Critical Theory is traditionally associated to the Frankfurt School, an expression that relates to a group of intellectuals who, in 1923, founded the Institut für Sozialforschung and, over the next four decades, developed an original combination of theoretical and empirical approaches to explore and call into question the forms of life and authority generated by the modern industrial capitalist society. Many key concepts of Critical Theory had already appeared in the works of fundamental authors of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth century as Kant, Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche. In the extraordinary political and cultural mood of the early decades of 20th century – on the wave of the battle-hardened political and social movements – the group of scholars gathered around Adorno, Horkheimer and Marcuse built an unprecedented connection between this classical heritage and the pivotal authors of the Twentieth century. Nowadays the notion of Critical Theory shall include the reference to the Frankfurt School, but it cannot be reduced to it. More generally it’s a much broader field where different scientific approaches converge to analyse the contemporary capitalist society and call into question power and truth, and the conditions of their production and reproduction. In other words, critique is the condition of possibility for understanding our times. While focusing on its object, society, critique is constantly dealing with its own scientific statute. The consideration of the opportunities and the limitations of its own exercise is - since Kant - an unavoidable task for each science that wants to be "critical", even more in a situation like the current one, in which critique has become the object of such a discourse proliferation which undermines its strength.
The Critical Theory Course does not take any meaning of “critique” for granted. It neither applies any specific model, nor confines itself to questioning only a paradigm. Having regard to the wide range of meanings the term assumes today and to the different fields in which it is applied, the Course offers lectures and conferences on a wide range of themes, with a multi-disciplinary approach. Moreover, in view of the self-reflexive nature of the critique, the Course provides the tools needed to an epistemological practice that calls into question its status. The lessons and lectures of the Course will be along these lines. Besides the reading of a classic of critical thinking (The Society of Spectacle by G. Debord), the various modules deal with a range of themes, including: the Frankfurt School and the future of critique; social theories and critical theories of contemporary capitalism; theories of history; queer studies; Marx and the critique of political economy; precarious employment conditions; colonialism and migrations; time & commodity; religions and beliefs; art and society; science of culture; critique of urbanism; literary criticism.