Beyond Critique: Exploring Critical Social Theories and Education


  • ISBN: 978-1-59451-858-4
  • Publish date: July 2011
  • List Price: $37.95
  • Your Price: $32.26


  • ISBN: 978-1-59451-857-7
  • Publish date: April 2011
  • List Price: $138.00
  • Your Price: $117.30


Features of this innovative text:

  • Introduces the primary people, concepts, and issues in the field of critical social theory, including Marx and Weber, Gramsci, the Frankfurt school and Habermas, Bourdieu, Foucault, feminism, and critical race theory.

  • Accessibly written for students by a group of experienced educators and scholars who explain concepts using examples.

  • Defines and broadly expands the critical social theory tradition.

What is social theory, and what is “critical” about critical social theories? How can critical social theories enrich and illuminate our understanding of educational processes—and thereby contribute to progressive social transformation? This book introduces educational practitioners, students, and scholars to the people, concepts, questions, and concerns that make up the field of critical social theory. It guides readers into a lively conversation about how education can and does contribute to reinforcing or challenging relations of domination in the modern era. Written by a group of experienced educators and scholars, in an engaging style, Critical Social Theories and Education introduces and explains the preeminent thinkers and traditions in critical social theory, and discusses the primary strands of educational research and thought that have been informed and influenced by them.

An engaging introduction defines and situates critical social theory in relation to other kinds of social science and educational theories. A chapter on “foundations and forerunners” discusses the origins of a critical social theory tradition in the work of Karl Marx, Max Weber, G.H. Mead, and others. Full chapters explicate the life trajectories and key concepts of Antonio Gramsci, members of the Frankfurt School and Jurgen Habermas, Pierre Bourdieu, Michel Foucault and post-structuralism, feminism, and critical race theory. These chapters also feature a section that traces and maps out some of the education scholarship employing these critical social theories—with accompanying bibliographies—as well as a section that more closely examines a few key examples of such scholarship, identifying the ways that critical social theory concepts get taken up in research. Finally, not content to limit the discussion to conventionally acknowledged critical theories, a final chapter, called “Friendly critiques and fellow travelers,” introduces and discusses a number of related theories, assessing their potential to contribute to education for social transformation. Among the theories discussed here are liberalism, pragmatism, world-systems, critical globalization and postcolonial theories , Latin American critical thought (liberation theology, dependency theory, Fals Borda and Freire, participatory democracy), deep ecology and spirituality, and practice-centered critiques of power (Flyvbjerg, Holland, Erickson).

Author Info

Bradley Levinson is Professor of Education at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Jacob P. K. Gross, Ph.D. in history, philosophy, and policy studies in education, with a concentration in higher education, from Indiana University, is a policy and planning research analyst with the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. He also collaborates with the Project on Academic Success at Indiana University on several projects, leading the project on student flow.

Christopher Hanks, Ph.D. in philosophy of education at Indiana University, is assistant professor of education at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. His work focuses on epistemology, theories of the mind, education as cultivation of the self, and cosmopolitan education, and he has published in the journal Educational Theory and Philosophy of Education, the annual volume of the Philosophy of Education Society.

Julia Heimer Dadds, Ph.D. candidate in curriculum studies at Indiana University, has a lifetime of nonprofit work with children and families in poverty, people with disabilities, and the elderly, including seven years as a Head Start program director. She currently works as a board member for Community Justice and Mediation and for the Youth Services Bureau of Bloomington, Indiana.

Kafi Kumasi, Ph.D. in curriculum studies from Indiana University, is an assistant professor of library and information science at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Her teaching and research interests center on school library media issues, particularly critical and sociocultural approaches to adolescent literacy education and library services.

Joseph Link is studying for the Ph.D. in the history of education at Indiana University. For many years he has directed a nonprofit program for disability services and taught at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Dini Metro-Roland, Ph.D. in curriculum studies and philosophy of education at Indiana University, is assistant professor of educational foundations at Western Michigan University. His current fields of interest include multicultural education, philosophical hermeneutics, and the educational implications of online instruction.


Beyond Critique by Bradley A. U. Levinson and collaborators is a well-documented survey of critical social theories applied to education. It is a journey through theories--as they aptly termed their work-- and constitutes a valuable attempt to move beyond description, analysis, and critique, offering a new and informed contribution in the sociology of education. Beyond Critique is a very useful textbook for graduate and undergraduate courses in the field.
--- Dr. Carlos Alberto Torres, Professor of Social Sciences and Comparative Education Social Sciences and Comparative Education (SSCE) Division Head Director, Paulo Freire Institute

Innovative knowledge can only emerge from innovative processes of knowledge creation. Herein lies the key for the much needed renewal of critical social theory. This outstanding book bears witness to the new possibilities lying ahead.
--Boaventura de Sousa Santos, University of Coimbra and University of Wisconsin-Madison

Beyond Critique draws clear connections between social theory and education. Levinson’s engaging introduction is essential for showing how critical theories are closely linked to certain strands of liberalist thinking. Subsequent chapters focus on key authors and, like the intro, are lucidly written for beginning and advanced students alike. This is an important resource for thinking about big ideas. Who said social theory was dull?
--Amy Stambach, author of Faith in Schools: Religion, Education, and American Evangelicals in East Africa (Stanford UP 2010)

This is a rich and readable volume written with voice, gusto, and insight. I know of no better book to introduce graduate students in education to the ideas, values, and immediacy of social and critical theory to our work.
--Walter Parker, University of Washington, Seattle

Beyond Critique allows us to explore the contours of critical theory without sounding like a stuffy lecture. By demystifying critical theories in education, the book breathes life into a field desperately needed in these days and times. Thanks to the authors for humanizing us readers!"
-- David Stovall, University of Illinois at Chicago

Beyond Critique is an impressive collective accomplishment; six emerging scholars, under the skillful guidance of Bradley Levinson, offer incisive complementary accounts of critical social theories that challenge the inequities still prevalent in educational systems the world over. By situating classical and contemporary social thought in historical context, the volume invites further critique and advocates further dialogue on the deep implications of theory for educational research and practice.
-- Elsie Rockwell, Departamento de Investigaciones Educativas-CINVESTAV, Mexico

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