Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Critical perspectives: Theory and practice

LEVEL 02 - Years 2, 3 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT Youth and Community Studies

DESCRIPTION Critical theory essentially designates several generations of German philosophers and social theorists in the Western European Marxist notion known as the Frankfurt school. This study-unit will explore the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School as a critique of capitalism, its appropriation of the surplus value of the collective, and its commodification of every aspect of our modern society. It will also consider other traditions that have contributed significantly to this notion. Students will explore how a critical theory provides the descriptive and normative basis for social inquiry aimed at decreasing domination and increasing freedom in all theory forms and how critical theorists seek human emancipation in circumstances of oppression. This study-unit will attempt to position critical theory in the wider sociological framework. This will be done through the analysis and investigation of the work of some of the major proponents and academics that have engaged with critical theory. This study-unit will consider various phases in the history of this project from Marx to the Frankfurt School to Habermas before finally looking at an alternative reading of critique in Foucault. It will examine both the innovations and weaknesses of these various formulations in their historical context as well as considering contemporary efforts to review and reanimate the idea of critical theory.

Study-unit Aims:

To engage with the concepts of critical theory
To apply these to the context of youth and community studies.

Learning Outcomes

1. Knowledge & Understanding:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- understand what is the role of the Frankfurt School in the development of critical theory

- be familiar with the major theorists and theories in this area

- be familiar with the major themes that this School has engaged with

- understand the fundamental changes proposed by Freire and Gramsci relating to the vision of in/formal education

- understand how minorities are emancipated in research

- understand how youth and community work can benefit from Critical Theory in the cultivation of an analytical discourse.

2. Skills (including transferable [generic] skills):
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- improve their analytical and critical abilities in philosophical work both written and oral

- develop a deeper knowledge 20th century critical reflection on modern societies

- develop a more acute awareness of the dynamics of modern world

- develop an increased awareness of the way in which human understanding and reflection is conditioned by history and culture.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Freire, P. (1970). The pedagogy of the oppressed.

Freire, P. (2004) . The pedagogy of hope. London: Continuum.

Borg, C., Buttigieg, J., & Mayo, P. ((eds.). (2002). Gramsci and education. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc.

Darder, A., Baltodano, M. & Torres, R. D. (Editions). (2003). The critical pedagogy reader. London: Routledge Falmer Press
Freire, P. (1992). Pedagogy of hope. London: Continuum.

Freire, P. (1998). Pedagogy of freedom – ethics, democracy and civic courage.Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers Inc.

Ray, L. (1993). Rethinking critical theory – emancipation in the age of social global movements. London: SAGE Publications.

Tucker, R. The Marx/Engels Reader Norton Press, 1982.

Horkheimer, M. Critical Theory: Selected Essays (New York: Herder and Herder, 1972).

Marcuse, H. ‘Philosophy and Critical Theory’ Negations: Essays in Critical Theory (London: Allen Lane. 1968).

Foucault, M ‘Critical Theory/Intellectual History’ Michel Foucault: Politics. Philosophy Culture Interviews and Other Writings 1977-1984.

Ed Kritzman, L.D. (London, Routledge, 1988)

Habermas, J. The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (Oxford: Polity Press, 1987).


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Examination (2 Hours) SEM2 Yes 100%


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The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.