wrote a survey essay outlining the transformation problems and various solutions to it in marxian literature.

  3. Kambing says:

    Yeah, Telos followed a particularly depressing political trajectory (though one which arguably follows a reactionary logic inherent in much Frankfurt School thought). Still, it seems like they wanted to prove that the shallow and dismissive critiques of Adorno mounted by stereotypical pomo cult studs were actually rigorous and accurate.

    As for Thesis Eleven, it’s basically become a run-of-the-mill social science journal which occasionally revisits its connection to ‘Western Marxism’ in a rather desultory and abstractly philosophical/historical way. I met people from the Thesis Eleven Centre at LaTrobe a couple of years ago and they seemed strangely uninterested in applying Marxist theory to contemporary social life, or really in establishing any connection to political action or applied social critique. Funnily enough, despite having a big chunk of my thesis in which I attempt to critically engage with Adorno and an interest in exploring issues of ‘alternative modernities’, I didn’t end up referencing any Thesis Eleven articles at all, while I have a ton from Capital & Class.

    Still, unlike Telos, Thesis Eleven holds up decently if you judge it as a general social science journal, and people like Trevor Hogan have done some good work in areas like SE Asian urbanism. I’m not sure exactly why the journal followed the particular trajectory it has, while journals like Rethinking Marxism retained a degree of engagement with contemporary + applied Marxist theory (even though its form of academic Althusserianism certainly lends itself to abstract scholasticism). But I’ll speculate that it has something to do with Thesis Eleven’s close institutional connections to Sociology at LaTrobe, where it was basically trying to be the ‘LaTrobe Journal of Sociology’ as well as a more specialist theoretical journal, and getting more support and interest for the former than the latter. Speaking of which, I’d be rather worried about the impact the current savage cuts to social sciences at LaTrobe might have — Sociology is losing something like 1/3 of its academic staff.

    • HR says:

      yeah. The good days of Telos were good. it seems that’s more than you can say about Constellations which seems to have always rode the Post-Habermasian wave.

      Is this a second wave of cuts in OZ resulting from neoliberal restructuring/crisis? or the first?

      For what its worth Thesis Eleven was the most overtly political of the three and even had an article or two on the uk riots. Sadly, as you say, this was linked to the participants perceived lack of a sociological imagination, not capitalist misery.

      • Kambing says:

        Australia hasn’t really had a ‘crisis’ as such, and has even escaped (or at least delayed) the direct impact of the GFC. There hasn’t really been distinct waves of austerity, just three decades of slowly but consistently grinding neoliberalism – more aggressive and acute under Coalition (Liberal/National) governments, somewhat slower under Labor. There’s been talk of a ‘crisis’ in higher education since the 1990s, but this is rather transparently a manufactured crisis. Cuts to higher education have become a routine demonstration of ‘fiscal responsibility’, even though the federal and (many of) the state governments are rather flush with mining/resource cash.

        So universities have become increasingly reliant on other sources of income – the well-established, prominent institutions make a lot through investment and property, but all of them have also become increasingly reliant on full-fee paying international students (mostly from Asia), which exposes them to a certain amount of market risk. But the neoliberal corporatisation of the sector is such that there doesn’t need to be any real evidence of a crisis to justify neoliberal restructuring — every few years a uni will get a new VC who engages in an ‘ambitious’ and mostly pointless managerial reorganisation, downsizing etc to prove their chops as a CEO and keep the institution ‘internationally competitive’. I think the cuts at LaTrobe are mostly this kind of ‘ideological/managerial’ restructuring, justified by the uni’s relatively poor performance in terms of attracting students and research funding. But the uni is actually running at a surplus.

      • HR says:

        hmm. It sounds like Sussex and other uk schools are unsuccessfully trying to follow the model of neolib management and foreign student revenue streams. The fact that it is occurring in the context of a crisis and a government passing stupid visa laws makes it all the more of a disaster.

  4. CB says:

    I’ve been wanting to critique Honneth’s theory of reification – from a Marxist perspective – in a journal for some time now; What are the best journals to try and do this? Or are they all so far removed from Marxism now, that it’s futile?

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