This essay looks at the relationship between political movements in the streets and critical theory in the academy. It asks whether today the lack of innovation in critical theory we see in some disciplines occasions, if not reflects, the muting of political dissent outside of the university. Contemporary critical theory now seems split into two separate fields, “criticism” and “theory,” revealing a configuration quite unlike what we saw in the earlier Frankfurt School, where these two terms were merged in the name of “critical theory,” which was practiced with attention to social crisis. We’re up to the neck in crises now. How will critical theory respond?

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