chapter  7
30 Pages

How Might Things Be Otherwise?

How Might Things Be Otherwise? Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heavenfor?

-ROBERT BROWNING

The point of a critical analysis is to uncover how power relationships work in unequal arrangements, making explicit the implicit mechanisms that function to support the status quo at the expense of some oppressed group or groups. For those interested in social justice, the hope is that oppressors-who are often unaware of their privileged position and its impact on others-will, once their awareness has been increased, act in more just ways. A second hope is that the oppressed-who are often equally unaware of their own manipulation and their own potentialwill, once they better understand hegemonic practices, realize their own power and act to change conditions they begin to perceive as unacceptable. As part of a body of work founded on critical theory, then, this text shares the common goal of enabling transformation-of thought and action both:

[It] aims at promoting critical consciousness, and struggles to break down the institutional structures and arrangements which reproduce oppressive ideologies and the social inequalities that are sustained and produced by these social structures and ideologies. (Van Manen 1990, 167)

Work embodying a critical perspective is about change: about identifying gaps between the ideal and the real and trying to move the latter closer to the former.