Method and Social Theory in Critical Theory.

I think the following passage from Horkheimer’s Traditional and Critical Theory serves as a good postscript to my earlier post on Value-Form Theory and Critical Social Theory. This is because I think it does a good job of showing how Backhaus and Reciehelt were influenced by the first generation of critical theory as well as indicating how their early attempt at reconstruction attempted to resolve some of its methodological blind spots:

“In critical theory, as in traditional theory, more specific ele­ments must be introduced in order to move from fundamental structure to concrete reality. But such an intercalation of more detailed factors—for example the existence of large money re­serves, the diffusion of these in sectors of society that are still precapitalist, foreign trade—is not accomplished by simple deduction as in theory that has been simplified for specialized use. Instead, every step rests on knowledge of man and nature which is stored up in the sciences and in historical experience. This is obvious, of course, for the theory of industrial technol­ogy. But in other areas too a detailed knowledge of how men react is applied throughout the doctrinal developments to which we have been referring. For example, the statement that under certain conditions the lowest strata of society have the most children plays an important role in explaining how the bour­geois society built on exchange necessarily leads to capitalism with its army of industrial reserves and its crises. To give the psychological reasons behind the observed fact about the lower classes is left to traditional science.

Thus the critical theory of society begins with the idea of the simple exchange of commodities and defines the idea with the help of relatively universal concepts. It then moves further, using all knowledge available and taking suitable material from the research of others as well as from specialized research. Without denying its own principles as established by the special discipline of political economy, the theory shows how an ex­change economy, given the condition of men (which, of course, changes under the very influence of such an economy), must necessarily lead to a heightening of those social tensions which in the present historical era lead in turn to wars and revolutions.” (Critical Theory and Socciety, pp. 225-6.)

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Deep in the adjunct crackhole.
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