Update: For my last words on Dr. Shenvi’s work, please see: “Critical Theory, Dr. Levinson, Dr. Shenvi, and Evangelicalism: Final Thoughts”
First, Dr. Shenvi asks how I’ve been mischaracterized. I count three in his latest post:
I’ll state for the third time that there are many critical theories which have developed since the origin of Critical Theory in the Frankfurt School, which is what Brad’s sources are characterizing.
Again, this is false. From my very first post, I pointed to Sensoy/DiAngelo and Delgado/Stefancic to define Shenvi’s own suggested titles for his fourfold construction, and added Levinson and multiple other sources in my last post. Must we do this again? I’m willing.
Sensoy/DiAngelo’s “Overview” of Critical Theory (2017):
- Social construction of knowledge
- Anti-essentialism/Social constructivism
- Social critique motivated by “the ideals of equality”
Delgado/Stefancic’s answer to “What is Critical Race Theory?” (2017):
- The ordinariness of racialization
- Interest convergence
- The social construction of race
- Differential racialization
- Intersection of identities and anti-essentialism
- The “unique voice of color” thesis.
Sensoy/DiAngelo’s “definition” of Critical Social Justice (2017):
A critical approach to social justice refers to specific theoretical perspectives that recognize that society is stratified (i.e., divided and unequal) in significant and far-reaching ways along social group lines that include race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability. Critical social justice recognizes inequality as deeply embedded in the fabric of society (i.e., as structural), and actively seeks to change this.
Levinson’s “defining characteristics” of Critical Social Theory” (2011):
- “‘value-rationality’ rather than instrumental rationality”
- “the assumed need to dismantle and critique taken-for-granted ideologies”
- “an understanding of domination as structural yet dialectically connected to agency in people’s ‘everyday lives’”
I pointed to Held’s Introduction to Critical Theory (1981), Bronner’s A Very Short Introduction to Critical Theory (2017), and to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s entry (2016), the latter of which spends 89,400+ words describing both upper and lowercase CT, yet only includes the root “oppress” twice. (Upon request, I can give inter-consistent definitions/descriptions of CT from important sources in Legal Theory, Literary Theory, and epistemology, from readers, companions, and dictionaries—none of which mention Shenvi’s construction.)
In what sense can my sources be said to only characterize the Frankfurt School?
Why the dogged commitment to his fourfold construction?
… Brad has now acknowledged that my four tenets are “a construction—a reconstruction—of ideas common to and included in CT” even if he thinks they are not “distinguishing nor determinative” of critical theory. This is a very important recognition on his part….
This was no change of mind, no accommodation, nor new recognition; I’ve said it from the very beginning:
If one is going to attribute CT to an evangelical’s beliefs in order to claim dangerous influence, one is required to attribute that which is distinctive to the tradition, not simply that which is included, though common to other and much earlier traditions…. (Part 2)
I pointed out that Brad inadvertently committed himself to dismantling traditional marriage …
[W]hen I pointed out these implications, Brad immediately recognized the inconsistency and modified his claim.
Again, this is pure fabrication. I didn’t suddenly “recognize” anything. From my first post:
I’d hope we’re all interested in dismantling systems which distribute advantages and disadvantages based on constructed identities. (Part 2)
Note: “constructed identities”; and I’d explained what this meant just two paragraphs prior.
To use Shenvi’s example, marriage is not a socially constructed institution, but a God-created institution. As created, marriage is exclusively between “man” and “woman,” which, again, are not socially constructed, but God-created identities. Biblically speaking, it is immoral to structure societies to distribute advantages/disadvantages according to whatever group identities a society happens to cobble together. Such systems should be dismantled.
Is “Kritical” Theory a Threat to Evangelicalism?
The topic chosen by Dr. Shenvi for this discussion was, “Is Critical Theory a Threat to Evangelicalism?,” not, “Is Kritical Theory a Threat to Evangelicalism?” I stated in my first post that I only took up this topic because many were attributing CT/CRT to justice-oriented evangelicals without even producing an accurate definition/description of CT/CRT. It is even more clear to me now that Dr. Shenvi is among these many.
Imagine with me that I proposed the topic, “Is Kinism a Threat to Evangelicalism?” You might think, “It’s definitely anti-Christian, but who in evangelicalism are you attributing Kinism to?” In response, I offer the “core tenets of Kinism”:
- Society is not divided into dominant, oppressor groups and subordinate, oppressed groups along lines of race, class, gender, sexuality, gender identity, etc.
- Oppression is to be defined in terms of violence.
- We should not expose and dismantle the values and structures of dominant groups.
- ‘Social location’ has little to do with access to truth.
I then quote Shenvi and others espousing these very “tenets.”
Well, I’d assume you’d say, “Hey, those aren’t what makes Kinism properly Kinism!”
I’d, of course, respond by producing a dozen quotes from Kinists expressing exactly those “core tenets.”
Hopefully, you’d not be having it: “Just because most, or even all, Kinists believe something similar to those four things doesn’t mean that’s what Kinism is, such that you can then ascribe ‘Kinism’ to evangelicals who believe the same.”
Imagine I then respond, “Why don’t you address the quotes I gave from Shenvi and others? I am so disappointed. Fine, we’ll just call it Qinism, and now you must answer: are Shenvi and others motivated by Qinism?”
Would you now be confident, by means of the argument given above, that I am anywhere on the path to proving that Kinism is a threat to evangelicalism? I sure hope not.
(And please don’t say, “But KT’s are getting their ideas from CT’s,” as though we haven’t all been getting our ideas from proto-Kinists for the last 300 yrs.)
Where do we go from here?
I’m open to discussing Shenvi’s four tenets on their own merit, though it would necessarily widen to “traditional” theories. And I’m still open to beginning a discussion on CT and evangelicalism, but we’d have to shift to ideas like social pathology, historical immanence/dialectic, social constructivism/anti-essentialism, and social change as rational/critical participation.