Should Critical Theory Be Accessible?

06Aug15

Daniel Tutt

It’s widely held that critical theory and left theory more generally is too opaque for a wide audience and that’s a bad thing. It’s bad for a number of reasons. The more accessible one’s writing, the wider your audience will be. The wider your audience, the more potential your thought has to enact change.

The premise behind these claims is that any intellectual or community of intellectuals whose writing deals (whether directly or indirectly) with politics or matters of justice, has a duty to make their mode of address accessible to the public. This is an argument that Martha Nussbaum makes against Derrida and French theory in general. Opaque theory, they argue, walls itself off from revolutionary agents: poor people, wage laborers, and others without an education in the humanities or political theory etc.

The other side of this debate, which is an internal critique of critical and leftist theory is that it forms a…

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