Critique and Praxis

Bernard E. Harcourt

Columbia University Press

Critique and Praxis

Pub Date: August 2020

ISBN: 9780231195720

712 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $40.00£34.00

Pub Date: August 2020

ISBN: 9780231551458

712 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $39.99£34.00

Critique and Praxis

Bernard E. Harcourt

Columbia University Press

Critical philosophy has always questioned the division between theory and practice. At its best, it aims to turn contemplation into emancipation, seeking to transform society in pursuit of the flourishing of humanity. Yet today’s critical theorists often seem to engage only in critique. These times of crises demand more. No philosophical school is better equipped to deal with the challenges of the present. But how can we rethink critique in order to redirect it outward toward changing the world?

In Critique and Praxis, Bernard E. Harcourt challenges us to move beyond the complacency of decades of philosophical detours and to harness critical thought to the need for action. In a time of increasing awareness of economic and social inequality, of the privileges of some and the deprivations of the many, Harcourt calls on us to make society more equal and just. Only critical theory can guide us toward a more concerted and self-reflexive pursuit of justice. Charting a vision for political action and social transformation, Harcourt argues that instead of answering the question, “What is to be done?” we must now turn it back onto ourselves and ask, “What more am I to do?”

Critique and Praxis advocates for a new path forward that constantly challenges each and every one of us to ask what more we can do to realize a society based on equality and justice. Joining his decades of activism, social-justice litigation, and political engagement with his career of critical theory and philosophical work, Harcourt has written a magnum opus.
Has critical philosophy completed its mission or has it renounced the task, which it posed in the 1920s, to link theory and praxis in order to change the world? Harcourt’s response is unequivocal: the critical theory that emerged from the Frankfurt School has lost its original orientation and separated theory from the passion for praxis. Many other philosophical tendencies have since occupied this terrain, reimagining the theoretical horizon and trying to construct practices adequate to contemporary society. Harcourt studies and critiques them attentively, be they liberal currents or socialist variants, European philosophies of the common or insurrectionalist approaches. For Harcourt, however, critique must return to its radical roots and be done ‘en situation.’ This book inaugurates a turn from Foucault-style genealogies to a critical thought that is rooted in praxis and critiques it politically. With this passage, Harcourt exclaims, with Haraway, that ‘the only scientific thing to do is to revolt!’ And he confesses that in his previous books he only scratched at the surface of this conversion. Today the paradigm has shifted and praxis must be posed as subjectivation. If before the problem consisted in responding to ‘What is to be done?,’ today the question is ‘What more am I to do?’ Harcourt thus transforms critical philosophy into a manifesto of ethical engagement. Antonio Negri, coauthor of Empire

About the Author

Bernard E. Harcourt is the Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and professor of political science at Columbia University and a chaired professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. An editor of Michel Foucault’s work in French and English, Harcourt is the author of several books, including The Counterrevolution: How Our Government Went to War Against Its Own Citizens (2018) and The Illusion of Free Markets: Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order (2011). He is a social-justice litigator and the recipient of the 2019 Norman Redlich Capital Defense Distinguished Service Award from the New York City Bar Association for his longtime advocacy on behalf of death row prisoners.