Friday, 11 November 2011

Critical Theory

Once again, I'm struggling with theory--but this time, I actually have to teach it.

Last week was a general overview of theory--what theories communications scholars use, and how & why they use them. My seminars went surprisingly well, and it gave me a chance to think more about my own issues with theory.

This week, we got down to the side of theory that I really don't like: critical theory. Now, my understanding is that critical theorists one pursuit in life is to criticise everything. They question everything, 'challenge the mainstream' as the lecturer put it. I can respect that, up to a point, but I hate it when people argue for the sake of it. What's the point? Why be so miserable about everything?

Here's an example from the lecture: celebrity relief work, with the case study of the "Everybody Hurts" single for Haitian earthquake relief. Zizek is against this type of activity, because it perpetuates the system of inequality--the 'haves' giving to the 'have-nots' just reinforces the fact that the 'haves' have it to give.

Ok, so I understand his point. The system is bad. But my beef with this view is simply this: what would he have us do instead? He offers no alternative suggestions. He's just criticising charity, but I don't seem him doing anything to help (apologies if he actually does perform any aid work that I haven't read about...).

Why do I support the celebrity relief work phenomenon?
Because it actually does work.

Because it makes people pay attention--something that mainstream journalism often fails to accomplish on its own.

Because it's better to do something--even something small--than to just sit back and criticise others for not doing enough.

Academic research on celeb relief:
Goodman and Barnes. 2011. "Star/poverty space: the making of the ‘development celebrity’ " Celebrity Studies 2(1), pp. 69-85.

Samman, McAuliffe, and MacLachlan. 2009. "The role of celebrity in endorsing poverty reduction through international aid." International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing 14, pp. 137-148.

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