The following is in response to Dr. Shenvi’s recent post, “Dr. Bronner Responds.” I do love and respect Dr. Shenvi as a brother and I hope that none are taking this as personal. I have also agreed not to say that Dr. Shenvi is “misleading” people, as many have taken this to imply intentionality, which I do not believe.
Dr. Shenvi’s Work and My Intent
First, let us begin with what Dr. Shenvi has argued throughout his articles, lectures, and interviews; this is important for identifying what ideology he is attempting to characterize with his four “core tenets.”
Dr. Shenvi has responded to my publication of Dr. Levinson’s critique of his supposed “core tenets of contemporary critical theory,” by essentially arguing that Dr. Levinson really does agree with him, as though Levinson did not clearly state,
These so-called tenets read to me as caricature. They carry minor grains of truth, but they simplify and obscure.
no, I don’t think they capture the “core” of critical social theories. I think the Intro to my book gets closer to doing that “properly.”
which is all that I set out to demonstrate. Further, the “Intro” Dr. Levinson references does in fact state clearly his understanding of the “defining characteristics” of critical social theories, namely,
- “value-rationality” rather than instrumental rationality. In other words, it is not neutral in reference to values and has a definite (though not teleological) conception of “progress” and the social good, often a utopian vision or concept of “liberation.”
- the assumed need to dismantle and critique taken-for-granted ideologies, to challenge the “false consciousness” (Lukács) or “misrecognition” (Bourdieu) that enables social domination.
- an understanding of domination as structural yet dialectically connected to agency in people’s “everyday lives.” (Beyond Critique, p. 11)
Again, specifically not Shenvi’s fourfold construction.