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Critical Social Theory: Prophetic Reason, Civil Society, and Christian Imagination

Author: 
Gary M. Simpson (Author)
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Description

Critical theory explained and espoused

Simpson ably introduces critical social theory, the German-born intellectual movement that has spawned sharp criticisms of modernity, its use of reason, and our highly technological, bureaucratic culture.

Part 1 recounts the emergence of critical social theory within the Frankfurt School of Social Research and the theological stirrings that the Frankfurt project sparked, especially in Paul Tillich. Part 2 explores Jürgen Habermas' reconception and expansion of critical social theory, especially his ideas about hermeneutics, praxis, communicative action, and civil society as the locus of prophetic social movements. Finally, in Part 3 Simpson shows how Christian theology employs critical social theory for the tasks of prophetic reason in a global civil society.

Simpson's work is at once a programmatic introduction and a creative theological proposal for public theology.
ISBN: 
9780800629168
Price: 
$18.00
Release date: 
November 7, 2001
Pages: 
178
Width: 
5.50
Height: 
8.50

Endorsements

"Simpson's book is important for the continued understanding of Christian relevance to the postmodern world. It offers a stimulating reading of critical theory, will give new vigor to debates on the social role of Christianity, and above all shows the fruitfulness of continued dialogue between secular and religious thought."
— Paul Lakeland, Fairfield University

Foreword

Foreword by Paul Lakeland

Whether it is mere failure of nerve or a genuine and seismic shift in the intellectual landscape, today we have trouble finding our way around in the world of ideas. In the past, it was always terra firma. True, there might have been potholes, swamps, and even dragons, but there were maps to designate the precise locations in which these and other dangers to the traveler might be found. In our age, there can be no maps, because there is no agreement on what the terrain looks like, or even if there is any terrain at all. From the Copernican revolution that substituted the sun for the earth as the center of the Universe, through the discoveries of modern physics and astronomy, we know now – cosmologically, philosophically, and culturally – that there is no center.

It is this pervasive sense of the absence of center, security, or certainty, and its profound implications for theology and the study of religion, that the Guides to Theological Inquiry exist to investigate. Each volume in the series takes up one important theme in contemporary theological investigation and religious studies. No mere surveys, these texts aim to make constructive proposals for the theological usefulness of their particular focus. Gary Simpson initiates a dialogue between critical social theory and the Protestant prophetic imagination. On the one hand, he charts the emergence of an understanding of critical theory in the work of the Frankfurt School, principally in the thought of Max Horkheimer, and shows how Jürgen Habermas's views both correct and advance the notion of critical theory into a full-fledged philosophical and political account of the contemporary world. On the other, and interwoven with this, is the fascinating story of Paul Tillich's early associations with the Frankfurt School, and the dialectical relationship between the notion of critical theory and Tillich's views on prophetic criticism. This emerges in an important constructive proposal for the role of contemporary Christian congregations as "public companions," which restores the prophetical dimension to the notion of servanthood. Simpson's work is important for the continued understanding of Christian relevance to the postmodern world. It offers a stimulating reading of critical theory, will give new vigor to debates on the social role of Christianity, and above all shows the fruitfulness of continued dialogue between secular and religious thought.

Table of Contents

Foreword Paul Lakeland
Preface
Abbreviations

Part One. Critical Social Theory and Christian Imagination—Genesis and Engagement

1. Horkheimer: The Idea of Critical Social Theory
The Genesis of Sociology
Traditional "Positivist" Theory
Toward "Critical" Theory

2. Tillich: Christian Engagement with Critical Social Theory
An Interpretive Conflict
Engagement in Critical Reverence
Rational Criticism and Prophetic Imagination
The Form of Grace and the Protestant Congregation
The Critique of Oracular Prophetism

Part Two. Enter Habermas—The Communicative Imagination

3. Criticism: The Transformation of Critique
Abandoning a Core Conviction
The Critique of Instrumental Reason
The Transformation of Critique

4. Theory: The Theory of Communicative Reason and Action
The Modern Philosophy of the Subject
The Linguistic Turn
The Communicative Paradigm
Communicative Ethics

5. Society: Civil Society and Deliberative Democracy
A Democratic Public Sphere
Lifeworld and Systems
Growing Deliberative Democracy

Part Three. Prophetic Reason and Communicative Imagination

6. Civil Society and Congregations as Prophetic Public Companions
Harvesting the Fruits of Our Inquiry
Setting the Table

Notes
Glossary
Index