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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Social criticism analyzes social structures which are seen as flawed and aims at practical solutions by specific measures, radical reform or even revolutionary change.

The starting points of social criticism can be very different and the different forms of Socialism (Marxism, Anarchism, etc.) never had a monopoly on Social Criticism. The starting point can be the experience of a minority within society generally (e.g., Homosexuals) or even the experience of a group of people within a progressive social movement which does not live up to its progressive agenda in every respect.

Women in the New Left were often dissatisfied with the sexist attitudes of their male counterparts and many of them engaged in second wave feminism, while women in the Chicano movement were enraged by similar attitudes and created Chicana feminism. Within postmodernism a grand unifying theory no longer seems possible. This does not exclude the possibility nor the necessity of dialogue. Nevertheless most social critics still consider the critique of capitalism to be central.


Academic forms of social criticism

The dispute between critical rationalism (e.g. Karl Popper) and the Frankfurt School exemplified the principal problem whether the research in the social sciences should pretend to be "neutral" or "objective" or consciously adopt a necessarily partisan view.

Works of social criticism can belong to social philosophy, political economy, sociology, social psychology, psychoanalysis but also cultural studies and other disciplines or reject academic forms of discourse.

Social criticism in literature and music

Social criticism can also be expressed in a fictional form, e.g., in a revolutionary novel like The Iron Heel by Jack London or in dystopian novels like Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932) or George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) or Ray Bradburys Fahrenheit 451 (1953), children's books or films.

Fictional literature can have a significant social impact. "For example, the 1852 novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe furthered the antislavery movement in the United States, and the 1885 novel Ramona, by Helen Hunt Jackson, brought about changes in laws regarding Native Americans. Similarly, Upton Sinclair's 1906 novel The Jungle helped create new laws related to public health and food handling, and Arthur Morrison's 1896 novel A Child of the Jago caused England to change its housing laws." [1]

Musical expressions of social criticism are very frequent in punk and rap music, examples being Pretty Vacant by Sex Pistols and Brenda's Got a Baby by Tupac, respectively. Heavy metal bands such as Metallica and Megadeth also use social criticism extensively, particularly in their earlier works.

Classical works

All of the works of Charles Dickens and many of the writings of Pierre Bourdieu

Contemporary authors

  • Judith Butler, Gender Trouble (1989)
  • Giannina Braschi, "Yo-Yo Boing!" (1998)
  • Raewyn Connell, Masculinities (1995)
  • Noam Chomsky: Manufacturing Consent (1988), Profit over people (2000)
  • Alexander Bard and Jan Söderqvist, Netocracy - The New Power Elite and Life After Capitalism, Reuters/Pearson, 2002
  • Simon Head: The New Ruthless Economy. Work and Power in the Digital Age, Oxford UP 2005
  • Gilbert Rist, The History of Development: From Western Origins to Global Faith, Expanded Edition, London: Zed Books, 2003
  • Khen Lampert , Traditions of Compassion; from Religious duty to Social Activism, Palgrave-Macmillan, 2005

See also


  • Patricia D. Netzley (1999), Social Protest Literature. An Encyclopedia of Works, Characters, Authors and Themes, Santa Barbara, Denver, Oxford: ABC-Clio, 1999


  1. ^ Netzley 1999: xiii


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