Critique is history?
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Critique is history? book
Understanding critique entails tracing it as a discourse through history, not to deconstruct it as being merely a fiction, but to recognise it as a tradition. Here Weber’s historical sociology of ‘world-images’ and Foucault’s ‘genealogy’ are key approaches to observing the emergence, transformation, consolidation and yet diversity of discourses that constitute critique historically. Paradoxically, critique is a tradition of tradition-breaking, a form of iconoclasm that is deeply central to Western culture. This chapter deals briefly with archaic critique in Zoroastrianism before turning to Old Testament Prophecy, which is distinctive from Greek parrhesia in important ways, and arguably more influential in the formation of modernity. An extensive interpretation of the ‘writing prophets’ from Amos to Ezekiel shows that moral admonishment becomes increasingly alloyed with critical concepts. From reasserting the Decalogue or condemning impiety, prophecy increasingly criticises political and priestly power, as well as the common people, developing a critical vocabulary of blindness, drunkenness and ‘whitewash’ as incipient conceptions of ‘ideology’. Contests over truth are waged via accusations of false-prophecy, and the Old Testament records scepticism and world-weary cynicism. The figure of the prophet appears as an outsider or an exile and they diagnose their time as a crisis, foreshadowing modern critical conceptions. Recognising the prophetic strain within critique is a worthwhile exercise, not to ‘debunk’ critique as a mere historical construct, but in order to understand the impulses within this tradition of iconoclasm.