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Critical philosophy has always questioned the division between theory and practice. At its best, it aims to turn contemplation into emancipation, seeking to transform society in pursuit of the flourishing of humanity. Yet today’s critical theorists often seem to engage only in critique. These times of crises demand more. No philosophical school is better equipped to deal with the challenges of the present. But how can we rethink critique in order to redirect it outward toward changing the world?
In Critique and Praxis, Bernard E. Harcourt challenges us to move beyond the complacency of decades of philosophical detours and to harness critical thought to the need for action. In a time of increasing awareness of economic and social inequality, of the privileges of some and the deprivations of the many, Harcourt calls on us to make society more equal and just. Only critical theory can guide us toward a more concerted and self-reflexive pursuit of justice. Charting a vision for political action and social transformation, Harcourt argues that instead of answering the question, “What is to be done?” we must now turn it back onto ourselves and ask, “What more am I to do?”
Critique and Praxis advocates for a new path forward that constantly challenges each and every one of us to ask what more we can do to realize a society based on equality and justice. Joining his decades of activism, social-justice litigation, and political engagement with his career of critical theory and philosophical work, Harcourt has written a magnum opus.
Bernard E. Harcourt is the Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and professor of political science at Columbia University and a chaired professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. An editor of Michel Foucault’s work in French and English, Harcourt is the author of several books, including The Counterrevolution: How Our Government Went to War Against Its Own Citizens (2018) and The Illusion of Free Markets: Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order (2011). He is a social-justice litigator and the recipient of the 2019 Norman Redlich Capital Defense Distinguished Service Award from the New York City Bar Association for his longtime advocacy on behalf of death row prisoners.
"With his typical combination of erudition, eloquent argument, and theoretical clarity, Bernard Harcourt now gives us a complete account of his reading of contemporary critical philosophy, articulating it with immediate issues in the field of human rights and democratic politics. A tour de force which will give readers much to learn and much to think. I will have it permanently on my desk, or not far."
-Étienne Balibar, author of Secularism and Cosmopolitanism: Critical Hypotheses on Religion and Politics