The Urgency of Critical Theory Today: Towards Optimism and Renewal in a Neoliberal World

Sarah Burton, Simon Susen, William Outhwaite

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This article takes the form of a critical conversation between three generations of critical theorists, examining the role of critical theory in the neoliberal academy: does this sort of intellectual project still have a place in an academic and educational system that tends to favour empirical research and policy-driven projects? Through a discussion of the relationship between critical theory and power, privilege, and positionality, the article addresses the ongoing urgency of such intellectual activities in the present context. The dialogue between the three participants acknowledges critical theory’s historical, and continuing, fragility within the university, while elucidating the ways that it can provide a vehicle for challenging dominant forms of power. In doing so, this cross-generational exchange demonstrates that critical theory remains a vital space of rebellion, optimism, and social change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-168
Number of pages30
JournalBerlin Journal of Critical Theory
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

This conversation was undertaken with the support of a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship (Burton). We would also like to thank Juliette Jones for her work in transcribing the audio recording.


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