Application of the Critical Theory
These 'working' definitions are presented to help those who are just beginning their study of the philosophies and theories of the Frankfurt School, more commonly known as the 'Critical Theory.' They should not be considered as the last word in describing the term or concept in question.
Neo-Conservatism -- is a version of conservatism that is in extreme opposition to the liberal, social, and political approaches that grew out of the Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Johnson administrations. Neo-Conservatives, those who believe in the Neo-Conservative position, advocate, but are not limited to, the following:
-- a term Ray Bradbury used in Fahrenheit 451 (first published in 1953) to describe information that is incapable of producing reflection, analysis, contemplation, comparison, and/or an understanding of how a political, social, or economic system works;
for example, the 'answers' given to the 'questions' asked on the TV gameshow Jeopardy.
Here is the text in question...
"Religious suffering is at the same time the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh [yearning] of the oppressed creature, the sentiment [or heart] of a heartless world, and the soul [spirit] of soulless [spiritless] conditions. It is the opium of the people.
The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the men [and women], is a demand for their real happiness. The call to abandon their illusions about their condition [the existing state of affairs] is a call [demand] to abandon a condition which requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, the embryonic criticism of this vale of tears of which religion is the halo.
Criticism has plucked [or torn out] the imaginary flowers from the chain, not in order that [a] man [or woman] shall bear [wear] the cahin without caprice or consolation but so that he [or she] shall cast off [break] the chain and pluck the living flower. The criticism of religion disillusions man [humankind] so that he will think, act and fashion [shape] his reality as a man who has lost his illusions and regained his reason; so that he will revolve about himself as his own true sun. Religion is only the illusory sun about which man revolves so long as he does not revolve about himself.
It is the task of history, therefore, once the other-world of truth [the ideology of the existing state of affairs] has vanished, to establish the [real] truth of this world. The immediate task of philosophy, which is at the service of history, is to unmask human self-alienation [self-estrangement] in its secular form now that it has been unmasked in its sacred form. Thus the criticism of heaven is transformed into the criticism of earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of law, and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics.
--- The Marx-Engels Reader (1978),
--- Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right: Introduction,
--- Pg. 54, Bracketed text added for clairification.
The confusion in this passage comes from people's (1) ignorance of the passage itself, (2) what is meant when Marx uses the word 'opium,' and (3) the meaning of the word criticism. The first problem has already been addressed. The second point of confusion is that people believe that 'opium' means opium. This is not completely correct. In other words, the 'opium' for the rich (the capitalists and the bourgeoisie) is their ability to consume, freely, what their money can buy. Putting it another way, the rich can do anything they felt like to alleviate their suffering and boredom because they had unrestricted access to the products and/or services being produced and/or offered. Marx believed that the proletariat could no longer wait for their reward in heaven and that they needed a permanent release from their suffering. In short, they needed heaven on earth, now. Looking at it from a comparative vantage point, on the one hand, God and the promise of heaven, for the proletariat, is the projection of the proletariat's wants, needs, and desires for products and/or services that are controlled and hoarded by the rich. On the other hand, God, for the rich, is an acronym for the control and sole consumption of Gold, Oil, and Drugs. The third point of confusion is peoples' poor understanding of the word criticism. Criticism is not a means to destroy the object that is being judged. Marx, who knew Hegel's philosophy quite well, used the word criticism in a dialectal way. In other words, for Marx, criticism means the resolving, negating, merging, conserving, and elevating the object being judged in order to make it better. In this case, Marx's criticism of heaven, religion, and theology is to bring an end to human suffering by human hands in stead of divine hands. In other words, changing the economic system from production for profit TO production for need.
First posted 09-01-2003
Privacy -- In an interview with Playboy magazine (February 1996), Andrew Bacard, author of "The Computer Privacy Handbook", stated, "Privacy is the ability to control what, when, and how your personal data is given to other people. Powerful institutions believe their right to privacy has a bonafide basis (for instance, "national security" or "trade secrets"), while the individual's claim to privacy is suspicious and subject to these institutions' veto. For me, privacy is a necessary part of democracy. That's why we vote with secret ballots." To Playboy's question, "Yet many people reading this may be thinking, So what? I have nothing to hide," he replied, "Show me someone who has no financial, sexual, social, political, or professional secrets to keep from his family, neighbors or colleagues, and I'll show you someone who is either an exhibitionist or a dullard. Show me a corporation that has no trade secrets or confidential records, and I'll show you a business that isn't very successful. Discretion and tact are pillars of civilization."
According to Marx, "a class of labourers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labour increases capital.
These labourers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market" (Tucker, 1978, 479).
In other words, an individual belonging to the class of wage earners, who, possessing neither capital, production means, or objects to sell,
and must earn their living by selling their labour power in order to consume the products that were 'produced' by the capitalist.
See Surplus Value for more details.
In short, anyone who collects a paycheck is a member of the Proletariat class.
In addition, anyone who collects a pay check AND supplements their income by unlawful and/or illegal means is a member of the lumpenproletariat class.
The opposite of the proletariat is bourgeoisie, which is divided in to the High Bourgeoisie and Low Bourgeoisie classes.
Post-modernism or Postmodernism (Work in progress) -- a regression into relativism; an anti-modern philosophical and/or anti-scientific orientation; a counter-enlightenment movement; a rejection of universalism; an advocacy of the philosophical orientations of Lacan, Derrida, and Foucault; a poor and/or weak critique of modernity.
The chief characteristic or theme that nearly all post-modernists could agree with is the belief that human language supercedes the material world.
In other words, post-modernists reject the basic tenet of Marxism which argues that there exist a dialectical relationship between the material world and human language wherein the material world is the prime mover.
Marx states "For Hegel, the process of thinking, which he even transforms into an independent subject, under the name of 'the Idea,' is the creator of the real world, and the real world is only the external appearance of the idea.
With me the reverse is true: the ideal is nothing but the material world reflected in the mind of man, and translated into forms of thought (Marx 1990, 102).
Putting it yet another way, post-modernists assert that human language create and shape the material world.
Marxist argue that human language (the main form of human thought) is nothing more than an account of the production, exchange, and consumption cycle of the material world in the hands of human kind.
Religion -- a symbolic and ritualized cultural 'system of knowledge,' which informs behavior, that offers one means of surviving this complex thing we call "Life" (Jensen, 2004, 3).
-- The science comprising logic, ethics, aesthetics, metaphysics, and epistemology; the investigation of causes and laws understanding reality. According to Bertrand Russell,
"Philosophy is the no-man's land between science and theology, exposed to attack from both sides."
According to Max Horkheimer, "Philosophy is the conscious effort to knit all our knowledge and insight into a linguistic structure in which things are called by their right [correct] names" (1999, 179).
According to Slavoj Zizek (b. 1949), a Lacanian-Marxist,
"Philosophy does not solve problems.
The duty of Philosophy is not to solve problems but to redefine problems, to show how what we experience as a problem is a false problem.
If what we experience as a problem is a true problem, then you don't need philosophy.
For example, let's say that now there would be a deadly virus coming from out there in space, so not in any way mediated though our human history, and it would threaten all of us.
We don't need, basically, philosophy there.
We simply need good science desperately to find -- We would desperately need good science to find the solution, to stop this virus.
We don't need philosophy there, because the threat is a real threat, directly.
You cannot play philosophical tricks and say 'no, this is not the' -- You know what I mean.
It's simply our life would be -- or okay, the more vulgar, even, simpler science fiction scenario.
It's kind of 'Armageddon' [the 1998 movie] or whatever.
No, 'Deep Impact' [also a 1998 movie].
A big comet threatening to hit the Earth.
You don't need philosophy here.....
I don't think that philosophers ever provided answers, but I think this was the greatness of philosophy, not in this common sense that philosophers just ask questions and so on.
What is philosophy?
Philosophy is not what some people think, some crazy exercise in absolute truth, and then you can adopt this skeptical attitude: we, thought scientists, are dealing with actual measurable solvable problems.
Philosophers just ask stupid metaphysical questions and so on, play with absolute truths, which we all know is inaccessible.
No, I think philosophy's a very modest discipline.
Philosophy asks a different question, the true philosophy.
How does a philosopher approach the problem of freedom?
It's not 'Are we free or not?' 'Is there God or not?'
It asks a simple question, which will be called a hermeneutic question: 'What does it mean to be free?'
So this is what philosophy basically does.
It just asks, when we use certain notions, when we do certain acts, and so on and so on, what is the implicit horizon of understanding?
It doesn't ask these stupid ideal questions: 'Is there truth?'
The question is, 'What do you mean when you say this is true?'
So you can see, it's a very modest thing, philosophy.
Philosophers are not the madmen who search for some eternal truth, and so on and so on."
According to Marx, "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it."
Republican -- is a member of the American capitalist political organization known as the 'Republican Party.' According to the Republican National Committee or the RNC for short, a "republican believes that the individual's dignity, freedom, ability, and responsibility must be honored". The RNC make no mention of whether the rights of one individual or a select few, supercede those of the collective. Republicans perceive the following to be true in America:
Ritual -- is a habit or a compulsion that that's aim is to give worship to a particular divine agent (such as a god, set of gods, or a saint)
and / or to invoke remembrance of either a past or future religious event.
Sometimes rituals are see as a form of technology used to control or change the believers environment, such as the case of cleansing and excising rituals.
Secret Sins Theory -- a form of rationalization used to explain the senseless deaths of the innocent, the pious, children, and/or infants. Used manly in disasters or catastrophes in order to justify the actions and existence of god. An example of Secret Sin Theory in action, "The reason all those people died horribly is because they all had committed secret sin against god, that only god knew about, and were punished for them." The "Secret Sin" theory has been used to inadequately answer the Theodicy question for centuries.
A Hegelian comparison and question referring to "History as the slaughter-bench at which the happiness of peoples, the wisdom of States, and the virtue of individuals have been victimised - the question involuntarily arises - to what principle, to what final aim these enormous sacrifices have been offered," Philosophy of History (1837).
Social Character --
"Over his lifetime, Fromm identified eight major varieties of social characters, those being the (1) authoritarian, (2) receptive, (3) exploitative, (4) hoarding, (5) marketing, (6) narcissistic, (7) necrophilous, and (8) productive social characters."
Social Darwinism -- is a perversion of Darwin's original theory by fascist and nationalistic ideologies, into the survival of the strongest race, culture, or nationality. According to Darwin, natural selection tends to favor the survival of an individual animal or plant whose peculiarities render them best adapted to their environment.
-- "is the social ownership of the means of production and their utilisation to satisfy the material and the cultural requirements of the whole society.
Socialism is neccessary because only by such a radical transformation of the economic basis of society can the evils resulting from capitalism be done away with, and new powerful techniques be fully utilised" (Cornforth 1973).
To be clear, United States of American is not a socialist country; it is the best example of a capitalistic country with a long history of fascist tendencies. If you require a short explanation concerning the difference between Socialism and Communism, click this line.
-- According to Marx, "Nothing is more erroneous than the manner in which economists[,] as well as socialists[,] regard society in relation to economic conditions.
Proudhon, for example, replies to Bastiat by saying (XVI, 29):
'For society, the difference between capita] and product does not exist.
This difference is entirely subjective, and related to individuals.'
Thus he calls subjective precisely what is social; and he calls society a subjective abstraction.
The difference between product and capital is exactly this, that the product expresses, as capital, a particular relation belonging to a historic form of society.
This so-called contemplation from the standpoint of society means nothing more than the overlooking of the differences which express the social relation (relation of bourgeois society).
Society does not consist of individuals, but expresses the sum of interrelations, [i.e.] the relations within which these individuals stand.
As if someone were to say: Seen from the perspective of society, there are no slaves and no citizens: both are human beings.
Rather, they are that outside society. To be a slave, to be a citizen, are social characteristics, relations between human beings A and B.
Human being A, as such, is not a slave. He is a slave in and through society.
What Mr Proudhon here says about capital and product means, for him, that from the viewpoint of society there is no difference between capitalists and workers; a difference which exists precisely only from the standpoint of society."
Solidarity -- is a form of human interaction that involves the union of a group of individuals with the same interests, objectives, standards, and/or needs acting as a unified force to obtain a certain short-term, one-time, or a life time goal. For example a short-term goal would be a strike against management to attain better working conditions, a one-time goal would be creating a new law, and lifetime goal would be bring about a more just, humane, rational, and reconciled society. Solidarity has been reached at many different social levels through history and can still be reached today. For example, Emergency Ethics are a type of solidarity that only last until society re-establishes itself, such as law, order, and disaster relief mechanisms (fire, rescue, relief departments, and etc). In a disaster, local and area neighbors, those who are directly or indirectly affected by the disaster in question, come to the aid of their fellow human beings, giving either their time and/or money to help the victims of disaster.
During World War II, the working class within United States had solidarity with themselves against the Axis Powers (Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan). This collective worked towards a speedy end to the war by
These sacrifices allowed US soldiers to be well equipped and well nourished to do their very best to help win World War II.
-- the most extreme form of Descartes' maximum "Cogito, ergo sum" (I think, therefore I am); the logical conclusion of existentialism.
For a solipsist, 'reality' is a mental construct of one's own mind; a collection of self created thought projections for the mind to experience.
Putting it another way, according to solipsism, the computer monitor you are currently reading, the chair you are sitting in, and the human being who wrote this text, are all constructed by your own mind for your own amusement.
For you see, solipsism is the belief that the mental self is the whole of reality and only the self exists.
In other words, they seriously question the existence of an external material world.
In short, the solipsist becomes a god and, phrasing Clint Eastwood's fictional character - Inspector Harry Callahan, 'a legend in one's own mind.'
Surplus Value -- is the difference between the value of the product or service AND the wages paid to the worker, minus the raw material and the overhead that was used to produce that one product/service. Overhead is being defined as the cost to run and maintain the machines and/or tools that the worker uses to produce the product/service from the raw material.
Example: Let us say that a chair cost $100 and took 1 hour worth of labor to produce. The price paid to the worker for that one-hour of labor was $10. The cost of the raw material used to create the chair is $5 and the cost of the overhead used to create that one chair is $10. Then the Surplus Value of the Labor equals $75.
The historical conflict rises out of determining who gets the Surplus Value.
A fascist would say that certain workers are not even entitled to the price paid to the worker for that one-hour.
Meaning, using the example above, a fascist believes that they are entitled to 85 of the 100 dollars.
One should never forget that the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, during World War II, were actually labor camps.
A capitalist would say that they are entitled to the Surplus Value of every chair produced, until the chair is no longer produced, because they had the original idea for that type of chair and/or that they took the risk to set up the factory to produce the chair.
A socialist would say that the worker is entitled to a vast majority of the Surplus Value because they labored to produce the chair and the capitalist is entitled to a small amount of the Surplus Value for their contributions of the tools and/or machinery. A communist would say that the worker is entitled to all the Surplus Value because the worker was the one who toiled to produce the chair.
In the communist mind, the capitalist's and fascist's claim to the Surplus Value is unfounded because their risk was minimal and the money used to build their factories came from stealing previous workers Surplus Value.
For a simplified explanation of the concept of Surplus Value, click this line.
In essence, 'one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.'
In other words, in the eyes of King George the III (who reigned from 1760 to 1820),
the signers of the constitution, including George Washington, were terrorists.
According to Walter Laqueur, "terrorism constitutes the illegitimate use of force to achieve a political objective when innocent people are targeted."
Building on the previous example, on December 16, 1773, Samuel Adams' 'Sons of Liberty,' disguised as Mohawk Indians, dumped the tea of the Dartmouth, Eleanor, and the Beaver (cargo ships owned by the East India Company) into the Boston Harbor.
In other words, again in the mind of King George, the Sons of Liberty had no right to target the innocent East India Company to achieve their political objective to end the King's tea tax.
According to James M. Poland, "terrorism is the premeditated, deliberate, systematic murder, mayhem, and threatening of the innocent to create fear and intimidation in order to gain a political or tactical advantage, usually to influence an audience."
Theocracy -- A society or country that is govern from one religious belief system. Typically, theocracies have little or no tolerance for any other religion or culture other than their own. Examples of theocracies: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq.
Theodicy -- (From the Greek (Theo meaning god - dikae meaning justice)) A questioning doctrine concerning the justification of a god's actions or lack of them. The theodicy question destroys the religious faith of the individual, of any religion, whenever it can not be property answered. A "Proper" answer to the theodicy question is an answer that the believer can believe. Examples of theodicy questions:
Typically, the "answer" to any theodicy question can cause one of five temporary, sometimes permanent, effects on the believer:
For many Christians, Saint Augustine of Hippo offers an answer to the Theodicy question in chapter seven of his book "Confessions." He believes that evil is a perversion of the will of god and is perpetuated by humanities indifference and lack of solidarity towards his fellow human beings. By and large, modern Christians are still accepting this answer.
Truth -- "Truth is the negation of Ideology" - a quote attributed to Theodor W. Adorno.
-- are phrases that refer to unspecified claims of facticity based on nameless authorities in order to make a premise and/or argument scientifically accurate when it is not.
The goal of such an endeavor is to make an opinion into a fact, in order to persuade an ignorant and/or poorly educated individual that the falsehood is true.
Weapons of Mass Destruction (a.k.a. WMD) -- Any nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, that have the potential to kill and/or injure thousands of people, in the hands of any nation that is not engaging
in subservient economic trade relations with the United States of America.
These 'unfriendly' nations, who oppose the United States' trade policies, are sometime referred to as 'communist' countries.
In other words, these communist nations control production and consumption of their natural resources to pay for their citizen's free health care and free education, opposed to allowing US corporations to do it for them.
Due to the fear and anxiety that the phrase generates, it is also referred to as ‘Weapons of Mass Distraction.’
The phrase conjures up a national response, in US citizens, that foreigners are out to destroy the American way of life and that the US government has the right to attack first those who 'appear' to be a threat.
This allows the US to ‘mug’ third world nations of their natural resources (i.e. oil, gas, minerals, and human labor) in the name of ‘national defense’ and ‘searching for WMD’ when in reality it is in the name of corporate America and their future profits.
What the masses in the US fail to recognize or accept is that the United States of America is the largest producer and owner of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.
Yellow Dog Democrat --
would vote for anyone, including a yellow (cowardly) dog, who ran on the Democratic ticket.
These staunch loyalists to the Democratic Party whole heartily believe that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) will force those who win, running on the Democratic ticket, into acting like
For a history of Yellow Dog Democrats, see yellowdogdemocrat.com