critical social theory in education

Critical Social Theory Related terms: Download as PDF About this page Setting the context Theoretical perspectives underpinning social inclusion Although government imperatives

critical social theory in education

Soja was more avowedly a postmodernist, insisting that a much deeper restructuring of Marxism was necessary to engage effectively with contemporary geographical realities. He called for a radical rethinking of two fundamental or ontological premises embedded in Marxism, one relating the social and the spatial dimensions of capitalist societies and the other linking time and space, history and geography. Following Lefebvre, Soja argued that there was a more balanced and mutually causal relation between society and space, a sociospatial dialectic that had been submerged in Marxism’s overemphasis on social relations of production and aspatial class analysis. Similarly, he saw a persistent privileging of history over geography, the temporal over the spatial, in a particular form of historicism that severely constrained the development of a balanced and mutually interactive historical and geographical materialism. He called instead for a more balanced and three-sided ontology and epistemology that dynamically related the spatial, social, and historical dimensions of human existence (spatiality, sociality, and historicality), with no one of the three inherently privileged over the others (Soja 1996 ).
The interpretive and critical social theory paradigms in scientific thought ( Foley, 2000 ; Soltis, 1992 ) provide substantial support for encouraging social inclusion in education:

Limitations of traditional educational approaches for people with epilepsy
Freire’s distinctive features of critical social theory

Colin Griffin, Hillcroft College
It is easy to see how this kind of social theory could make a humanistic and liberal appeal, with its stress on individuality, creativity, emancipation, the pervasiveness of ideology and so on, and it seems a long way from the deterministic categories of some varieties of Marxist thinking. But it would be a mistake to confuse humanistic Marxism with humanistic psychology, and Gibson and others have argued that too much can be made of the individualism of critical theory and its conception of the relative autonomy of culture: in fact, the critical theorists remain ‘wedded to the original theory’ and operated overwhelmingly at the structural level of analysis 7 .

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ANDREW FEENBERG. The most recent work in critical theory of technology adopts a fourth position and argues that technoscience always contains contradictory possibilities. This is so because there are many dimensions to technoscience, many of which traditional accounts fail to identify. For this reason Feenberg argues that technology should be reconceived of through instrumentalization theory. This theory distinguishes between the understanding of technology by technical experts and philosophers of technology, and the understanding of technology within a specific social context by those who use it and are affected by it. Users of technology often deploy it in unintended and often unanticipated but imaginative ways. These uses often challenge existing technological systems and social orders. By better understanding and developing these contradictory potentials, he argues, the critical theorist can further the goal of assisting the cause of human liberation. Feenberg continues the Frankfurt school interest in popular culture, but is more sensitive to the political complexity of contemporary culture, and thus to the ambipotent nature of technological change. His work engages not only theorists such as Habermas and Heidegger, but included empirically rich case studies of French communications technologies, Japanese conceptions of technology, science fiction, and film. Feenberg returns the tradition of critical social theory to its multi-disciplinary roots, and is active in empirical research on the development and uses of technology, especially educational technologies.
There is another strand of thinking about technoscience within critical theory, composed of those who reject the pessimism of Horkheimer and Adorno and who maintain that technoscience can be useful in fighting domination. As with critical theory as a whole, this tradition contains multiple particular positions, some of which are at odds with each other. All maintain, however, the method of immanent critique, and the commitment to a critical analysis of culture with the aim of aiding human liberation. The four strands of critical theory that identify liberatory possibilities in technoscience are: