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Tina Nguyen

Explain how Marxs theory of capitalism meets the basic scheme of four theories needed for a fully developed critical theory. Should social scientists engage in creating and developing critical social theories? Critical social science is considered to be an alternative to positive social science, with the main difference being its purpose of enabling social change through altering agents understanding of their societys formation, instead of purely describing, explaining and predicting social phenomena. In this essay I will explain the basic scheme of a fully developed critical social theory in detail, and how Marxs theory of capitalism fits into this framework. Subsequently, I will show that it is beneficial to engage in creating and developing critical theories, for they provide a legitimate alternative to positive social theories, and therefore are an important force for social change and improvement on prevalent theories. Excellent introduction! You show a very good command of the topic, and you also explain what you are arguing for and how. This is a very good example for all introductions you should write for all the questions at the exam. According to Fay, a critical theory is one which seeks to explain a social order in such a way that it becomes itself the catalyst which leads to the transformation of this social order. In other words, it criticises the social understanding that is being reinforced by current conventions, offers an alternative understanding, and provides directions to transform the current social order to a better one. Critical social science combines elements from both naturalism (explanation) and interpretivism (understanding) for intervention. Critical theories seek to provide causal explanations, but unlike positivist theories they do not predict social change; rather they explicate the imminent tendencies in the history of social formation in order to help participants create social change. Excellent paragraph, sharp discussion again showing very good command of the topic. In order for critical social science to flourish, a fundamental structural conflict and systematic ignorance (called false consciousness of the oppressed [people]) are necessary conditions. These lead to a state of crisis in the social system. It should be noted that the extent of crisis must be at a level such that people are no longer able to function as they have done in the past, thus having the choice of change forced on them. People have a natural resistance to change, therefore moderate levels of discontent may not be sufficient to urge the overthrow of the system. A critical theory requires, thirdly, that the liberation from a social order comes from the process of enlightenment, or consciousness raising, of the agents. This process enables the audience to perceive themselves in a radically different light by offering a theory which explains why these people are frustrated and unsatisfied, and provides them with an alternative understanding of themselves. Such enlightenment must lead to emancipation in which the oppressed and less well off [a group], empowered by this new-found selfunderstanding, radically change their social arrangements and thereby alleviates oppression and suffering. The above four conditions provide the basis for the four primary theories needed for a fully developed critical social theory: theories of false consciousness, crisis, education, and transformative action. Very good paragraph again! Marxs theory of capitalism is an economic and socio-political criticism of the capitalist society, which focuses on the social class distinction between the proletariats (wage workers) and the bourgeoisie (capital owners), and is a notable example of one which can be constructed to demonstrate the basic scheme of critical social science. In the subsequent part of this essay I will explain in detail the four main theories and ten sub-

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theories that comprise a fully developed critical social theory, and demonstrate how Marxs theory of capitalism fits into this basic scheme. The first of four primary theories of critical social science is a theory of false consciousness. It demonstrates the ways in which the self-understandings of a group of people are false, or incoherent, or both. It also explains how the members of this group came to have these false perceptions, and how it has been reinforced through time. Finally, it provides a contrasting alternative understanding and shows how this understanding is superior to the previous one. Correspondingly, Marxs theory of alienation and critique of political economy argues that the self-understandings of people in a capitalist society are illusionary, because they believe that entities such as God, the market, or the state, are objects independent of the people and which they must obey, while in fact these are merely forms of their own self-activity. This came about from the capitalist mode of production, where workers are deprived of the right to conceive themselves as the director of their actions, as their actions are diverted into goals dictated by the bourgeoisie. He points out that economists and social scientists mirror this alienation by reifying social relations: very good!. The alternative understanding which Marx offers is one where humans are properly understood as praxis animals who create themselves in the process of recreating the material and social conditions of their own existence. It is then shown how only in a communist society, and in a collectively owned production system, that this praxis activity can be given full freedom. Outstanding understanding of the premises and problems in this paragraph! Excellent writing and arguing style, very clear, precise and sharp. The second theory within the critical scheme, namely the theory of crisis, defines social crisis, explains why the society is in crisis, and provides a historical account of how the crisis came about. Here, Marx provides a general account of social contradictions through the concept of the capitalist mode of production, which is a combination of forces of production, i.e. labour power and knowledge, and relations of production, i.e. laws governing the societys productive assets. He then explains that in a capitalist society, workers enter the capitalist mode of production against their will, where they lose the essential characteristics of human beings and are hindered in their production capacities. This leads to the impoverishment of the working class and the monopolisation of capital, which, according to Marx, results in falling rates of profit and the polarisation of classes. When capitalism ceases to be profitable, it is in crisis. [Marx then provides a historical account of how this crisis is rooted in the societys structure, using broad notions of capital and labour, especially the emergence of commodity production, surplus-value, the creation of profit, and the antagonism of the classes.: this part is accurate and information, however, I cant see what job it is doing in your discussion of the theory of crisis; unless you use it I would recommend to take it off] Subsequently, Marx offers a theory of education, wherein the removal of false consciousness occurs. This part of a critical social theory indicates necessary and sufficient conditions for enlightenment, and shows that these conditions are satisfied in the current social situation. Conditions for enlightenment identified by Marx include class-consciousness of the people, whereby workers see themselves directly opposed to the bourgeoisies and capitalism itself, with the educative help of the Communist Party. It is then shown that these conditions are already prevalent, with the emergence of joint-stock companies, trade unions, mechanisation of production, and a general collapse in the economic system, as mentioned in the law of falling rates of profit. Very good paragraph! Finally, a theory of transformative action identifies features of society that must be changed, and provides a detailed action plan of changing them. Marx does this by pointing out that institutions of private property, the market, and the state must be

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Comment [FM1]: Clarification and a reformulation is needed: profitable for whom? In what sense? How? Related to thi you mentioned below the law of failing rate of profit. It is crucial for the argument to explain what this crisis consists of, and it i equally important to do it accurately. You already talked of impoverishment and monopolisation, they are elements in the definition of crisis.

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eliminated, in order to be replaced by new forms of co-operative and consciously directed labour. The relation between those already enlightened, i.e. the Communist Party, the potential audience, and the forces of domination is also portrayed. In such portrayals, Marx includes some rough guidelines about the strategy to be employed by the Party in order to educate the working class and achieve the aforementioned changes. excellent paragraph too! So far, I have demonstrated that Marxs theory of capitalism qualifies as a complete critical social theory. It should be noted that there are different ways to interpret his work. While this interpretation gives us a critical theory, another may see it as essentially scientific and materialist. However, by taking Marxs theory as a prime example of a critical theory, we can explore whether social scientists should engage in developing critical social theories. I believe the first and most important argument for creating critical theories is that they provide a legitimate alternative to prevalent theories. According to Taylor, because critical theories possess the prestige of science, they are legitimate rivals to atomist theories of polity and economy, which are applied into our common understanding of modern Western democracies in an oversimplified form. Atomist theories, as meant by Taylor, are those which portray a purely instrumental view of society, wherein individuals only seek to maximise their own utility, examples being those proposed by Hobbes and Locke in the 17th Century. Critical theories serve the purpose of challenging these heavily influential atomist theories. For example, Marxs theory challenges the capitalist economic model by offering a completely different viewpoint on the purpose of wage labour and redefining the essence of freedom and being human. Even though the theory itself is oversimplified, it captures a radical realisation that challenges significant aspects of atomist theories. Without legitimate rival theories, our conception of the world is much narrower.: very good! Another very good paragraph! However, whether critical theories are scientific, and therefore legitimate, is debatable. As shown by Fay, while critical theories are testable and are therefore scientific prima facie, they involve a large amount of value judgments. For example, the basis on which the falsity of false consciousness construed is a subjective opinion. Also, terms such as real interests have no scientific sense. Therefore, the certain values presupposed by critical science can make them non-scientific, and not legitimate rival theories. Nevertheless, if accepted as scientific, critical theories can serve as an important force behind social change. They do this by, firstly, unveiling causal contexts to which we are allegedly blind, as Marx did by showing that the political self-understanding of a capitalist society bounds the choice of voters and labourers, thus reinforcing the social order. Secondly, critical theories can help to orient action. According to Taylor, our civilisation is an inescapably theoretical one, the reasons for this being the prestige of science our way of life, which leads to people turning to political theories to guide and orient themselves. When a theory proves false, such as financial and economic theories did in the 2008 global economic crisis, it leads to bewilderment and the need for a better theory: very good!. Therefore, the development of critical theories can help society reflect and re-orient itself. However, as Fay mentioned, the practical aspirations of a critical theory may not always be realised, as there is no established relationship between the truth of a critical theory and the reaction of its audience. In other words, the resistance to change may be too large. Another outstanding paragraph! In conclusion, Marxs theory of capitalism can be constructed to fit the basic scheme of a critical social theory, and using this as a prime example of such theory, it can be argued that the creation and development of critical theories are beneficial both theoretically and practically, because they provide legitimate theoretical alternatives and

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catalyst to social change. However, shortfalls exist regarding their credibility as scientific theories and the certainty of their influence upon the target audience. Tina, this was an excellent essay with some truly outstanding paragraphs showing an excellent understanding and command of the topic. There a few comments and suggestions I have made, however, on the whole the essay is really good, you deserve great praise for it! Have you thought about the topic for the thesis? There is material here you could use, the command and understanding you have would make the thesis easier giving you time for going deeper in the topic and in your own thinking. Please scroll down for feedback form.

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UG Essay Feedback Form Student Name: Tina Essay Title: Explain how Marxs theory of capitalism meets the basic scheme of four theories needed for a fully developed critical theory. Should social scientists engage in creating and developing critical social theories? I. General Assessment An excellent essay with some truly outstanding paragraphs showing an excellent understanding and command of the topic with a sharp and in depth discussion of the problems and arguments involved, II. Suggestions for Improvement Please see my comments inserted in the body of the essay.

III.

Summary Evaluation Needs Improvement Satisfactory

Excellent

Summary Evaluation

Good

1. Expression and style 2. Structure and organisation 3. Understanding and use of literature 4. Quality of argument 5. Independence of thought IV. Mark: 71-72

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By Fernando Morett Class Teacher PH203. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, LSE 2011/12

Poor