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Critical Theory, Critical Pedagogy and the Permanent Crisis in Community Colleges

, Seneca College, King City, Ontario, Canada

IJAVET Volume 5, Number 2, ISSN 1947-8607 Publisher: IGI Global


The historical failures of Marxism in the twentieth-century came in three forms: the inability to account for the rise of fascism and Nazism; the establishment of authoritarian regimes where “communist” revolutions had occurred, largely in pre-industrial societies from barely post-feudal Russia to peasant-based China and “developing” nations such as Vietnam; and the incapacity of the proletariat to develop class consciousness and foment class conflict in advanced industrial societies, where Marx and his followers knew capitalism to have arisen and where they assumed it would first be transcended. Seeking to understand these failures, yet to preserve and apply foundational elements of Marx's thought, the “critical theorists” of the Frankfurt Institute—at home and in exile—drew on additional sources including Hegel and Freud to diagnose the pathologies of modernity, though rarely to offer restorative treatments for Enlightenment values or Marxian transformation. Jürgen Habermas, the acknowledged leader of the “second generation” of critical theorists refused to succumb to the pessimism of his elders and reached out to increasingly diverse scholars in an effort to redeem the goals of reason, democracy and equity in modern life. His theoretical work—often abstract and dense—remains almost as marginal to mainstream thought as that of Adorno and Horkheimer before him; yet, it has influenced a minority of philosophers and social scientists still interested in education as an emancipatory human project. Using the specific context of contemporary community colleges, this contribution seeks to build bridges between Habermas' combination of basically Marxian, often Kantian, and always eclectic thought to show how educators could profitably reflect upon their professional lifeworlds, better comprehend the neoliberal ideology and power relations that entrap them, and find new inspiration and advice should they wish to interrogate and confront the corporate world in which they ply their trade.


Doughty, H. (2014). Critical Theory, Critical Pedagogy and the Permanent Crisis in Community Colleges. International Journal of Adult Vocational Education and Technology, 5(2), 29-44. IGI Global. Retrieved March 1, 2021 from .



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