Spring 2016

Critical Theory

Listed in: Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, as LJST-241


Sarah Johnson (Section 01)


Enlightenment philosophers argued that law and reason were sources of freedom and human flourishing. This course explores the ways in which later social theorists challenged and qualified this claim as they confronted the legacies of Enlightenment and the effects of capitalism. We will begin by studying the roots of critical theory in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century philosophy before turning to works by some of the most prominent critical theorists of the last century: Walter Benjamin, Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, and Herbert Marcuse. These readings will invite us to examine the forms in which domination and alienation appeared in the mid-twentieth century; the relationship between art and society; the meaning of values such as equality, progress, self-reliance, morality, thrift, and truth; as well as a variety of accounts of the requirements for emancipation and flourishing. In the second part of the course we will turn to writings by Michel Foucault, Jürgen Habermas, and Nancy Fraser in order to consider the nature of power, domination, and critique in the late-twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. In both parts of the course, we will be especially concerned to discover how critical theorists’ concepts and models of inquiry can help us to interrogate contemporary social orders.

Limited to 30 students.  Spring semester.  Visiting Professor S. Johnson.

If Overenrolled: priority given to LJST Majors

Cost: 4.27 ?


Attention to Writing


2021-22: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016