Saturday, August 27, 2011

Max Horkheimer, Montaigne, & bourgeois skepticism (2)

Bildung and Critical Theory facing Post-modernity by Ilan Gur-Ze'ev

The postmodernity part and the conclusions are insufferable ("critical pedagogy" has always struck me as idiotic) but the content concerning the Frankfurt School and Bildung is interesting.

Here's the passage specifically about Montaigne:
A clear manifestation of this optimist-positive utopianism is Horkheimer's "Montaigne and the role of skepticism." From within the Marxist tradition Horkheimer here articulates the importance and weaknesses of modern, bourgeois skepticism, which is a central element of Enlightenment and the project of Bildung. Because the bourgeoisie have the upper hand, claims Horkheimer, the worth of the individual becomes mainly an economic issue and the critical Spirit becomes an individual’s aesthetic pastime. Skepticism, he claims, is targeted at saving the individual. This is its great goal. But Critical Theory, in opposition to this tradition, conceives the individual as basically dependent on social conditions and understands her emancipation as part of the liberation of humanity, coming about within an essential change in the social totality. This new society, according to the early Horkheimer, will actualize Montaigne's quest for the happy realization of the essence of the human.
It's hard to imagine an academic department more worthless than Education, "Critical Pedagogy" included, unless it's Political Science. Anyway, here's another specimen:

Adorno, Horkheimer, Critical Theory and the Possibility of a Non-Repressive Critical Pedagogy by Ilan Gur-Ze’ev

Horkeimer's essay on Montaigne is mentioned here, too. And here at least is a critique of Henry Giroux, his descent into postmodernism, and his misunderstanding of Marcuse (who also comes under fire) and other critical theorists. The author also recapitulates the development of the ideas of Horkheimer and Adorno.

What does all this come to?
Counter-education, if true to itself, cannot be, like Critical Pedagogy wants us to believe, an attempt to implement any “theory”, as sophisticated or good-intentioned as it may be. If true to itself, counter-education must challenge any theoretical, ideological, or political "home", any master signifier, dogma, or ethnocentrism as manifestations of the Same, of the thingness in Being, which human beings are called to guard and transcend (Heidegger 196, 234). Counter-education, in this sense, must be at once Messianic and negative at any cost. This means that it cannot satisfy itself even with identification with the negation of self-evident, with the resistance to the ethnocentrism of the oppressed and cannot identify itself with the “worthier” violences they actualize against their own "internal" and "external" Others.
Ugh! I can't go on.

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