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TRADITIONAL AND CRITICAL THEORY
WHAT is "theory"? The question seems a rather easy one for contemporary science. Theory for most researchers is the sum-total of propositions about a subject, the propositions being so linked with each other that a few are basic and the rest derive from these. The smaller the number of primary principles in comparison with the derivations, the more perfect the theory. The real validity of the theory depends on the derived proposi¬tions being consonant with the actual facts. If experience and theory contradict each other, one of the two must be re-examined. Either the scientist has failed to observe correctly or something is wrong with the principles of the theory. In relation to facts, therefore, a theory always remains a hypothesis. One must be ready to change it if its weaknesses begin to show as one works through the material. Theory is stored up knowledge, put in a form that makes it useful for the closest possible description of facts. Poincare compares science to a library that must cease¬lessly expand. Experimental physics is the librarian who takes care of acquisitions, that is, enriches knowledge by supplying new material. Mathematical physics—the theory of natural sci-ence in the strictest sense—keeps the catalogue; without the catalogue one would have no access to the library's rich con-tents. "That is the role of mathematical physics. It must direct generalisation, so as to increase what I have called just now the output of science."1 The general goal of all theory is a universal systematic science, not limited to any particular sub- 1. Henri Poincare, Science and Hypothesis, tr. by W[illiam] J[ohn] G[reenstreet] (London: Walter Scott, 1905), p. 145. 188

TRADITIONAL AND CRITICAL THEORY
ject matter but embracing all possible objects. The division of sciences is being broken down by deriving the principles for special areas from the same basic premises. The same conceptual apparatus which was elaborated for the analysis of inanimate nature is serving to classify animate nature as well, and anyone who has once mastered the use of it, that is, the rules for deriva¬tion, the symbols, the process of comparing derived propositions with observable fact, can use it at any time. But we are still rather far from such an ideal situation. Such, in its broad lines, is the widely accepted idea of what theory is. Its origins supposedly coincide with the beginnings of modern philosophy. The third maxim in Descartes' scientific method is the decision to carry on my reflections in due order, commencing with objects that were the most simple and easy to understand, in order to rise little by little, or by degrees, to knowledge of the most complex, assuming an order, even if a fictitious one, among those which do not follow a natural sequence relative to one another. The derivation as usually practiced in mathematics is to be ap¬plied to all science. The order in the world is captured by a deductive chain of thought. Those long chains of deductive reasoning, simple and easy as they are, of which geometricians make use in order to arrive at the most difficult demonstrations, had caused me to imagine that all those things which fall under the cognizance of men might very likely be mutually related in the same fashion; and that, provided only that we abstain from receiving anything as true which is not so, and always retain the order which is necessary in order to deduce the one conclusion from the other, there can be nothing so remote that we cannot reach to it, nor so recondite that we cannot discover it.2 Depending on the logician's own general philosophical out¬look, the most universal propositions from which the deduction begins are themselves regarded as experiential judgments, as 2. Descartes, Discourse on Method, in The Philosophical Works of Descartes, tr. by Elizabeth S. Haldane and G. R. T. Ross (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 19312), volume 1, p. 92. 189

CRITICAL THEORY
inductions (as with John Stuart Mill), as evident insights (as in rationalist and phenomenological schools), or as arbitrary pos¬tulates (as in the modern axiomatic approach). In the most advanced logic of the present time, as represented by Husserl's Logische Untersuchungen, theory is defined "as an enclosed system of propositions for a science as a whole."3 Theory in the fullest sense is "a systematically linked set of propositions, taking the form of a systematically unified deduction."4 Science is "a certain totality of propositions . . . , emerging in one or other manner from theoretical work, in the systematic order of which propositions a certain totality of objects acquires defini¬tion."5 The basic requirement which any theoretical system must satisfy is that all the parts should intermesh thoroughly and without friction. Harmony, which includes lack of contradictions, and the absence of superfluous, purely dogmatic elements which have no influence on the observable phenomena, are necessary conditions, according to Weyl.6 In so far as this traditional conception of theory shows a tendency, it is towards a purely mathematical system of symbols. As elements of the theory, as components of the propositions and conclusions, there are ever fewer names of experiential objects and ever more numerous mathematical symbols. Even the logical operations themselves have already been so ra¬tionalized that, in large areas of natural science at least, theory formation has become a matter of mathematical construction. The sciences of man and society have attempted to follow the lead of the natural sciences with their great successes. The difference between those schools of social science which are more oriented to the investigation of facts and those which concentrate more on principles has nothing directly to do with the concept of theory as such. The assiduous collecting of facts 3. Edmund Husserl, Formale und transzendentale Logik (Halle, 1929), p. 89.

4. Husserl, op. cit., p. 79.
5. Husserl, op. cit., p. 91.
6. Hermann Weyl, Philosophie der Naturwissenschaft, in Handbuch der Philosophie, Part 2 (Munich-Berlin, 1927), pp. 118ff.
190

TRADITIONAL AND CRITICAL THEORY
in all the disciplines dealing with social life, the gathering of great masses of detail in connection with problems, the empirical inquiries, through careful questionnaires and other means, which are a major part of scholarly activity, especially in the Anglo-Saxon universities since Spencer's time—all this adds up to a pattern which is, outwardly, much like the rest of life in a society dominated by industrial production techniques. Such an approach seems quite different from the formulation of ab¬stract principles and the analysis of basic concepts by an arm¬chair scholar, which are typical, for example, of one sector of German sociology. Yet these divergences do not signify a struc¬tural difference in ways of thinking. In recent periods of con¬temporary society the so-called human studies Geisteswissen-scMften) have had but a fluctuating market value and must try to imitate the more prosperous natural sciences whose practical value is beyond question. There can be no doubt, in fact, that the various schools of sociology have an identical conception of theory and that it is the same as theory in the natural sciences. Empirically oriented sociologists have the same idea of what a fully elaborated theory should be as their theoretically oriented brethren. The former, indeed, are persuaded that in view of the complexity of social problems and the present state of science any con¬cern with general principles must be regarded as indolent and idle. If theoretical work is to be done, it must be done with an eye unwaveringly on the facts; there can be no thought in the foreseeable future of comprehensive theoretical statements. These scholars are much enamored of the methods of exact formulation and, in particular, of mathematical procedures, which are especially congenial to the conception of theory de¬scribed above. What they object to is not so much theory as such but theories spun out of their heads by men who have no personal experience of the problems of an experimental science. Distinctions like those between community and society (Ton-nies), mechanical and organic solidarity (Durkheim), or culture and civilization (A. Weber) as basic forms of human sociality prove to be of questionable value as soon as one attempts to 191

CRITICAL THEORY
apply them to concrete problems. The way that sociology must take in the present state of research is (it is argued) the laborious ascent from the description of social phenomena to detailed comparisons and only then to the formation of general concepts. The empiricist, true to his traditions, is thus led to say that only complete inductions can supply the primary propositions for a theory and that we are still far from having made such inductions. His opponent claims the right to use other methods, less dependent on progress in data-collection, for the formation of primary categories and insights. Durkheim, for example, agrees with many basic views of the empirical school but, in dealing with principles, he opts for an abridgement of the in¬ductive process. It is impossible, he claims, to classify social happenings on the basis of purely empirical inventories, nor can research make classification easier in the way in which it is expected to do so. Its [induction's] role is to put into our hands points of reference to which we can refer other observations than those which have fur¬nished us with these very points of reference. But for this purpose it must be made not from a complete inventory of all the individual characteristics but from a small number of them, carefully chosen ... It will spare the observer many steps because it will guide him . . . We must, then, choose the most essential characteristics for our classification.7 Whether the primary principles are gotten by selection, by intuition, or by pure stipulation makes no difference, however, to their function in the ideal theoretical system. For the scientist must certainly apply his more or less general propositions, as hypotheses, to ever new facts. The phenomenologically oriented sociologist will indeed claim that once an essential law has been ascertained every particular instance will, beyond any doubt, exemplify the law. But the really hypothetical character of the essential law is manifested as soon as the question arises whether 7. Er-ile Durkheim, The Rules of Sociological Method, tr. from the eighth ed^ion by Sarah A. Soiovay and John H. Mueller (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1938), p. 80. 192

TRADITIONAL AND CRITICAL THEORY
in a particular case we are dealing with an instance of the es-sence in question or of a related essence, whether we are faced with a poor example of one type or a good example of another type. There is always, on the one hand, the conceptually formu¬lated knowlege and, on the other, the facts to be subsumed under it. Such a subsumption or establishing of a relation be¬tween the simple perception or verification of a fact and the conceptual structure of our knowing is called its theoretical explanation. We need not enter here into the details of the various kinds of classification. It will be enough to indicate briefly how the traditional concept of theory handles the explanation of histori¬cal events. The answer emerged clearly in the controversy be¬tween Eduard Meyer and Max Weber. Meyer regarded as idle and unanswerable the question of whether, even if certain his¬torical personages had not reached certain decisions, the wars they caused would nonetheless sooner or later have occurred. Weber tried to show that if the question were indeed idle and unanswerable, all historical explanation would become impos¬sible. He developed a "theory of objective possibility," based on the theories of the physiologist, von Kries, and of writers in jurisprudence and national economy such as Merkel, Liefmann, and Radbruch. For Weber, the historian's explanations, like those of the expert in criminal law, rest not on the fullest pos¬sible enumeration of all pertinent circumstances but on the establishment of a connection between those elements of an event which are significant for historical continuity, and par¬ticular, determinative happenings. This connection, for example the judgment that a war resulted from the policies of a statesman who knew what he was about, logically supposes that, had such a policy not existed, some other effect would have followed. If one maintains a particular causal nexus between historical events, one is necessarily implying that had the nexus not existed, then in accordance with the rules that govern our experience another effect would have followed in the given circumstances. The rules of experience here are nothing but the formulations of our knowledge concerning economic, social, and psychologi- 193

CRITICAL THEORY
cal interconnections. With the help of these we reconstruct the probable course of events, going beyond the event itself to what will serve as explanation.8 We are thus working with conditional propositions as applied to a given situation. If cir¬cumstances a, b, c, and d are given, then event q must be ex¬pected; if d is lacking, event r; if g is added, event s, and so on. This kind of calculation is a logical tool of history as it is of science. It is in this fashion that theory in the traditional sense is actually elaborated. What scientists in various fields regard as the essence of theory thus corresponds, in fact, to the immediate tasks they set for themselves. The manipulation of physical nature and of specific economic and social mechanisms demand alike the amassing of a body of knowledge such as is supplied in an ordered set of hypotheses. The technological advances of the bourgeois period are inseparably linked to this function of the pursuit of science. On the one hand, it made the facts fruitful for the kind of scientific knowledge that would have practical application in the circumstances, and, on the other, it made possible the application of knowledge already possessed. Beyond doubt, such work is a moment in the continuous transformation and development of the material foundations of that society. But the conception of theory was absolutized, as though it were grounded in the inner nature of knowledge as such or justified in some other ahistorical way, and thus it became a reined, ideological category. As a matter of fact, the fruitfulness of newly discovered factual connections for the renewal of existent knowledge, and the application of such knowledge to the facts, do not derive from purely logical or methodological sources but can rather be understood only in the context of real social processes. When a discovery occasions the restructuring of current ideas, this is not due exclusively to logical considerations or, more par- 8. Max Weber, "Critical Studies in the Logic of the Cultural Sci¬ences I: A Critique of Eduard Meyer's Methodological Views," in Max Weber on the Methodology of the Social Sciences, ed. and tr. by Ed¬ward A. Shils and Henry A. Finch (Glencoe: Free Press, 1949), pp. 113-63. 194

TRADITIONAL AND CRITICAL THEORY
ticularly, to the contradiction between the discovery and par-ticular elements in current views. If this were the only real issue, one could always think up further hypotheses by which one could avoid changing the theory as a whole. That new views in fact win out is due to concrete historical circumstances, even if the scientist himself may be determined to change his views only by immanent motives. Modern theoreticians of knowledge do not deny the importance of historical circumstance, even if among the most influential nonscientific factors they assign more importance to genius and accident than to social conditions. In the seventeenth century, for example, men began to resolve the difficulties into which traditional astronomy had fallen, no longer by supplemental constructions but by adopting the Copernican system in its place. This change was not due to the logical properties alone of the Copernican theory, for example its greater simplicity. If these properties were seen as advantages, this very fact points beyond itself to the funda¬mental characteristics of social action at that time. That Coper-nicanism, hardly mentioned in the sixteenth century, should now become a revolutionary force is part of the larger historical process by which mechanistic thinking came to prevail.9 But the influence of the current social situation on change in scientific structures is not limited to comprehensive theories like the Copernican system. It is also true for special research problems in everyday life. Sheer logic alone will not tell us whether the discovery of new varieties in particular areas of inorganic or organic nature, whether in the chemical laboratory or in paleontological research, will be the occasion for modify¬ing old classifications or for elaborating new ones. The theoreti¬cians of knowledge usually rely here on a concept of theology which only in appearance is immanent to their science. Whether and how new definitions are purposefully drawn up depends in fact not only on the simplicity and consistency of the system but also, among other things, on the directions and goals of 9. A description of this development may be found in Henryk Gross-mann, "Die gesellschaftlichen Grundlagen der mechanischen Philosophie und die Manufaktur," Zeilschrijt filr Sozialforschung 4 (1935), 161ff. 195

CRITICAL THEORY
research. These last, however, are not self-explanatory nor are they, in the last analysis, a matter of insight. As the influence of the subject matter on the theory, so also the application of the theory to the subject matter is not only an intrascientific process but a social one as well. Bringing hypotheses to bear on facts is an activity that goes on, ultimately, not in the savant's head but in industry. Such rules as that coal-tar under certain conditions becomes colored or that nitro-glycerin, saltpeter, and other materials have great explosive force, are accumulated knowledge which is really applied to reality in the great industrial factories. Among the various philosophical schools it is the Positivists and the Pragmatists who apparently pay most attention to the connections between theoretical work and the social life-process. These schools consider the prevision and usefulness of results to be a scientific task. But in reality this sense of practical pur¬pose, this belief in the social value of his calling is a purely private conviction of the scholar. He may just as well believe in an independent, "suprasocial," detached knowledge as in the social importance of his expertise: such opposed interpreta¬tions do not influence his real activity in the slightest. The scholar and his science are incorporated into the apparatus of society; his achievements are a factor in the conservation and continuous renewal of the existing state of affairs, no matter what fine names he gives to what he does. His knowledge and results, it is expected, will correspond to their proper "concept," that is, they must constitute theory in the sense described above. In the social division of labor the savant's role is to integrate facts into conceptual frameworks and to keep the latter up-to-date so that he himself and all who use them may be masters of the widest possible range of facts. Experiment has the scientific role of establishing facts in such a way that they fit into theory as currently accepted. The factual material or subject matter is provided from without; science sees to its formulation in clear and comprehensible terms, so that men may be able to use the knowledge as they wish. The reception, transformation, and rationalization of factual knowledge is the scholar's special 196

TRADITIONAL AND CRITICAL THEORY
form of spontaneity, namely theoretical activity, whether there is question of as detailed as possible an exposition of a subject as in history and the descriptive branches of other special disciplines, or of the synthesis of masses of data and the attain¬ment of general rules as in physics. The dualism of thought and being, understanding and perception is second nature to the scientist. The traditional idea of theory is based on scientific activity as carried on within the division of labor at a particular stage in the latter's development. It corresponds to the activity of the scholar which takes place alongside all the other activities of a society but in no immediately clear connection with them. In this view of theory, therefore, the real social function of science is not made manifest; it speaks not of what theory means in human life, but only of what it means in the isolated sphere in which for historical reasons it comes into existence. Yet as a matter of fact the life of society is the result of all the work done in the various sectors of production. Even if therefore the division of labor in the capitalist system functions but poorly, its branches, including science, do not become for that reason self-sufficient and independent. They are particular instances of the way in which society comes to grips with nature and maintains its own inherited form. They are moments in the social process of production, even if they be almost or entirely unproductive in the narrower sense. Neither the structures of industrial and agrarian production nor the separation of the so-called guiding and executory functions, services, and works, or of intellectual and manual operations are eternal or natural states of affairs. They emerge rather from the mode of production practiced in particular forms of society. The seeming self-sufficiency enjoyed by work processes whose course is sup¬posedly determined by the very nature of the object corresponds to the seeming freedom of the economic subject in bourgeois society. The latter believe they are acting according to personal determinations, whereas in fact even in their most complicated calculations they but exemplify the working of an incalculable social mechanism. 197

CRITICAL THEORY
The false consciousness of the bourgeois savant in the liberal era comes to light in very diverse philosophical systems. It found an especially significant expression at the turn of the century in the Neo-Kantianism of the Marburg school. Particular traits in the theoretical activity of the specialist are here elevated to the rank of universal categories, of instances of the world-mind, the eternal "Logos." More accurately, decisive elements in social life are reduced to the theoretical activity of the savant. Thus "the power of knowledge" is called "the power of creative origination." "Production" means the "creative sovereignty of thought." For any datum it must be possible to deduce all its determinations from theoretical systems and ultimately from mathematics; thus all finite magnitudes may be derived from the concept of the infinitely small by way of the infinitesimal calculus, and this process is precisely their "production." The ideal to be striven for is a unitary system of science which, in the sense just described, will be all-powerful. Since everything about the object is reduced to conceptual determinations, the end-result of such theoretical work is that nothing is to be regarded as material and stable. The determinative, ordering, unifying function is the sole foundation for all else, and towards it all human effort is directed. Production is production of unity, and production is itself the product.10 Progress in aware¬ness of freedom really means, according to this logic, that the paltry snippet of reality which the savant encounters finds ever more adequate expression in the form of differential quotients. In reality, the scientific calling is only one, nonindependent, element in the work or historical activity of man, but in such a philosophy the former replaces the latter. To the extent that it conceives of reason as actually determining the course of events in a future society, such a hypostatization of Logos as reality is also a camouflaged Utopia. In fact, however, the self-knowledge of present-day man is not a mathematical knowledge of nature which claims to be the eternal Logos, but a critical 10. Cf. Hermann Cohen, Logik der reinen Erkenr.tnis (Berlin, 1914) pp. 23ff. 198

TRADITIONAL AND CRITICAL THEORY
theory of society as it is, a theory dominated at every turn by a concern for reasonable conditions of life. The isolated consideration of particular activities and branches of activity, along with their contents and objects, requires for its validity an accompanying concrete awareness of its own limitations. A conception is needed which overcomes the one-sidedness that necessarily arises when limited intellectual pro¬cesses are detached from their matrix in the total activity of society. In the idea of theory which the scholar inevitably reaches when working purely within his own discipline, the relation between fact and conceptual ordering of fact offers a point of departure for such a correctiv...

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periment period perman persist person personag persuad pertin pervad pervers pessim phase phenomena phenomenolog philosoph philosophi physic physiolog physiologist pictur piec pigeonhol place plagu plan plant play plement pli plicat plishment plus poetri poincar point polar polem polici polit politician poor popular porari portent pos pose posi posit positiv positivist possess possi possibl postul potenti pothes power power-back powerless pp prac practic pragmat pragmatist prais pre pre-establish prebourgeoi precapitalist precis predict predomin preform preformation-system pregnant prehistori preliminari premis pres prescrib present present-day preserv press pression pressur presuppos presupposit prevail prevail.9 prevent previous previs primari prime primit principl prior priori prise privat privileg pro probabl problem problemat procedur proceed process proclaim produc product product.10 profess profession professor profit prognosi progress project proletarian proletariat prolong promis promot proof propaganda proper properti propon propos proposi proposit prosper protect protest proud.17 prove proven provid prudenc psycholog public pud punish pur pure puriti purpos purpose- pursu pursuit push put q qualif que question questionnair quick quietism quit quo quotient r ra race radbruch radic rais rang rank rapid rather ration rationalist re re-examin reach react reaction readi real realist realiti realiz realli realm reason reassign reassur receiv recent recept recogn recognit recondit reconsider reconstruct record recur recurr reduc reenstreet refer refin reflect refug regard regim regist regroup regul regulatori rein reinen reject rejected.15 rejoin rela relaps relat related- relation-ship relationship relativ reli religion remain remind remot remov ren render renew rent rep repertori replac repr repres represent reproduc reproduct requir research resembl resent reserv resid resigna resist resolv respect rest restrict restructur result retain retic retrogress return revamp reveng rever revis revolut revolutionari reward rhetor rich ridden right rigid rigor rise risk role root ross rule ruler run said saltpet sanction sang sarah sarili satisfact satisfi savant save saxon say scene schemat scholar school schulz sci sci-enc scienc scientif scientist scious sciousli scmften scott scribe seal second secret section sector see seek seem seen select self self-awar self-consci self-definit self-determin self-develop self-enclos self-evid self-explanatori self-interpret self-knowledg self-preserv self-renew self-reproduc self-suffici senc sens sensat sense-p senseless sensibl sent separ sequenc seri serious serv servant servat servic set settl seventeenth shake shall sham shape share sharp shatter shed sheer shift shil ship show shown sibl side sided sign signifi signific similar simpl simpler simplest simpli simplic simplif simplifi simultan sinc sing singl sion siti situa situat sixteenth skill slaughter slave slavish slightest slow small smaller smith snippet so-cal social societ societi socio socio-psycholog sociolo sociolog sociologist soiovay sole solid solidar solitari solut solv someth soon sooner sort sought soul sourc sovereignti sozialforschung spare spe speak speci special specialist specif specul speech spencer sphere spin spirit spiritu spiritualist spite spon sponsor spontan spread spring spun stabil stabl staff stage stamp stanc stand standard standpoint stantiv start starting-point state statement statesman statist status steadi steadili step still stimul stipul stir stitut stood store stori stract straitjacket strata stratum strength stress strict strictest strive striven strong struc structur strug struggl stuart student studi stunt sub subject subordin substanc substant substitut subsum subsumpt subway succeed success suffer suffici suggest suit suitabl sum sum-tot sunder sunk sup superfici superflu superior supersress supplement suppli support suppos supra supra-individu suprahistor suprasoci suprem sur sure surfac surpris surrend surround surviv suspend suspici suspicion symbol synthesi sys system systemat take taken taliti taneiti tar task teach tech technic techniqu technol technolog tell tellectu tem tempor temporari ten tend tendenc tenement tension tent term termin terminolog terror terrorist test testamentari theo theolog theor theoret theoreti theoretician theori theorist therapi therebi therefor therewith thesi thiev thing think thinker third thorough though thought threat threaten throughout throw thus tice tician ticular time time-el tion tional tionship tive tiviti to-tal today togeth toil toler tomorrow ton ton-ni tool topic tori toric total totalitarian touch toward tr tract trade tradi tradi-t tradit train trait tran transcend transcendent transform transit translat transmiss transmitt transzendental trast treati tri tribe tribut troubl truck true truli trust truth tual tude tulat tunat tural turn tween twentieth twentieth-centuri two two-sid two-sided type typi typic typifi uabi ual ultim un un-problemat unabl unanim unanswer unawar uncertainti unchang unclear unconsci uncov und under underpaid understand understood undertak unemploy unfit unfold unfor unground unhuman unifi uniform unimport uniqu unit unitari uniti univers unjust unknown unless unlik unmast unnecessari unproduct unresolv unsur untersuchungen untouch untranspar untru unwav up-to-d upheav upon urg us use useless usual utopia utopian vagu val valid valu valuabl vanc vanish vari varieti various vassal vassalag vast velop verif verifi version via vicissitud victim victori vide view viewpoint villag virtu virtuous vision vital vocat voic vol volum von w wahrheit wake walter wane want war ward wast way weak weaker web weber weight well weyl weyl.6 whatev whenc wherea wherev whether whole wholli whose wide wider widespread widest will win wish wither within without wolf wolv won wood word work work-pow work-process worker world world-histor world-mind world-view would wretched wright writer wrong yet yield yoke york young zeilschrijt zum