Critical theory is the product of a group of German social theorists, first associated with the Institute for Social Research begun in Frankfurt Germany in 1923, and who later moved to and were influential in the US. While they were often critical of each other, their early common agenda was the critique of the unresolved conflict within the Enlightenment of rationalism and empiricism. The former was misunderstood as involving an impersonal faculty of reason that supposedly arrived at universal truth, while the positivism of the later led to wide acceptance of (and even reverence for) the mistaken idea of value free knowledge. The mis-directions taken by both Enlightenment rationalism and empiricism led away from its ideal of human progress and contributed instead to the wars and other socioeconomic and political problems of the 20th century. Unlike postmodernism’s rejection of reason, the second-generation critical theory of Jurgen Habermas maintains that a new understanding of reason as a situated praxis can begin to address the problems of the postmodern world. This study summarizes ten central attributes of critical theory and its agenda for empowering people through rational discourse, and ten implications of that agenda for positive and needed change in music education.
Regelski, Thomas A.
"Critical Theory as a Foundation for Critical Thinking in Music Education,"
Visions of Research in Music Education: Vol. 6, Article 3.
Available at: https://opencommons.uconn.edu/vrme/vol6/iss1/3