I'm writing a paper on Adorno, Habermas and the influence they received from Freud and Marx. I'm stuck at critical theory at the moment and (blame it on the finals) I cannot get it although I did try the usual encyclopedias, wikis and other sources. I'd really appreciate it if someone could explain to me in very simple terms what critical theory is, and how it works with Adorno and Habermas. I do know a few basic things and it won't have to be a long explanation, just a few things to get me on the right track. Thanks!
Below is the solution I have created to help you get your head around the idea of 'critical theory'. I centered on it's social-scientific use instead of its adaptation on humanities and literature due to the fact that Habermas & Adorno were member of the Frankfurt School & their work still resonate in the discipline of the social sciences to this day. Attached is a word version. Good luck!
Understanding Critical Theory
From your post I can gather that you are in a state of semi-'panic' due to the looming finals. In a way, one can say that you are in a particularly 'critical state' of knowledge squeeze. While the earlier days of the semester you find that you can still put into the backburner the necessity to 'get to the bottom' of your academic studies, the dynamism of academic life has finally caught up with you - activities, responsibilities & mounting deadlines. What's a person to do? How should you view it all? How would you make sense of all the academic facts so as to ensure that you prepare yourself for all those exams and meet the deadlines?
Now, don't be too alarmed with the initial paragraph. I am not trying to get personal; in fact I am actually showing in essence what critical theories are about. When we refer to critical, we connote an immediate need that must be answered, or else. Critical theories are a postmodern paradigm of analysing social & literary conundrums or challenges - there is no single 'critical theory', the theory is dependent upon the interpretation of the philosopher, the social scientist or the author. Think of Critical Theory as a genre, like there are genres in movies & genres in music. Horror movies scare, intimidate & intend to give you the chills just like love songs sing about love. Critical theories are a 'genre' of theories of knowledge that in the social sciences if referred to as an epistemology.
Critical theories are used in the social sciences and in Literature to 'critique' and examine society as well as literary works informed by knowledge across said disciplines. While in the Social Sciences a critical theory would be a lot different in application than it is in the Humanities/literature, they share specific attributes. There are a lot of Philosophers, Sociologists, Authors & Writers who have adopted or come up with their own particular 'critical theories' they apply when examining society or a literary work. In the Social Sciences Jurgen Habermas, Theodor Adorno & Anthony Giddens are known postmodern social philosophers with their own interpretation or proposed critical theories that have received acclaim being that they have informed & influenced other studies as well as given a new understanding of society.
The Social Sciences is made up of various disciplines although they share one ultimate aim - to understand the dynamics & structure of society in order to solve the problems & challenges brought about by its ever changing dynamism. During the Enlightenment, theories of logic & reason overtook the divine circuit of knowledge that dominated society when all explanation of knowledge & life were divine in nature. Enlightenment introduced Empiricism & Positivism that while useful to the particular 'social situation' it was conceived in became questionable to the next generation of academes. Various other theories emerged as well as methods of research. The mid-1950's to the 70's saw the rise of Critical Theory movement just as postmodernism & structuralism ...
The Solution provides a discussion & foundation on Critical Theory & goes on to explain the 'critical theories' proposed by Habermas & Adorno. While defining & discussing the particular theories of said social scientists, the solution also traces back the influences they recieved from ideas of Marx, Plato, Horkheimer & other thinkers. The solution provides examples to view the perspectives of the theorists highlighted in this solution to easily ground the ideas presented. Written in APA Format, it provides references for expanding the discussion. Attached is the word version of the solution of easy printing.