Frankfort School philosopher Theodor Adorno wrote:
The need to let suffering speak is a condition of all truth. For suffering is objectivity that weighs upon the subject. (Negative Dialectics)
In the American culture wars, we hear a lot about “critical race theory,” which is one of the many variations of Adorno’s method.
Put simply, critical theory is a way to combine various academic traditions — sociology, anthropology, philosophy, history, and such — into a complex way of looking at a complex problem.
The two sentences I quoted encapsulate the why of critical theory. As Adorno says, “suffering is objective.” It can be “measured” . . . by listening to the people who are suffering. Adorno states the matter bluntly: “the need to let suffering speak is a condition of all truth.”
In critical race theory, that’s about listening to people who suffer from the effects of racism. In other words, old white guys like me have no business pontificating — white-splaining — about the suffering. My obligation is to listen.
That fact does not sit well with pontificators! Which is how we know them.
The need to let suffering speak is a condition of all truth. For suffering is objectivity that weighs upon the subject.
Critical theory is an effective method of uncovering complex oppressors, be that mayor, city council, President, Congress, Supreme Court . . . or . . .