What is critique? How is it used and abused? At a moment when popular discourse is saturated with voices confronting each other about not being critical enough, while academic discourses proclaim to have moved past critique, this provocative book reawakens the foundational question of what 'critique' is in the first place. Roy Ben-Shai inspects critique as an orientation of critical thinking, probing its structures and assumptions, its limits and its risks, its history and its possibilities. The book is a journey through a landscape of ideas, images, and texts from diverse sources—theological, psychological, etymological, and artistic, but mainly across the history of philosophy, from Plato and Saint Augustine, through Kant and Hegel, Marx and Heidegger, up to contemporary critical theory.
Along the way, Ben-Shai invites the reader to examine their own orientation of thought, even at the moment of reading the book; to question popular discourse; and to revisit the philosophical canon, revealing affinities among often antagonistic traditions, such as Catholicism and Marxism. Most importantly, Critique of Critique sets the ground for an examination of alternative orientations of critical thinking, other ways of inhabiting and grasping the world.
About the author
Roy Ben-Shai is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Sarah Lawrence College.
"Ben-Shai exposes the rhizomatic orientations of critique, its multiple topologies, chronologies, positionalities, perversions and betrayals. A masterful analysis of where we are and what we are doing when we engage in critique."
—Peg Birmingham, DePaul University
"This is one hell of a book—a decisive intervention in the inheritance of the critical theory tradition. Political philosophers and political theorists will want to read this, as will everyone concerned with criticism in film and the arts today."
—Anne O'Byrne, Stony Brook University
"What does it mean to orient ourselves critically rather than in some other way? In answering this question Ben-Shai brilliantly shows how to critically circumscribe the limits of critique."
—Andrew Cutrofello, Loyola University Chicago
"Ben-Shai orients, in a remarkable way, the critical theory that emerged in particular from Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno'sDialectic of Enlightenment(1944).... Valuable for those interested in social philosophy and critical theory. Highly recommended."
—J. C. Swindal, CHOICE
"If critique is the act of pointing, Ben-Shai points both at the hand of the finger that is pointing and its environment. The book aims to bring the structural premises and essential features of critique into view to limit its scope, which Ben-Shai fears has become relentlessly repetitious and blind to its own repetitions."
—O. L. Silverman, Theory & Event