Date: January 5th, 12th, 19th
Time: 8:30 EST / 5:30 PST
Are “critical theory” and postmodernism the sources of authoritarian “social justice” and “identity” politics emanating from college campuses? Do the ideas of “critical theorists” like Herbert Marcuse and Kimberlé Crenshaw and postmodernist philosophers like Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida constitute a threat to political freedom or are they consistent with the ethic of personal liberty? Are these ideas deeply held and well-intentioned beliefs or just “cynical theories” intended to undermine every aspect of society and institute repressive rule?
This course is unique among university courses in that it is co-taught by two scholars of critical theory and postmodernism who are on opposite sides of many of these questions. It will not only be a three-week discussion but also a civil, respectful debate involving the instructors and participants.
By examining the texts associated with the notorious schools of thought, we will all deepen our understanding of ideas that both instructors agree have shaped the discourse in mainstream American media and politics. Participants unfamiliar with the texts will gain knowledge of the major arguments in the most famous works of Marcuse, Crenshaw, Foucault, Derrida and other critical theorists and postmodernist philosophers, and will attain new ways of thinking about the questions they raise:
– Is critical theory or postmodernism a Trojan horse for totalitarianism?
– Is the United States intrinsically oppressive, racist, sexist, and homophobic?
– What is power, who holds it, and where is it?
– Does power operate from the top of a society downward or from the bottom of society upward, or does it move in different directions and originate from multiple sources? – Does truth exist?
– Is there a reality that exists outside and apart from human consciousness?
– Can ethics be objective?
– What purposes have truth claims served?
– What are scientific “facts”?
– Are words violent?
– Does one’s biology determine one’s destiny?
– Were you born a man or a woman or neither?
– Does freedom exist?