With conservative billionaires funneling millions of dollars into ad hoc advocacy groups, fake institutes, and shrill bloggers, the time is now to promote progressive voices.
On the Internet, liberal opinion is overwhelmed by the volume of neoliberal messages -- crude but totalizing mantras, shrouded in American myths and middle-class fears, endlessly repeated by a compliant media until they become axiomatic.
Only in the past year have progressives managed to raise the volume in the public sphere. The Occupy movement has brought dissenting voices into the open.
But it is time to do more. While conservatives are funding armies of bloggers and the mass media is carrying their messages without critical enquiry, progressive causes are silenced by a lack of sponsorship, making it difficult to compete for public opinion. Despite the success of the Occupy movement, in the wake of Citizens United the influence of progressives on the Internet and in the media is waning faster than ever. Workers are losing their voices, consumers their conscience, writers their livelihood.
Criticism.com needs your help so it can publish commentary that counters the neoliberal mantra, critiques unjust public policies, and persuades readers to take progressive action.
Criticism.com is in a unique position to put forth the ideals of social and economic justice. Since 1996, it has disseminated the ideas of writers like Foucault, Barthes, Saussure, Bakhtin, Horkheimer, and others, often in language that's accessible to all readers and useful in a variety of educational contexts.
Google ranks many of Criticism.com's pages highly. Search for Max Weber, and Criticism.com's discussion of his approach to objectivity in social science is in the top 10 or 20 results -- an important result given that thinking clearly about the fact-value paradigm can help expose faulty conservative views that are projected as bipartisan. Criticism.com's article on Saussure's sign is also in the top 10, as are several other essays on media criticism, media theory, and discourse analysis.
Criticism.com combines critical theory with concise commentary to analyze public policy through the ideas of Karl Marx, Herbert Marcuse, Max Horkheimer, Walter Benjamin, Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, Raymond Williams, Noam Chomsky, Douglas Kellner, Marshall Berman, and others. Criticism.com's publicly accessible social criticism is informed by a perspective that is itself under pressure of melting into air. In an age when a cultural heritage and its outlets -- books, newspapers, philosophy departments -- are fading, social criticism based loosely on critical theory and promoted through new media helps keep an important interpretive tradition alive.
Criticism.com embraces critical theory's historical ideal of human emancipation and freedom from domination. The political ramifications are obvious: Working to put in place systems of participatory democracy governed by self-rule and economic systems governed by the principles of social justice.
Criticism.com also backs the mission of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which was, according to its founding statement of purpose, "organized around the principles of social and economic justice, a non-discriminatory society, and national priorities which represent the interests of all people, not just the wealthy and powerful." Indeed, perhaps the most important goal is to reshape the economic system to serve everyone, not just the rich. The norm must become broad-based prosperity, supported by a social safety net, especially universal health care. An immediate objective is stopping tax breaks for the rich that are paid for by cutting services for everyone else.
There are related ideas that Criticism.com addresses: Empathy and kindness as practices of resistance; re-evaluating ideas that are uncritically adopted from the system in which we are embedded; substance over image; literature as social knowledge; the dialogic voice and the dialogic imagination; inclusion over ritual exclusion; integration over dispossession; freedom from the iron cage and the silicon cage through economic justice; organic social interaction in the village-like neighborhoods of the inner city; media criticism of uncritical support for neoliberal policies.
Marx urged his readers to make critical connections -- to connect the structural transformations of the public sphere that were taking place with the rise of capitalism and modernization. Weber, too, made connections between modernization and social forces. In the continental tradition of critical journalism, the practice of critical theory can yield web pages -- editorials, essays, book reviews -- that appear in an expanding digital landscape of interconnected, multifaceted voices calling for human emancipation and freedom from domination.
-- Steve Hoenisch
First Published: July 20, 2012. Last Updated: Oct. 5, 2012.