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Review: Critical Mass by Philip Ball | Books | The Guardian
There are two common, general answers to the question of whatdefines these distinctive features of critical social inquiry: onepractical and the other theoretical. The latter claims that criticalsocial inquiry ought to employ a distinctive theory that unifies suchdiverse approaches and explanations. On this view, Critical Theoryconstitutes a comprehensive social theory that will unify the socialsciences and underwrite the superiority of the critic. The firstgeneration of Frankfurt School Critical Theory sought such a theory invain before dropping claims to social science as central to theirprogram in the late 1940s (Wiggershaus 1994). By contrast, according tothe practical approach, theories are distinguished by the form ofpolitics in which they can be embedded and the method of verificationthat this politics entails. But to claim that critical social scienceis best unified practically and politically rather than theoreticallyor epistemically is not to reduce it simply to democratic politics. Itbecomes rather the mode of inquiry that participants may adopt in theirsocial relations to others. The latter approach has been developed byHabermas and is now favored by Critical Theorists.
TC-Helicon Critical Mass - Large Group Vocal Sound …
Before turning to such a practical interpretation of critical socialinquiry, it is first necessary to consider why the theoretical approachwas favored for so long and by so many Critical Theorists. First, ithas been long held that only a comprehensive social theory could unifycritical social science and thus underwrite a “scientific” basisfor criticism that goes beyond the limits of lay knowledge. Second, notonly must the epistemic basis of criticism be independent of agents'practical knowledge, but it might also be claimed that the correctnessof any explanation is independent of its desirable or undesirablepolitical effects on a specific audience. So conceived, socialcriticism is then a two-stage affair: first, inquirers independentlydiscover the best explanation using the available comprehensive theory;then, second, they persuasively communicate its critical consequencesto participants who may have false beliefs about their practices.