Immanent And Transcendent Critique Essay

Confusion between internal and immanent criticism

Dr Gordon Finlayson, the author of Habermas, A very short introduction has an interesting project he is working on about the nature of immanent criticism. The project is entitled "What is immanent criticism/critique? Why should social criticism be immanent?" In his book he has the following comments concerning Habermas and immanent criticism:

". . . like Horkheimer and Adorno before him, Habermas employs the method of immanent criticism. One can also call it internal, as opposed to external criticism. The critical theorists think this approach derives from Hegel and Marx. In some respects it is closer to the Socratic mode of argumentation, which assumes the position of the interlocutor, for the sake of argument, without actually endorsing it, in order to point out its incoherence and untruth. Whatever its origins, the critical theorists aim to criticize an object - a conception of society or a work of philosophy - on its own terms, and not on the basis of values or standards that transcend it, in order to bring its untruth to light." (Haberams, AVS, p. 9, emphasis retained).

I believe Finlayson here confuses immanent criticism with internal criticism and considers them synonyms. In fact they are not synonyms. Immanent criticism can include both internal and external criticism and is opposed not to external criticism but to transcendent criticism. Habermas' approach is not an internal criticism it is rather an immanent criticism and does not exclude external criticism. This is crucial difference between Habermas' approach and Gadamer's approach (for example). Immanent criticism in Habermasian context means that the basis of critique must be inthe actual rational practices and is not to be derived from any other source which is located beyond these practices. However for Habermas these immanent practices provide us resources to go beyond them from "within" without appealing to any transcendent. Thus immanent criticism is very closed linked to Habermas' project of ‘transcendence from within.’

Immanent critique is a method of discussing culture which aims to locate contradictions in society's rules and systems. This method is used in the study of cultural forms in philosophy and the social sciences and humanities. It may be contrasted with "transcendental" Kantiancritical philosophy. Immanent critique further aims to contextualize not only the object of its investigation, but also the ideological basis of that object: both the object and the category to which it belongs are shown to be products of a historical process. Immanent critique has its roots in the dialectic of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and the criticisms by Karl Marx. Today it is strongly associated with the critical theorists such as Theodor Adorno. Roy Bhaskar has advocated it as one of the key methodological elements of critical realism.[1]

The purpose of immanent critique is the detection of societal contradictions which suggest possibilities for emancipatory social change. It considers ideas’ role in shaping society, with focus on future emancipatory change. An immanent critique of a value is a discussion of the principles (overt or implicit) the value proposes. It highlights the gaps between what something stands for and what is being done in actual terms. Immanent critique tries to find contradictions and indirectly provide alternatives, without constructing an entirely new theory.

Quoting Marx, Robert J. Antonio writes in the British Journal of Sociology,

"'Setting out from idealism ... I hit upon seeking the Idea in the real itself. If formerly the gods had dwelt above the world, they had now become its center.' Marx concluded that immanent principles were necessary weapons in the struggle for progressive social change, because they provide a basis for critique within historical reality. Later, this immanent grounding became the axis of his emancipatory critique of capitalism."[2]

According to David Harvey, formerly of the University of Nevada, Reno,

"Critical theory at its most abstract and general level ... begins as a formal 'negativity.' As a dissenting motif, it selects some tradition, ideological premise, or institutionalized orthodoxy for analysis. As immanent critique, it then 'enters its object,' so to speak, 'boring from within.' Provisionally accepting the methodological presuppositions, substantive premises, and truth-claims of orthodoxy as its own, immanent critique tests the postulates of orthodoxy by the latter's own standards of proof and accuracy. Upon 'entering' the theory, orthodoxy's premises and assertions are registered and certain strategic contradictions located. These contradictions are then developed according to their own logic, and at some point in this process of internal expansion, the one-sided proclamations of orthodoxy collapse as material instances and their contradictions are allowed to develop 'naturally.'"[3]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

  1. ^Bhaskar, R. (2008) [1975], A Realist Theory of Science (Routledge 'With a new introduction' edition), Abingdon: Routledge.
  2. ^"Immanent critique as the core of critical theory." British Journal of Sociology Vol. 32, No. 3, p. 333 (1981)
  3. ^Sociological Perspectives: Vol 33, No. 1, "Critical Theory," p. 5 (1990)

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