As you leave your Critical Literary Studies class
to trudge wearily down the hall to your Critical Legal Studies class, your head
may be spinning with a kaleidoscope of disconnected images, feelings, huge
swathes of “text,” and memory of the agony of trying to second-guess your
instructor about what anything means.
You were particularly confused about why the
instructor claimed that there was no question that Nick Carraway’s obsession
with Jay Gatsby was actually a disguised and coded homosexual fascination with the millionaire in F. Scott
Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Carraway’s
affair with Jordan Baker, the female golfer character, was merely a substitute proxy
relationship. The air-headed Daisy
Buchanan served as a convenient transition point and a “false focal nexus,” as did
Myrtle Wilson, the local garage owner’s cuckolding wife. All the signifiers and signifieds in the “text” say so. Your homework assignment is to
pinpoint and discuss seven of them in a paper due by the end of the week.
I made up the “false focal nexus” signified. It’s as good as any other
term in the lexicon of Critical Studies.
Your instructor may have also warned you that the
ubiquitous paper, Literary
Theories: A Sampling of Critical Lenses
, lists several other schools and
genres of Lit-Crit that must be absorbed before you are a full-fledged literary
scholar: theoretical criticism, practical criticism, impressionistic criticism,
mimetic criticism, pragmatic criticism, expressive criticism, expressive
realism criticism, and textual criticism. Paramount among all those schools is
feminist literary criticism.
feminist critic sees cultural and economic disabilities in a
“patriarchal” society that have hindered or prevented women from
realizing their creative possibilities and women’s cultural identification as a
merely negative object, or “Other,” to man as the defining and
dominating “Subject.” There are several assumptions and concepts held
in common by most feminist critics.
civilization is pervasively patriarchal. 2. The concepts of “gender”
are largely, if not entirely, cultural constructs, effected by the omnipresent
patriarchal biases of our civilization.3. This patriarchal ideology also
pervades those writings that have been considered great literature. Such works
lack autonomous female role models, are implicitly addressed to male readers,
and leave the woman reader an alien outsider or else solicit her to identify against
herself by assuming male values and ways of perceiving, feeling, and acting.
is somewhat like Marxist criticism, but instead of focusing on the
relationships between the classes it focuses on the relationships between the genders.
Feminist literary criticism is not “somewhat like
Marxist criticism.” It is very much Marxist in language and in intent. Were it
not for omnipresent academic Marxism, feminist literary criticism and any other
kind of feminist Critical Study would have had a hard time birthing. Marxism
was its midwife. It won’t be necessary to dwell on feminist literary criticism,
although it might be interesting to read some feminist academic’s
interpretation of the roles of Daisy Buchanan, Jordan Baker, and Myrtle Wilson
from The Great Gatsby. Golf, and the
towns of Egg and East Egg doubtless will have their own unique feminist signifiers and signifieds for insidious patriarchy.
Diving into the relatively chillier waters of
Critical Legal Theory, Cornell University
posted this Marx-on-the-rocks description o the genre.
Critical Legal Theory
Critical legal studies: an overview
legal studies (CLS) is a theory that challenges and overturns accepted norms
and standards in legal theory and practice. Proponents of this theory believe
that logic and structure attributed to the law grow out of the power
relationships of the society. The law exists to support the interests of the
party or class that forms it and is merely a collection of beliefs and
prejudices that legitimize the injustices of society. The wealthy and the
powerful use the law as an instrument for oppression in order to maintain their
place in hierarchy. The basic idea of CLS is that the law is politics and it is
not neutral or value free. Many in the CLS movement want to overturn the
hierarchical structures of domination in the modern society and many of them
have focused on the law as a tool in achieving this goal. CLS is also a
membership organization that seeks to advance its own cause and that of its
At the present, the Critical Legal Studies
advocates say, ideas do not exist except
as expressions of class and wealth. Objective truth is impossible. Truth is
whatever a wealthy, oppressive class claims it is. Or what Marxists and
Progressives claim it is. They think things are unfair, so, being Social
Justice Warriors of the bench and the printed word, they want to impose their
own regime of justice and equity, which aren’t any “truer” than the capitalist
brands, but the guns and muscles of the Left can make them “true.”
Individualism? Individual rights? Property rights? They’re elitist chimaeras
contrived to distract people from the “truth.” They’re mere social constructs
of the prevailing system, and can easily be invalidated with a punch in the
includes several subgroups with fundamentally different, even contradictory,
, which examines the role of gender in the law; critical race theory (CRT)
which is concerned with the role of race in the law; postmodernism
a critique of the law influenced by developments in literary theory; and a
subcategory that emphasizes political economy and the economic context of legal
decisions and issues.
The Left has its own “social constructs” to wield
over mankind. And its own corps of elitists. Objective justice is illusory.
There is only class justice. The Marxists and Progressives mean to be the new
ruling class. It’s that simple.
But, wait! There’s more!
was officially started in 1977 at the conference at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison [not surprising!], but its roots extend back to 1960 when
many of its founding members participated in social activism surrounding the
Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War. Many CLS scholars entered law school
in those years and began to apply the ideas, theories, and philosophies of post
modernity (intellectual movements of the last half of the twentieth century) to
the study of law.
And look at those scholars now, all members of the
Marxist/Progressive Old Boy Network that dominates our universities. “Among noted CLS theorists are
Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Robert W. Gordon, Morton J. Horwitz, Duncan Kennedy,
and Katharine A. MacKinnon.”
Of course, this
kind of cancerous movement has a history.
CLS has been largely a U.S. movement, it was influenced to a great extent by
European philosophers, such as nineteenth-century German social theorists Karl
Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Max Weber; Max Horkheimer and Herbert Marcuse of
the Frankfurt school of German social philosophy; the Italian marxist Antonio
Gramsci; and poststructuralist French thinkers Michel Foucault and Jacques
Derrida, representing respectively the fields of history and literary theory.
CLS has borrowed heavily from Legal
, the school of legal thought that flourished in the 1920s and
1930s. Like CLS scholars, legal realists rebelled against accepted legal
theories of the day and urged more attention to the social context of the law.
All the usual suspects, as Captain Renault would say, but unfortunately
they haven’t been rounded up and prohibited from setting foot on any university
campus. Here is a recent application of Critical Legal Studies, John O.
McGinnis’s explanation of Chief Justice John Roberts’s defense of ObamaCare, in
his article, John Roberts’s Principled Mistake in
the Obamacare Decision
from June 28th.
Justice John Roberts’s decision in King
, upholding the
capacity of federal exchanges to provide insurance subsidies, has drawn fire as
an unprincipled expression of support for Obamacare. This charge is unfair. It
is a principled decision, implementing a well-established, if wrong-headed,
theory of statutory interpretation, giving greater weight to what the Court
sees as the overriding purpose of legislation rather than its text.
Unfortunately, that theory is one that is likely to aid progressivism
because it tends to make judges partners in legislative programs to expand
essence of King v. Burwell comes down to the divide between
Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia. The case turned on the question of whether
insurance subsidies would be available for those who signed up to federal
exchanges as opposed to state exchanges.
Moreover, unlike a contract, a statute is
written for people who are not parties to its making. This difference provides
another reason to interpret a statute according to its plain text rather than
forcing citizens to figure out which of many purposes the text should be
thought to serve—let alone trying to divine the intentions of the legislators
who passed it. In this sense, “textualism” reflects the rule of law, rather
than that of particular people.
“Purposivism,” by contrast, makes the task
of progressives easier. Textualism requires progressives to change the world
expressly, one line of text at a time, but purposivism enlists the courts as
allies. They can then use the broad purposes of the legislation to smooth out
obstacles that compromises, mistakes, and tensions among multiple objectives
may have created.
Progressives are very sly and devious. Even though McGinnis seems to be warning
readers about an advancing Progressive agenda, I am still not certain if he
applauds the advance or is against it.
Justice Scalia decried Roberts’s opinion as
showing favoritism toward the Affordable Care Act. Perhaps. The more
substantial concern is that the chief justice has endorsed a method of
statutory interpretation that aids the progressive agenda more generally.
And nowhere in his article does he mention
individual rights or the right of an individual to refuse to become a slave to
Obamacare. John Roberts? Never heard of individual rights. Or of the
family of new legal theories, launched since 1970, share commitments to
criticize not merely particular legal rules or outcomes, but larger structures
of conventional legal thought and practice. According to critical legal
scholars, dominant legal doctrines and conceptions perpetuate patterns of
injustice and dominance by whites, men, the wealthy, employers, and
heterosexuals. The “Crits” argue that prevailing modes of legal
reasoning pretend to afford neutral and objective treatment of claims while
shielding structures of power from fundamental reconsideration. Critical
theorists also maintain that despite the law’s claims to accord justified,
determinate and controlled expressions of power, law fails on each of these
dimensions and instead law mystifies outsiders in an effort to legitimate the
results in courts and legislatures.
“critical” dimension of critical legal studies includes not only
efforts to expose defects, but also affinity with other theoretical projects
and social movements. A variety of scholars and lawyers have joined together to
organize symposia, workshops, and other projects under the headings of critical
legal studies, feminist legal theory, and critical race theory. Although they
share many points of departure and methods of attack, critical theorists also
risk diverging into increasingly specialized narrow splinter groups. The newest
developments include Lat-Crit conferences and work inspired by Queer Theory in
other academic fields. Critical theorists engage in particular critiques of
other theoretical approaches to law, such as law and
approaches to legal theory.
While Cornell’s description of Critical Legal
Studies has a ring of objectivity – that is, it is simply a reporting of what
Critical Legal Studies says it is all about – in the Harvard description is not
a little dollop of agreement with the transformation of law as a means of
objective justice into a tool of Marxist class, gender, and racial justice.
But, then again, “Through reflection we can see
nothingness, and in nothingness we find clarity. We have faith.” That little scrap
of Kantian wisdom was spoken by a semi-literate meth-head prisoner in the hit
Netflix TV series, Orange is the New Black
is a “Super Naturalist” tale set in what is supposed to be a microcosm of
American “capitalist” society, a women’s prison. In it is projected the ideal
Progressive society, covering the whole shopping list of Social Justice Warrior
wants and needs:
pornographic lesbianism, an average of one
four-letter word out of every spoken four, “normalized”
transgenderism, corruption and imbecility among
the guards (white male, of course), bureaucratic sloth, Blacklish, Hispanic “pride,”
#BlackLivesMatter, ethnic rage, gender rage (mostly female) “white privilege,”
insanity-as-a-right, corporate greed, universal angst, criminals as just
victims of the system, and so on.
Orange is the
is the literary and esthetic culmination of all Critical Studies for
the last generation, give or take ten or so years. Worse will be in store
because Critical Studies is also being employed in kindergarten. Yes. Kindergarten.
has a long-range program to “condition” children from the
time they enter their first day care play room up through senior high school
and beyond. Here is the boilerplate description of each segment of the company’s
curriculum, including “Reconstruction to Progressivism.”
Critical Thinking in United States
History uses fascinating original
source documents and discussion-based critical thinking methods to help
students evaluate conflicting perspectives of historical events. This process
stimulates students’ interest in history, improves their historical knowledge,
and develops their analytical skills for assessment tests.
For each lesson, students examine two or more
perspectives of an event using analysis and evaluation skills such as
identifying types of reasoning and evaluating sources. Through debating
historians’ evidence, inferences, analogies, and assumptions, students come
away with a deeper understanding of specific events. They also learn to examine
any historical, or current, event with a more critical mind.
Naturally, there is no such thing as a study of
Rather, it’s all “social
studies.” What is the company’s
of “a critical thinker”?
that critical thinking is reasonable reflective thinking focused on deciding
what to believe or do, a critical thinker:
Is open-minded and mindful of alternatives
Tries to be well-informed
Judges well the credibility of sources
Identifies conclusions, reasons, and assumptions
Judges well the quality of an argument, including the acceptability of its
reasons, assumptions, and evidence
Can well develop and defend a reasonable position
Asks appropriate clarifying questions
Formulates plausible hypotheses; plans experiments well
Defines terms in a way appropriate for the context
Draws conclusions when warranted, but with caution
Integrates all items in this list when deciding what to believe or do
However, to paraphrase Nancy Pelosi about the need
to pass Obamacare, you have to purchase the e-book courses to really see what’s
in them. I am highly suspicious of a company that adopts the name “Critical
Thinking” when the term was hijacked long ago by the whole Critical Studies movement,
at about the same time that movement got underway. (“In 1976, the company changed
its name to Critical Thinking Press and Software. The name was further changed
to Critical Thinking Books & Software in 1997. The current moniker, The
Critical Thinking Co.™ was adopted in November of 2003.”) The
federally-mandated Common Core package of educational instruction has basically
adopted the anti-American, neo-socialist Howard Zinn
interpretation of American history, à la
People’s History of the United States
. I have no reason to think that
the Critical Thinking Company’s program differs significantly in content and purpose.
The only educational philosophy I trust in today’s
chaotic culture is that presented by Challenger School
a private school system in the Western U.S.:
we teach, we lead students to recognize the hierarchy of concepts and to
integrate concepts within and across subjects. Students learn to question
before validating the new connections that will eventually improve their
understanding and reasoning skills. Discovering, validating, and verbalizing
these concepts in their own words with clarity and precision is what enables
students to retain their knowledge and then to apply and extend that knowledge….
that progress is determined by work, a student realizes that his success is in
his control and is his responsibility. As he learns and applies this idea, he
begins to understand and enjoy the strength of his own mind. As he learns to
respect his own capacity and gains confidence, he also respects the same in
Challenger students learn that each individual is born with unalienable rights.
They learn that happiness does not come from superficial sources, but
rather through the application of the virtues of rationality, productivity,
self-reliance, honesty, integrity, and justice.
They create their own self-worth through achievement.
Critical Race Theory is an altogether different and
more vicious animal. Drexel
description of it should say it all.
Race Theory has its roots in the more established fields of anthropology,
sociology, history, philosophy, and politics. The notions of social
construction and reality of race and discrimination are ever-present in the
writings of known contemporary critical race theorists, such as Derrick Bell,
Mari Matsuda, Richard Delgado, Kimberlie Crenshaw, and William Tate, as
well as pioneers in the field, including W.E.B. DuBois and Max Weber…. This field has its
roots firmly planted in American soils, mainly due to the racial makeup of our
country. Therefore, most of the resources will contain only
American-related entries, or may have some other American bias.
The ultimate aim of Critical Race Theory is not to
inform students of the history of slavery and racial discrimination in the U.S.,
but rather to perpetuate and aggravate whatever racial conflicts still exist.
This field of “Critical Studies” also has its roots in the Frankfurt School.
Some “critical thinking” essays of my own can be
In conclusion, Critical Studies is nothing less
than the determined and systemic evisceration of the cognitive faculties,
regardless of the field of study. Americans who work for a living are poor
subjects of such a program. They live and struggle in the real world. Most students
do not. Critical Studies begins with the indoctrination and sabotaging of young
minds, from kindergarten through university graduate school level. Its end
products will be tribes of dependent, interchangeable, obedient, compliant manqués, ever-ready to do the State’s
bidding. These are already roaming the streets.
Overall, Critical Studies is the equivalent of Islam’s
Sharia Law. It makes little or no sense, but who is anyone to define “sense”? Be
a good citizen. Do not doubt, question, or think. Just do as I say…or else.