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Counter-Critical Theory: An Intervention in Contemporary Critical Thought and Practice

Bernard E. Harcourt

Abstract

Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht’s short-lived project for a critical theory journal, Krise und Kritik, foundered in 1931 on the shoals of positivism. Since then, a series of anti-foundational challenges to traditional critical theory has fragmented the landscape of critical theory and, especially, critical praxis, leaving us disarmed today, in these unprecedented times. This essay offers a way forward by means of what it calls “counter-critical theory”: a critical method that indexes the original impulse of critical theory, but liberates it from its foundation in order to allow for a more open-ended and permanent re-examination of how power circulates and recirculates throughout society. Counter-critical theory is a pure theory of illusions and calls for a strategic, ecumenical practice of political disobedience, accompanied by an unrelenting and resolute deployment of interpretation and resignification.

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Keywords

crisis, critique, Walter Benjamin, Michel Foucault, power, counter-critique