The pace of critique in a world of accelerating upheaval

There’s a pervasive idea that social critique must be slow, necessitating withdrawl from the world in order to carefully pierce through the veil of appearances. There’s a kernel of truth in this, in so far as that hasty analysis risks both superficiality and the reproduction of dominant frames of reference.

A whole sequence of events have illustrated the necessity of moving beyond these faded frames. The financial crisis, the Arab Spring, Brexit, the rise of the far right in Europe and Trump have all been to various degrees unthinkable within the confines of established frames of reference. The dominant reaction in response to them has been, at least initially, “what on earth is going on?”

There’s a huge opportunity for critical intellectuals here to occupy the civil and political attention space when it is characterised by pervasive bewilderment. Taking it will involve abandoning slow critique and taking up the affordances of digital media to intervene at speed. There are intellectual*, practical, ethical and personal challenges involved in doing this. But it’s necessary we meet them because the pace of frame-breaking events is increasing and there’s a path dependency to their unfolding. There’s a unprecedented opportunity to establish a new salience for critical thought but it will not last for ever.

*To what extent do institutionalised practices of ‘critique’ merely reproduce the faded frames we need to move beyond?

Categories: Committing Sociology, Digital Sociology

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