Critical knowledge Booth declares involves understandings of the social world

Critical knowledge booth declares involves

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“[C]ritical knowledge,” Booth declares, “involves understandings of the social world that attempt to stand outside prevailing structures, processes, ideologies and orthodoxies while recognizing that all conceptualizations within the ambit of sociality derive from particular social/historical
conditions” (original italics) (p. 78). Helpfully, Booth, assuming the manner of an Old Testament prophet, provides his critical disciples with “big-picture navigation aids” (original italics) (p. 66) to achieve this higher knowledge. Booth promulgates fifteen commandments (as Clemenceau remarked of Woodrow Wilson's nineteen points, in a somewhat different context, “God Almighty only gave us ten”). When not stating the staggeringly obvious, the Ken Commandments are hopelessly contradictory. Critical theorists thus should “avoid exceptionalizing the study of terrorism,” 3 “recognize that states can be agents of terrorism,” and “keep the long term in sight.” Unexceptional advice to be sure and long recognized by more traditional students of terrorism. The critical student, if not fully conversant with critical doublethink, however, might find the fact that she or he lives within “Powerful theories” that are “constitutive of political, social, and economic life” (6th Commandment, p. 71), sits uneasily with Booth's concluding injunction to “stand outside” prevailing ideologies (p. 78). In his preferred imperative idiom, Booth further contends that terrorism is best studied in the context of an “academic international relations” whose role “is not only to interpret the world but to change it” (pp. 67-68). Significantly, academic—or more precisely, critical—international relations, holds no place for a realist appreciation of the status quo but approves instead a Marxist ideology of praxis. It is within this transformative praxis that critical theory situates terrorism and terrorists. The political goals of those non-state entities that choose to practice the tactics of terrorism invariably seek a similar transformative praxis and this leads “critical global theorizing” into a curiously confused empathy with the motives of those engaged in such acts, as well as a disturbing relativism. Thus, Booth again decrees that the gap between “those who hate terrorism and those who carry it out, those who seek to delegitimize the acts of terrorists and those who incite them, and those who abjure terror and those who glorify it—is not as great as is implied or asserted by orthodox terrorism experts, the discourse of governments, or the popular press” (p. 66). The gap “between us/them is a slippery slope, not an unbridgeable political and ethical chasm” (p. 66). So, while “terrorist actions are always—without exception—wrong, they nevertheless might be contingently excusable” (p. 66). From this ultimately relativist perspective gang raping a defenseless woman, an act of terror on any critical or uncritical scale of evaluation, is, it would seem, wrong but potentially excusable.

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