Palestine and Ferguson: Critical Theory and Angela Davis

Posted in Uncategorized by @honestcharlie on March 29, 2016


ILLUSTRATION: This was worth reprinting as the information is so often suppressed.

Palestine and Ferguson: Critical Theory and Angela Davis


Karl Entenmann

We have below and excerpt of an interview with Angela Davis. Before presenting that, however, the popular image of her needs a bit of attention. She was actually in Paris when the infamous incident with four black girls in the United States happened and it affected her greatly as in France she had somewhat escaped the bigotry of the United States south.

She did, however, continue her studies in Germany under the influence of Critical Theory or the “Frankfurt School,” which is described below. Max Horkheimer was the most important director the school ever had and his The Eclipse of Reason is one of the most important books of this century. It talks about how reason is replaced by instrumental logic which in turn is used as a tool of oppression. Contrary to widely held beliefs, the philosopher who influenced Horkheimer was not Nietzsche, but Schopenhauer which may help explain his own perceptive pessimism.

Ms. Davis began her graduate study onder the direct influence of Herbert Marcuse, author of One Dimensional man. He once raised his own uproar when he talked about audio recordings replacing the experience of the concert hall. He in no way meant to attack the recordings themselves.

After Marcuse, Ms. Davis completed her dissertation with the supervision of Habermas.

If one is pressed to summarize Critical Theory, it is the joining of the political left with the cultural right. To paraphrase the narrator in Mann’s Dr. Faustus, the liberation of the masses lies not in the churches but in the literary world, the world of humanism. It should also be pointed outt hat this does not mean Universities where the “Humanity” is taken out of the Humanities, but rather than in individual art.

This, at any rate, is the tradition out of which Ms Davis arises, and the entire prixis of hers involving the Black Panthers, feminism, and cultural studies owes its foundation to the Frankfurt school. This is a brief summary:

Although sometimes only loosely affiliated, Frankfurt School theorists spoke with a common paradigm in mind; they shared the Marxist Hegelian premises and were preoccupied with similar questions.[2] To fill in the perceived omissions of classical Marxism, they sought to draw answers from other schools of thought, hence using the insights of antipositivist sociology, psychoanalysis, existential philosophy, and other disciplines.[3] The school’s main figures sought to learn from and synthesize the works of such varied thinkers as Kant, Hegel, Marx, Freud, Weber, and Lukács.[4]

Following Marx, they were concerned with the conditions that allow for social changeand the establishment of rational institutions.[5] Their emphasis on the "critical" component of theory was derived significantly from their attempt to overcome the limits of positivism, materialism, and determinism by returning to Kant’s critical philosophy and its successors in German idealism, principally Hegel’s philosophy, with its emphasis ondialectic and contradiction as inherent properties of human reality.

Since the 1960s, Frankfurt School critical theory has increasingly been guided byJürgen Habermas‘s work on communicative reason, linguistic intersubjectivity and what Habermas calls "the philosophical discourse of modernity".[6] Critical theorists such as Raymond Geuss and Nikolas Kompridis have voiced opposition to Habermas, claiming that he has undermined the aspirations for social change that originally gave purpose to critical theory’s various projects—for example the problem of what reason should mean, the analysis and enlargement of "conditions of possibility" for social emancipation, and the critique of modern capitalism.[7]

More on this school can be found here in this link to many of their writings:

Now to Democracy Now:

In a Women’s History Month special, we speak with author, activist and scholar Angela Davis, professor emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her latest book is titled "Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement," a collection of essays, interviews and speeches that highlight the connections between struggles against state violence and oppression throughout history and around the world. "There are moments when things come together in such a way that new possibilities arrive," Davis says. "When the Ferguson protesters refused to go home after protesting for two or three days, when they insisted on continuing that protest, and when Palestinian activists in Palestine were the first to actually tweet solidarity and support for them, that opened up a whole new realm."


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