Interpreting the Technicity of Action
Ernst Wolff (2021)
Berlin: De Gruyter.
Extract: “2 On Critique
Let us first consider from which perspective and to what extent the previous five chapters may be called critical. Roughly following Luc Boltanski, I distinguish between two kinds of social scientific critique on the basis of their “simple” or “complex” exteriority. One assumes a position of simple exteriority by taking a spectator’s position, outside of the normal unfolding of social events, in order to subject the phenomena to careful study and reporting. Here, critiquing means bringing to light what may be overlooked, or what may be too vast to be observed by participants in the usual course of events. Critique is then exercised as if the aspect of reality studied appears arbitrary, but has to be clarified as necessary. Furthermore, such scientific work is critical in pursuing accurate and coherent descriptions, learning from experts and falsifiable reporting. By contrast, one assumes a position of complex exteriority by first taking the position described as simple exteriority (since critiquing in the second sense depends on the descriptive accuracy provided by the first). But this is coupled with a normative assessment. Critiquing in this sense fulfils the functions of unmasking or denouncing. It typically exposes what things are and the values they have obtained in society as exploitative, dominating or unjust, rather than as just powerful.” (pp. 160-161)