Critique & Praxis: A Pure Theory of Illusions, Values, and Tactics, and An Answer to the Question: 'What is to Be Done?'

242 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2018

Date Written: September 1, 2018


We are going through an unprecedented period of political instability. With the rise of the alt-right and of xenophobic sentiment, and the fallout of neoliberal government policies, our political future is at stake. These times call for the type of critical theory and praxis that gave rise to the Frankfurt School in the 1920s and to the critical ferment of the 1970s. Yet, in the face of our crises today, contemporary critical theory seems disarmed.

Critical theory is in disarray because of a wave of anti-foundational challenges in the 1960s that shattered the epistemological foundations of the Frankfurt School. The critiques fractured critical theory, but did not rebuild it. The result is that critical theory has since been mired in internecine battles of influence between Marxists and Foucaultians and others.

Critique & Praxis is a corrective. Its ambition is four-fold. First, it reconstructs critical theory by proposing a pure theory of illusions. Second, it offers a new critical horizon for the future based on a pure theory of values. Third, it reconstructs critical praxis based on a pure theory of tactics. Fourth, the book proposes a situated and time-stamped response to the question “What is to be done?”

Critique & Praxis performs these four tasks through a history of theory and praxis from the 19th to the 21st century, a reconstruction of critique, utopia, and praxis, and an answer to the question “What is to be done? New York, September 1, 2018.”

Keywords: Philosophy, political theory, critical theory, humanities, social sciences

Suggested Citation

Harcourt, Bernard E., Critique & Praxis: A Pure Theory of Illusions, Values, and Tactics, and An Answer to the Question: 'What is to Be Done?' (September 1, 2018). Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-601, Available at SSRN:

Bernard E. Harcourt (Contact Author)

Columbia University ( email )

Jerome Green Hall, Room 515
435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States


Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics