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Critical theorists have always wanted to change society by working from the critical perspective to improve the state of society and the human condition than to define rules. Critical theory encompasses power differences, their harm to the society and ways how they can be changed. The critical paradigm has produced various feminist theories which advocate the emancipation of marginalized groups. A critical ontology is complex. The belief of critical theorists is that reality and the nature of humans have varied throughout development and hold a more subjective view valuing the importance of objectification in the social world.
They believe that human being have free will to make their own decisions on grasping reality. The critical paradigm suggests that humans are living in an illusion and believe that the world is socially constructed. This paper seeks to review the development of critical approaches to communication, culture and society giving examples to explain the approaches. It also gives the contribution to our understanding of the role of communication in culture and society as well as the importance of considering communication from a critical perspective.
There are two dominant research traditions broadly referred to as positivist and critical approaches that dominated research in eighties but began to converge in nineties (Du Plooy M.G., 1995). A research tradition (paradigm) is a conceptual model of a research which a community in a particular discipline adopts. Such research tradition enables researchers to share specific assumptions regarding ontology (reality), epistemology (knowledge), theory (meta-theory) and methodology (methods).
Ontology includes assumptions about nature of communicators and recipients as subject of research while epistemology entails the appropriate ways of acquiring knowledge about the elements in the communication process. Meta-theory is the kind of explanations that are appropriate to explain the human communication whereas methodology is the research techniques suitable for a communication research.
Members of a research tradition tend to have the same view of reality, about what constitutes valid knowledge, the way the communication process should be theoretically explained and the best research methods. The view a researcher has of reality influences knowledge construction and theoretical explanation constraining the methodological choices the researcher could make and this also influence other components upwards how reality(ontology) is viewed(Du Plooy M.G., 1995) Man's invention of language tells the story both of his conquest of nature and development of culture.
There are appreciable differences in the way in which culture has been introduced as a factor to be considered and what cultural perspective brings into view. There are also important differences in form, character and purpose to which critique is put and their consequences of adopting a critical perspective. The study of culture has seen an unprecedented international boom and emerged as alchemy with no distinct methodology but bricolage and with influences as ethnography, media studies and text criticism (Packer, J. M & Tappan, B. M., 2001). Culture is the ground for a form of life as it nurtures, cultivate and protect life-form. It provides meditational means thereby building a system of artifacts that has diagnostic power.
Their critique has a deconstructive edge to it since they question and overthrow a set of binary divisions that define the system their after-school activity stands out of (Packer, J. M & Tappan, B. M., 2001). Menon and Shwender approach culture as the ground for a definition of the life course turning to protect it from feminism critique, unmasking a perpetuated colonialism, deconstructing the narratives of their own discipline of anthropology (Packer, J. M & Tappan, B. M., 2001). Parker seeks to protect the local culture of a working class school district from the dictates of representatives of a system of public schooling, defending the ethos of a local community and contrasting imposed system imperatives.
Attention to cultural forms the message that circulates and the voices both literal and metaphoric with which they are produced coupled with a critical appraisal of this performances mocks the ideology of femininity since McLaren and Leonardo view the antics of Robin Williams as Muted, well-intentional but ineffectual critique of schooling. This offers significant contributions to the study of human development by bringing an increased awareness and position of the researcher. It also provides an increased understanding of the linkages between development, society and history (Packer, J. M & Tappan, B. M., 2001).
Critical pedagogy has adopted an interpretive frame-work for thinking about human development. Development is viewed as intimately linked to the reproduction of society. Critical pedagogy articulates the historical dynamic that runs through human development. That is, the way changing economic and political circumstances lead to changed demands on children and the active way they engage with adults. There is a connection between children's development and societal organization and change as intimate and complex. Development is defined by societal practices and institutions (Packer, J. M & Tappan, B. M., 2001).
Communication research traces positivist and critical traditions back in the late eighteenth century. Positivist communication research is predominantly American. However, it now has strong roots in European. The critical research tradition was started in Germany during the time of change and transformation in the country that were brought about by industrialization which in turn resulted in political and economical inequality. People were unhappy with the destruction of the old agrarian community and its replacement with the new mass society.
Frankfurt School of social Research started in 1923 in an effort to incorporate the critique against mass society into Marxist framework and inject new life into the Marxist theory of society. Carl Grunberg who established Marxism as its inspiration basis was the school's first director. Max Horkheimer became the director in 1930 where together with Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse became the central figures in the development of critical theory. The school wanted to gather knowledge as well as serve as a guide for action towards emancipation and also analyses media (Du Plooy M.G., 1995).
Horkheimer and Adorno followed the views of Marx on capitalist class society and accepted that the class also controlled the means of mental production as well as material production. The school was forced to move to USA during World War II where the critical theorists referred to the mass media as the culture industry which brought culture and entertainment together. Adorno for instance argued that reproduction of art in mass media robbed it of its critical power in society. Mass listenership was utilized to unite the members of a society obscuring their interests and promoting passivity. Mass media aided in the freezing of dialects through a dominant and ideological role (Du Plooy M.G., 1995).
Herbert Marcuse argued that the society was in the grip of new ideology, because technology had to lead to the development of new type of rationality (technological rationality). Marcuse criticized advertisements because most of the needs they reflected were false. Mass media caused internal freedom of people to become restricted and promoted the direct identification of the individual as it was used as political instrument to contain and control existing social system helping to distribute the prescribed values and customs as well as intellectual and emotional reactions that tied people to the existing production process and to the rest of reality.
These made people to realize that they were living in a false reality (Du Plooy M.G., 1995). Marcuse believed that language served as a vehicle through which the mass media were used to apply social control and contain the social system. He also realized that the adapted language utilized concepts which made language immune to rejection. He also criticized this reworked language that reconciled contradictions that closed off commercial and political style to discuss and protest. For instance Smart bombs that killed people were termed as friendly fire (Du Plooy M.G., 1995).
Horkheimer explained critical theory in terms of its differences to traditional theory and research. Critical theory does not accumulate knowledge and it is geared towards action. They also saw the rise and distribution of the elements of domination led to decline of critical powers in modern western countries. They rejected objective and value free research as it always became part of the social object that they studied. The critical researchers reject the idea of general principles and verification of exemplars since general truths that critical theory worked with could not be proven right or wrong. Critical theory would not accept given character awarded to social phenomena by traditional theories (Du Plooy M.G., 1995).
There are two dominant research traditions broadly referred to as positivist and critical approaches that dominated research in eighties but began to converge in nineties. Culture is the ground for a form of life as it nurtures, cultivate and protect life-form. It provides meditational means thereby building a system of artifacts that has diagnostic power. Their critique has a deconstructive edge to it since they question and overthrow a set of binary divisions that define the system their after-school activity stands out of. Communication research traces positivist and critical traditions back in the late eighteenth century. Positivist communication research is predominantly American however; it now has strong roots in European. The critical research tradition was started in Germany during the time of change and transformation in the country that were brought about by industrialization which in turn resulted in political and economical inequality.