What is the State of Critique Today?

JohannsenAnders Johansson, Sharon Rider and Malin Rönnblom discuss in Eurozine:

Leila Brännström: In our societies, critical thinking is often seen as an ideal. Critical thinking and a critical perspective is, for example, seen as an important skill at all levels of education. The question is, however, what critical thinking and a critical perspective means. How is critical thinking related to the capacity to conduct critique of ideology? Ideology in the sense of conceptions which hold a hegemonic position in society, which are “engraved” into institutions, and which are upheld by people both in institutionalised contexts and in everyday life.

Anders Johansson: Unfortunately the critical ability – both of ideology and literature – is rather limited today. There is a certain type of commentary, thinking and writing which is both perceived and sees itself as critical thinking, without actually being either critical or thinking (literary critique in which the feelings of the reviewer is understood as the truth, academic research which is only restating an existing doxa, predictable moves in media debates which only confirm current positions).

Critical thinking is by definition dialectical: to critique an object is to split it, to show that what appears to be whole and self-identical is always compound and contradictory. But critical thinking isn't only about seeing an object from a subjective yet critical perspective, but also vice versa: to separate the objective in oneself as well as the subjective in the object, to highlight how the one is always mediated by the other. In other words: on the one hand to realise that my preferences are not just mine, but a product of all possible more or less common circumstances and structures, and on the other hand to trust one's subjective judgement because the “thing-in-itself” is not accessible in any other way.