Sunday, September 28, 2008

Keywords for Prof. Alastair Pennycook's Critical Applied Linguistics #5

2 Key Background Knowledge

2.1 Postcolonialism

As Prof. Dr. Visam Mansur says, it is important to understand colonialism to understand postcolonialism, for the latter does not exist without the former.

As Prof. Dr. Visam Mansur summarizes, the basic assumptions in defense of colonialism are:

1. The colonized are savages in need of education and rehabilitation

2. The culture of the colonized is not up to the standard of the colonizer, and it’s the moral duty of the colonizer to do something about polishing it.

3. The colonized nation is unable to manage and run itself properly, and thus it needs the wisdom and expertise of the colonizer.

4. The colonized nation embraces a set of religious beliefs incongruent and incompatible with those of the colonizer, and consequently, it is God’s given duty of the colonizer to bring those stray people to the right path.

5. The colonized people pose dangerous threat to themselves and to the civilized world if left alone; and thus it is in the interest of the civilized world to bring those people under control.

Let's also see how Dr. Visam Mansur summarizes the assumption of postcolonialism:

The Assumptions of Post-colonialism

While defending its position against colonialism and imperialism, post-colonialism in literature and the arts assumes the following:

Cultural relativism. This means that the colonialists’ defilement of culture is socially, morally and politically incorrect.

The absurdity of colonial language and discourses. A careful study of recent colonial narratives like Passage to India and Heart of Darkness suggest that the colonialist is always rendered short of expression to comprehend and fathom his colonial experience.

Ambivalence towards authority. This ambivalence is born out of the struggle and conflict between native and settler with the outcome of the settler’s disposal. This victory over the settler leads the native to question all forms of authority.

Colonial alienation. Colonialism leads to the alienation of the native in his own land. This is described as a traumatic experience that erodes the individual’s identity.

As Wikipedia says, we tend to see things in binary opposition like the Oriental and the Westerner. However, "postcolonialism seeks out of hybridity and transculturalization", which is increasingly becoming relevant in the process of globalization.

"Postcolonial/Decolonial Theories" by Prof. T.V. Reed is a relatively short introduction.
Many genealogists of postcolonial thought, including Bhabha himself, credit Said's Orientalism as the founding work for the field. Said's argument that "the Orient" was a fantastical, real material-discursive construct of "the West" that shaped the real and imagined existences of those subjected to the fantasy, set many of the terms for subsequent theoretical development, including the notion that, in turn, this "othering" process used the Orient to create, define, and solidify the "West." This complex, mutually constitutive process, enacted with nuanced difference across the range of the colonized world(s), and through a variety of textual and other practices, is the object of postcolonial analysis.

If you read Japanese, the following works may be a good start.
Postcolonialism by T. Motohashi.
Postcolonialism by R. Young

Perhaps the three most influential postcolonial critics are Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak, and Homi Bhabha.

Edward Said

See a general introduction to Edward Said in Wikipedia

See On Orientalism - Edward Said on YouTube.

The most renowned book by Said is Orientalism
(The Japanese translation is here.)

Read some excerpts from the Japanese translation of Orientalism.  (Download from here: password requested)

If you like, take a look at my PowerPoint presentation slides on "Self-Orientalism" in Japanese discourse (written in Japanese(Download from here: password requested)

I wrote a clumsy essay on culture in Japanese, inspired by Said and Derrida.  If you're interested, please have a look.

The overview of Orientalism in Wikipedia is succinct:

In Orientalism, Edward Said says that all discourse, especially cultural discourse, is inherently ideological, therefore, regardless of the subject, historical discourse occurs in a given ideological structure. Orientalism, especially the academic study of, and discourse, political and literary, about the Arabs, Islam, and the Middle East that primarily originated in England, France, and then the United States actually creates (rather than examines or describes) a divide between the East and the West. The book's examples situate the West as culturally superior to the East. This "Western superiority" became politically useful when France and Britain conquered and colonised "Eastern/Oriental" countries such as Egypt, India, Algeria and others.

Wikipedia quotes Said's own words from Orientalism.
"My whole point about this system is not that it is a misrepresentation of some Oriental essence -- in which I do not for a moment believe -- but that it operates as representations usually do, for a purpose, according to a tendency, in a specific historical, intellectual, and even economic setting" (p. 273).

You should also take a look at the section of Criticism:

Read this book if you're interested in the role of the intellectual (and you should be!)
(The Japanese translation is here.)

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

A good introduction of Gayatri Spivak is given by Prof. Michael Kilburn, in which Spivak's self-description is quoted:

My position is generally a reactive one. I am viewed by Marxists as too codic, by feminists as too male-identified, by indigenous theorists as too committed to Western Theory. I am uneasily pleased about this. (Post-Colonial Critic).

Wikipedia quotes how Spivak referred to herself: "A practical Marxist-feminist-deconstructionist." She sees each of these fields as necessary but insufficient by themselves, yet productive together.

See also "Glossary of Key Terms in the Work of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak."

Below is a YouTube video of Spivak's lecture "Gayatri Spivak: The Trajectory of the Subaltern in My Work" (90 minutes) kindly offered by University of California Television.

Homi K. Bhabha

Homi K. Bhabha (born 1949) is an Indian-American postcolonial theorist, who is currently teaching at Harvard University

The section of Works in Wikipedia succinctly summarizes Bhabha's arguments:
Nation and Narration (editor 1990)
In Nation and Narration, Bhabha challenges the tendency to treat post-colonial countries as a homogeneous block. This leads, he argues, to the assumption that there is and was a shared identity amongst ex-colonial states. Bhabha argues that all senses of nationhood are narrativized.
Bhabha then goes on to identify a relationship of antagonism and ambivalence between colonizers and the colonized.

The Location of Culture (1994)
In The Location of Culture, Bhabha advocates a fundamental realignment of the methodology of cultural analysis in the West away from metaphysics and toward the "performative" and "enunciatory present"[4] Such a shift, he claims, provides a basis for the West to maintain less violent relationships with other cultures. In Bhabha's view, the source of the Western compulsion to colonize is due in large part to traditional Western representations of foreign cultures.
Bhabha's argument attacks the Western production and implementation of certain binary oppositions. The oppositions targeted by Bhabha include center/margin, civilized/savage, and enlightened/ignorant. Bhabha proceeds by destabilizing the binaries insofar as the first term of the binary is allowed to unthinkingly dominate the second.
Once the binaries are destabilized, Bhabha argues that cultures can be understood to interact, transgress, and transform each other in a much more complex manner than the traditional binary oppositions can allow. According to Bhabha, hybridity and "linguistic multivocality" have the potential to intervene and dislocate the process of colonization through the reinterpretation of political discourse.

Here is Homi Bhabha on "Writing Rights and Responsibilities" (90 minutes lecture) offered by University of California Television.

2.2 Postmodernism

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy gives an ironical but compact definition of postmodernism.
That postmodernism is indefinable is a truism. However, it can be described as a set of critical, strategic and rhetorical practices employing concepts such as difference, repetition, the trace, the simulacrum, and hyperreality to destabilize other concepts such as presence, identity, historical progress, epistemic certainty, and the univocity of meaning. ... [P]ostmodernism is a continuation of modern thinking in another mode.

Glossary Definition is very useful to understand postmodernism.
(...) Postmodernism is largely a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective, efforts to explain reality. (...) Postmodernism is "post" because it is denies the existence of any ultimate principles, and it lacks the optimism of there being a scientific, philosophical, or religious truth which will explain everything for everybody - a characteristic of the so-called "modern" mind. The paradox of the postmodern position is that, in placing all principles under the scrutiny of its skepticism, it must realize that even its own principles are not beyond questioning. (...)

Wikipedia gives a summary table of Philosophical Movements and Contributors in postmodernism. This is perhaps one of the easiest ways to have an overview of the concept.

The entry of Postmodern Philosophy is also very helpful.
Postmodern philosophy is skeptical or nihilistic toward many of the values and assumptions of philosophy that derive from modernity, such as humanity having an essence which distinguishes humans from animals, or the assumption that one form of government is demonstrably better than another.
Postmodern philosophy is often particularly skeptical about simple binary oppositions characteristic of structuralism, emphasizing the problem of the philosopher cleanly distinguishing knowledge from ignorance, social progress from reversion, dominance from submission, and presence from absence.

For further inquiries, Prof. Martin Ryder's "Contemporary Philosophy, Critical Theory and Postmodern Thought" is an extremely useful list of links. You may want to bookmark this link on your computer.

Perhaps, the most important term in Postmodernism is "deconstruction."

2.3 Poststructuralism

A short introduction by Prof. Roger Jones is very illuminating in that it makes clear the connections among Saussure, Marx, Freud, existentialists, Foucalt and Derrida. Poststructuralism is an attempt to supersede structuralism and the criticism of structuralism by existentialists.
In the 1960's, the structuralist movement, based in France, attempted to synthesise the ideas of Marx, Freud and Saussure. They disagreed with the existentialists' claim that each man is what he makes himself. For the structuralist the individual is shaped by sociological, psychological and linguistic structures over which he/she has no control, but which could be uncovered by using their methods of investigation.

Originally labelled a structuralist, the French philosopher and historian Michel Foucault came to be seen as the most important representative of the post-structuralist movement. He agreed that language and society were shaped by rule governed systems, but he disagreed with the structuralists on two counts. Firstly, he did not think that there were definite underlying structures that could explain the human condition and secondly he thought that it was impossible to step outside of discourse and survey the situation objectively.

Jacques Derrida (1930- ) developed deconstruction as a technique for uncovering the multiple interpretation of texts. Influenced by Heidegger and Nietzsche, Derrida suggests that all text has ambiguity and because of this the possibility of a final and complete interpretation is impossible.

You may want to bookmark the following general index covering Enlgitenment, Romanticism, Analytic Philosophy, Existentialism, Post Structuralism, God, Mind, Science, and Moral Philosophy.

Another very accessible introduction is given by Prof. John Lye, which lists some of assumptions of poststructural thought including:

I Post-structuralism is marked by a rejection of totalizing, essentialist, foundationalist concepts.

II Post-structuralism contests the concept of 'man' as developed by enlightenment thought and idealist philosophy.

III Poststructuralism sees 'reality' as being much more fragmented, diverse, tenuous and culture-specific than does structuralism.

IV Post-structuralism derives in part from a sense that we live in a linguistic universe.

V All meaning is textual and intertextual: there is no "outside of the text," as Derrida remarked. Everything we can know is constructed through signs, governed by the rules of discourse for that area of knowledge, and related to other texts through filiation, allusion and repetition.

VI Discourse is a material practice; the human is rooted in historicity and lives through the body.

VII In Foucault's terms, the production of discourse, the (historical, material) way we know our world, is controlled, selected, organized and distributed by a certain number of procedures.

VIII The Derridean concept of differance links up with Freudian suppositions and marxist ideas to highlight concepts of repression, displacement, condensation, substitution and so forth, which, often by following metaphoric or metynomic links carefully, can be deconstructed or revealed; what is 'meant' is different from what appears to be meant.

IX Texts are marked by a surplus of meaning; the result of this is that differing readings are inevitable, indeed a condition of meaning at all. This surplus is located in the polysemous nature of both language and of rhetoric.

X A 'text' exists as read.

The above quotation is only a portion of Prof. Lye's introduction. Click below and learn more.

Take a look at the section of Theory of "Post-structuralism" in Wikipedia:
Post-structuralists hold that the concept of "self" as a singular and coherent entity is a fictional construct. Instead, an individual comprises conflicting tensions and knowledge claims (e.g. gender, class, profession, etc.). Therefore, to properly study a text a reader must understand how the work is related to his or her own personal concept of self. (...)

The author's intended meaning, such as it is (for the author's identity as a stable "self" with a single, discernible "intent" is also a fictional construct), is secondary to the meaning that the reader perceives. (...)

A post-structuralist critic must be able to utilize a variety of perspectives to create a multifaceted interpretation of a text, even if these interpretations conflict with one another. (...)

2.4 Foucault 

Michel Foucault (1926-1984) was a French historian and philosopher, associated with the structuralist and post-structuralist movements. He has had wide influence not only (or even primarily) in philosophy but also in a wide range of humanistic and social scientific disciplines. (

"Foucault's work is frequently referred to in disciplines as diverse as art, philosophy, history, anthropology, geography, archaeology, communication studies, public relations, rhetoric, cultural studies, linguistics, sociology, education, psychology, literary theory, feminism, queer theory, management studies, the philosophy of science, political science, urban design, museum studies, and many others." ( ) provides a glossary of key concepts.

Its Frequently Asked Questions is a relaxing way to know about Foucault.

It may be a good idea for Japanese students to have a quick look at the Japanese Wikipedia.ミシェル・フーコー

It is indeed a daunting task to try to summarize Foucault's works.

Among various introductionary books on Foucault written in Japanese, I recommend the following two books written by Mr. Nakayama, which relate Foucault's key concepts and his life. The books are very accessible both in terms of intellectual elucidation and price.

Yosensha Shinsyo

Chikuma Sensyo

As Wikipedia explains, Foucault developed a postmodernistic notion of "discourse":
French social theorist Michel Foucault developed an entirely original notion of discourse in his early work, especially the Archaeology of knowledge (1972). In Discursive Struggles Within Social Welfare: Restaging Teen Motherhood, [Lessa (2006)] summarizes Foucault's definition of discourse as “systems of thoughts composed of ideas, attitudes, courses of action, beliefs and practices that systematically construct the subjects and the worlds of which they speak." He traces the role of discourses in wider social processes of legitimating and power, emphasizing the construction of current truths, how they are maintained and what power relations they carry with them.” Foucault later theorized that discourse is a medium through which power relations produce speaking subjects.[Strega, 2005] Foucault (1977, 1980) argued that power and knowledge are inter-related and therefore every human relationship is a struggle and negotiation of power. Foucault further stated that power is always present and can both produce and constrain the truth.[Strega, 2005] Discourse according to Foucault (1977, 1980, 2003) is related to power as it operates by rules of exclusion. Discourse therefore is controlled by objects, what can be spoken of; ritual, where and how one may speak; and the privileged, who may speak.[ Foucault, 1972] Coining the phrases power-knowledge Foucault (1980) stated knowledge was both the creator of power and creation of power.

M. Foucault (1972). Archaeology of knowledge. New York: Pantheon.
M. Foucault (1977). Discipline and Punish. New York: Pantheon.
M. Foucault (1980). "Two Lectures," in Colin Gordon, ed., Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews.. New York: Pantheon.
M. Foucault (2003). Society Must Be Defended. New York: Picador.
I. Lessa (2006). "Discoursive struggles within social welfare: Restaging teen motherhood". British Journal of Social Work 36: 283-298.
S. Strega (2005). The view from the poststructural margins: Epistemology and methodology reconsidered. In L. Brown, & S. Strega (Eds.), Research as resistance (pp. 199-235). Toronto: Canadian Scholars' Press.

Despite the international appraisal of Foucault, there are some criticism particularly on his historical descriptions. Keith Windschuttle's Foucault as Historian is an example.
A Japanese translation is available.


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Keywords for Prof. Alastair Pennycook's Critical Applied Linguistics #4

1.3 Linguistic / pedagogical terms

1.3.1 Structuralism

Structuralism in linguistics, anthropology, psychoanalysis or literary theory was a strong intellectual movement first in France and later in the western world in general, and it served as a kind of antidote to existentialism, taking the stance of antihumanism. Wikipedia defines the method of structuralism as follows:

As a method, the basics of structuralism consist of analyzing social events (speech, familial identity, and recounts of history, for example) to discover the synchronic structures that both underlie them and make them possible (language, kinship and narrative structure, respectively), which are then typically broken down into units, codes, rules of combination, etc. The essential theory underlying this method is that these structures are autonomous, and that their units are interdependent, because they are constituted through contrast with one another. So how we discursively conceive of ourselves, or anything, for that matter, is dependent on contexts found within historically contingent systems.

In the sense given above, Chomsky, for example, is a structuralist (but certainly more than that), although his name cannot be found in the section of "structuralism in linguistics" in Wikipedia

As someone in the generation which took structural linguistics for granted, I believe the idea of structuralism should be highly regarded even in these "post-" days.

1.3.2 Saussure

Saussure laid the foundation for many of the significant developments in linguistics in the 20th century. His terms like signifier (signifiant) and signified (signifie), langue and parole are common knowledge for linguists and applied linguists. He is also a very important figure in semiotics.

Wikipedia explains the legacy of Saussure as follows:

The impact of Saussure's ideas on the development of linguistic theory in the first half of the 20th century cannot be overstated. Two currents of thought emerged independently of each other, one in Europe, the other in America. The results of each incorporated the basic notions of Saussurian thought in forming the central tenets of structural linguistics. In Europe, the most important work was being done by the Prague School. ... In America, Saussure's ideas informed the distributionalism of Leonard Bloomfield and the post-Bloomfieldian Structuralism

Saussure's posthumous book, Course in General Linguistics, compiled by his students is a very important book in the history of linguistics and beyond.

The distinctions of "langue" and "parole," "signiant (signifier)" and "signifie' (signified)" or "synchronic" and "diachronic" and the concepts such as "arbitrariness" and "value" are now common knowledge in humanities.

Take a look at Wikipedia:

However, the rigid distinction of synchronic dimension and diachronic dimension and the complete separation (autonomy) of the system from the body/world may have become burdens rather than theoretical advantages later.

Cognitive linguistics, for example, takes a different approach from structural linguistics.Wikipedia explains the feature of cognitive linguistics as follows:

In linguistics and cognitive science, cognitive linguistics (CL) refers to the school of linguistics that understands language creation, learning, and usage as best explained by reference to human cognition in general. It is characterized by adherence to three central positions. First, it denies that there is an autonomous linguistic faculty in the mind; second, it understands grammar in terms of conceptualization; and third, it claims that knowledge of language arises out of language use.

Below is how Gilles Fauconnier explains about cognitive linguistics.

Cognitive linguistics recognizes that the study of language is the study of language use and that when we engage in any language activity, we draw unconsciously on vast cognitive and cultural resources, call up models and frames, set up multiple connections, coordinate large arrays of information, and engage in creative mappings, transfers, and elaborations. Language does not "represent" meaning; it prompts for the construction of meaning in particular contexts with particular cultural models and cognitive resources. Very sparse grammar guides us along the same rich mental paths, by prompting us to perform complex cognitive operations. Thus, a large part of cognitive linguistics centers on the creative on-line construction of meaning as discourse unfolds in context. The dividing line between semantics and pragmatics dissolves and truth-conditional compositionality disappears.

1.3.3 Chomsky

Chomsky is an intellectual better known as a political activist for general public(, but for applied linguists he is one of the most important linguists or cognitive scientists. His importance in linguistics and cognitive science in the 20th century. Personally, I'm more a non-Chomskyan than a Chomskyan, but it's hard for me to be an anti-Chomskyan, given the consistency of his framework.

Chomsky's review of B. F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior challenged the behaviorist approaches quite radically and contributed to the cognitive revolution.

Chomsky's generative grammar radically changed our way to see "language."

Chomsky's Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (1965) contains one of the most important statements in linguistics.

Linguistic theory is concerned primarily with an ideal speaker-listener, in a completely homogeneous speech-community, who knows its language perfectly and is unaffected by such grammatically irrelevant conditions as memory limitations, distractions, shifts of attention and interest, and errors (random or characteristic) in applying his knowledge of the language in actual performance. This seems to me to have been the position of the founders of modern general linguistics, and no cogent reason for modifying it has been offered. To study actual linguistic performance, we must consider the interaction of a variety of factors, of which the underlying competence of the speaker-hearer is only one. In this respect, study of language is no different from empirical investigation of other complex phenomena. (pp. 3-4)

Chomsky's research program is succinctly expressed in Knowledge of Language:

(i) What constitutes knowledge of language?

(ii) How is knowledge of language acquired?

(iii) How is knowledge of language put to use?

In the same book, Chomsky explains generative grammar as follows:

A generative grammar is not a set of statements about externalized objects constructed in some manner. Rather, it purports to depict exactly what one knows when one knows a language: that is, what has been learned, as supplemented by innate principles. UG is a characterization of these innate, biologically determined principles, which constitute one component of the human mind -- the language faculty. (p.24)

Later, in New Horizons in the Study of Language and Mind (2000), he defends his scientific approach from common-sense understanding:

The concept human being is part of common-sense understanding, with properties of individuation, psychic persistence, and so on, reflecting particular human concerns,attitudes, and perspectives. The same is true of language speaking. Apart from improbable accident, such concepts will not fall within explanatory theories of the naturalistic variety; not just now, but ever. This is not because of cultural or even intrinsically human limitations (though these surely exist), but because of their nature. We may have a good deal to say about people, so conceived; even low-level accounts that provide weak explanation. But such accounts cannot be integrated into the natural sciences alongside of explanatory models or hydrogen atoms, cells, or other entities that we posit in seeking a coherent and intelligible explanatory model of the naturalistic variety. There is no reason to suppose that there is a "natural kind 'human being'"; at least if natural kinds are the kinds of nature, the categories discovered in naturalistic inquiry.

The question is not whether the concepts of common-sense understanding can themselves be studied in some branch of naturalistic inquiry; perhaps they can. Rather, it is whether in studying the natural world (for that matter, in studying these concepts, as part of the natural world), we view it from the standpoint provided by such concepts. Surely not. There may be scientific studies of some aspects of what people are and do, but they will not use the common-sense notions human being or language speaking -- with their special role in human life and thought -- in formulating their explanatory principles. (p. 20)

Chomsky is also an important figure in language acquisition and philosophy of mind.

Chomsky is regarded as a nativist.

Nativist theories hold that children are born with an innate propensity for language acquisition, and that this ability makes the task of learning a first language easier than it would otherwise be. These "hidden assumptions" allow children to quickly figure out what is and isn't possible in the grammar of their native language, and allow them to master that grammar by the age of three. Nativists view language as a fundamental part of the human genome, as the trait that makes humans human, and its acquisition as a natural part of maturation, no different from dolphins learning to swim or songbirds learning to sing.

Chomsky originally theorized that children were born with a hard-wired language acquisition device (LAD) in their brains [1]. He later expanded this idea into that of Universal Grammar, a set of innate principles and adjustable parameters that are common to all human languages. According to Chomsky, the presence of Universal Grammar in the brains of children allow them to deduce the structure of their native languages from "mere exposure".

As a Wittgensteinian myself, I'm appealed to a "dissolution," not a "solution" of the mind-body problem.

Each attempt to answer the mind-body problem encounters substantial problems. Some philosophers argue that this is because there is an underlying conceptual confusion.] These philosophers, such as Ludwig Wittgenstein and his followers in the tradition of linguistic criticism, therefore reject the problem as illusory.[50] They argue that it is an error to ask how mental and biological states fit together. Rather it should simply be accepted that human experience can be described in different ways - for instance, in a mental and in a biological vocabulary. Illusory problems arise if one tries to describe the one in terms of the other's vocabulary or if the mental vocabulary is used in the wrong contexts. This is the case, for instance, if one searches for mental states of the brain. The brain is simply the wrong context for the use of mental vocabulary - the search for mental states of the brain is therefore a category error or a sort of fallacy of reasoning.

As a Wittgensteinian, Donald Davidson proposes the idea of anomalous monism. According to Wikipedia, "The theory is twofold and states that mental events are identical with physical events, and that the mental is anomalous, i.e. under their mental descriptions these mental events are not regulated by strict physical laws."
See also

Critical views against Chomsky's idea of language acquisition are expressed.

Noam Chomsky interviewed by Harry Kreisler (Activism, Anachism, and Power) is an interesting reading. The excerpt:

I've read interviews where you have tried to separate your approach in science to your approach of politics. How does your approach to the world as a scientist affect and influence the way you approach politics?

I think studying science is a good way to get into fields like history. The reason is, you learn what an argument means, you learn what evidence is, you learn what makes sense to postulate and when, what's going to be convincing. You internalize the modes of rational inquiry, which happen to be much more advanced in the sciences than anywhere else. On the other hand, applying relativity theory to history isn't going to get you anywhere. So it's a mode of thinking. I try, at least -- with what success; others have to judge -- to [apply] the mode of thinking that you would use in the sciences to human affairs.

As to other connections, there may be some, but they're pretty remote. If you think about the core notions of what I was calling anarchism, which, as I say, is deeply rooted in popular traditions everywhere (for good reasons), if you try to take it apart, it's based on a conception of what Bakunin once called "an instinct for freedom," that people have an instinctive drive for freedom from domination and control. I can't prove it, but I think that's probably true.

The core of the work that I've been interested in, in language, is also interested in a kind of human freedom: the cognitive capacity to create indefinitely, and its roots in our nature. Historically, people have drawn a connection between these. If you look at, say, the eighteenth-century Enlightenment and the Romantic periods, this connection was explicitly drawn. If you read Rousseau or Wilhelm von Humboldt and others, the connection between human freedom in the social and political realm and human freedom in the creative use of cognitive capacity, in particular language, they did try to establish a connection.

Now, if you ask, can this be connected at the level of science, the answer is no. It's a parallel intuition, which doesn't link up empirically, but maybe could someday if we knew enough.

As a traditional rationalist Chomsky disagrees with poststructuralism and postmodernism:

I have spent a lot of my life working on questions such as these, using the only methods I know of; those condemned here as "science", "rationality", "logic" and so on. I therefore read the papers with some hope that they would help me "transcend" these limitations, or perhaps suggest an entirely different course. I'm afraid I was disappointed. Admittedly, that may be my own limitation. Quite regularly, "my eyes glaze over" when I read polysyllabic discourse on the themes of poststructuralism and postmodernism; what I understand is largely truism or error, but that is only a fraction of the total word count. True, there are lots of other things I don't understand: the articles in the current issues of math and physics journals, for example. But there is a difference. In the latter case, I know how to get to understand them, and have done so, in cases of particular interest to me; and I also know that people in these fields can explain the contents to me at my level, so that I can gain what (partial) understanding I may want. In contrast, no one seems to be able to explain to me why the latest post-this-and-that is (for the most part) other than truism, error, or gibberish, and I do not know how to proceed. Chomsky, Noam (November 22, 2002). Chomsky on Democracy & Education. Routledge, 93. ISBN 0415926319.

Whether you ultimately choose to be a poststructuralist or postmodernist or whatever, you cannot disregard the "cognitive revolution" in which Chomsky played an important role.

When you have time, watch this 90 minute lecture "Language and the Mind Revisited - The Biolinguistic Turn" by Chomsky kindly offered by University of California Television.

1.3.4 Constative / Performative

John Langshaw Austin opposed the view of language predominant in his time that sentences are to state facts, and argured that sentences have not only the function of stating facts (constative) which is either true or false, but also the function of performative, doing an action in words, which is either felicitous/happy or infelicitous/unhappy.

He later developed a theory of speech act in which he distinguished locutionary act, illocutionary act and perlocutionary act.

According to Wikipedia, Judith Butler, the philosopher and feminist theorist developed a new, more Continental (specifically, Foucauldian) reading of the notion of performativity and described performativity as “…that reiterative power of discourse to produce the phenomena that it regulates and constrains.” (Butler qtd. In Identity: A reader, 2000)

The concept places emphasis on the manners in which identity is passed or brought to life through discourse. Performative acts are types of authoritative speech. This can only happen and be enforced through the law or norms of the society though. These statements, just by speaking them, carry out a certain action and exhibit a certain level of power. Examples of these types of statements are declarations of ownership, baptisms, inaugurations, and legal sentences. Something that is key to performativity is repetition. The statements are not singular in nature or use and must be used consistently in order to exert power.
Learn about Judith Butler.

Read my short Japanese essay on Judith Butler's Excitable Speech.

1.3.5 Literacy / Oracy

According to Wikipedia, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has drafted the following definition: "'Literacy' is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in the wider society."

Currently, however, the concept of literacy has been expanded to include, for example, multimedia lietracy, computer literacy, information literacy, technacy, arts literacy, critical lteracy and health literacy.

The central concept of literacy is concerned with written language, though. To understand that, it is important to see the differences between written language/writing (literacy) and spoken language/speech (oracy).

A standard view regarding the differences between oral and written communication is provided by Vincent Ferrato and Kathryn C. Plamer (Mount Holyoke College)

The Gutenberg Galaxy by McLuhan, is an important book in media studies. Wikipedia summarizes the book as follows:

McLuhan studies the emergence of what he calls Gutenberg Man, the subject produced by the change of consciousness wrought by the advent of the printed book. Apropos of his axiom, "The medium is the message," McLuhan argues that technologies are not simply inventions which people employ but are the means by which people are re-invented. The invention of movable type was the decisive moment in the change from a culture in which all the senses partook of a common interplay to a tyranny of the visual. He also argued that the development of the printing press led to the creation of nationalism, dualism, domination of rationalism, automatisation of scientific research, uniformation and standardisation of culture and alienation of individuals.

The book may also be regarded as a way of describing 4 epochs of history:

1. Oral tribe culture
2. Manuscript culture
3. Gutenberg galaxy
4. Electronic age

See other entries of Wikipedia.
Print culture
Manuscript culture
Oral culture

If you read Japanese, read my essay on media ecology and social differentiation theory.

Dyslexia is becoming an increasingly important term for language teachers.

Dyslexia affects reading and spelling among others.

* Spelling errors ― Because of difficulty learning letter-sound correspondences, individuals with dyslexia might tend to misspell words, or leave vowels out of words.

* Letter order - Dyslexics may also reverse the order of two letters especially when the final, incorrect, word looks similar to the intended word (e.g., spelling "dose" instead of "does").

* Highly phoneticized spelling - Dyslexics also commonly spell words inconsistently, but in a highly phonetic form such as writing "shud" for "should". Dyslexic individuals also typically have difficulty distinguishing among homophones such as "their" and "there".

* Vocabulary - Having a small written vocabulary, even if they have a large spoken vocabulary.

There are several, not mutually competing, theories of dyslexia.

The following is some of the explanations taken from Wikipedia.

Evolutionary hypotheis "posits that reading is an unnatural act, and carried out by humans for an exceedingly brief period in our evolutionary history."

"The phonological hypothesis postulates that dyslexics have a specific impairment in the representation, storage and/or retrieval of speech sounds."

Visual theory considers dyslexia "as a visual impairment giving rise to difficulties with the processing of letters and words on a page of text. This may take the form of unstable binocular fixations, poor vergence, or increased visual crowding."

Cerebellar theory claims "that the dyslexic's cerebellum is mildly dysfunctional and that a number of cognitive difficulties ensue. "

Magnocellular theory "is a unifying theory that attempts to integrate all the findings mentioned above. A generalization of the visual theory, the magnocellular theory postulates that the magnocellular dysfunction is not restricted to the visual pathways but is generalized to all modalities (visual and auditory as well as tactile)."

Wikipedia summarizes the issue of managing dyslexia as follows:

There is no cure for dyslexia, but dyslexic individuals can learn to read and write with appropriate education or treatment. There is wide research evidence indicating that specialized phonics instruction can help remediate the reading deficits. The fundamental aim is to make children aware of correspondences between graphemes and phonemes, and to relate these to reading and spelling. It has been found that training, that is also focused towards visual language and orthographic issues, yields longer-lasting gains than mere oral phonological training.

Logocentrism, a Western tradition, regards speech as superior to writing (believing writing only represents or archives speech). In this line of thought, speech represents "presence", "identity", and "fullness", whereas writing represents "absense", "difference" and "emptiness".

In his early work, Of Grammatology, Jacques Derrida gave a new look at speech and writing. Derrida opposes the traditional idea of speech over writing (the original over the derivative) and instead argues that all that can be claimed of writing - eg. that it is derivative and merely refers to other signs - is equally true of speech. Derrida also explicates spatial differing and temporal deferring in writing.
See the following two sections of The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
(Japanese browsers may need encoding adjustment to read these pages. Use a West European encoding system).

Some portion of "Of Grammatology" is available here:,M1

Information of Of Grammatology is given by

The orbituary article of Derrida on The Guardian is a very good introduction to his philosophy and life.

The majority of language teachers may be more interested in specific issues of reading education than in philosophical issues above. Check the terms like "Whole Language" and "Phonics".

A well-known distinction between CALP and BICS in applied linguistics is related to, but different from the difference between written language and spoken language.

Oracy, in opposition to literacy, may require skills in body language.

1.3.6 Freire

Please read my short summary: Paulo Freire (1970) Pedagogy of the Opressed

A general introduction to Paulo Freire is offered by Smith, M. K. (1997, 2002) 'Paulo Freire and informal education', the encyclopaedia of informal education. [ Last update: July 02, 2008].

According to this article, there are five aspects that have particular significance.
(1) His emphasis on dialogue rather than curriculum.

(2) His emphasis on praxis -- action that is informed and linked to certain values) -- that is meant to make a difference in the world.

(3) Giving a voice to the oppressed.

(4) Situating educational activity in the lived experience of participants.

(5) Christian metaphor ('Easter experience' of the teacher).

See also the critique in the article.

As always, Wikipedia gives a reasonable introduction.

According to Wikipedia, Freire is also "known for his attack on what he called the "banking" concept of education, in which the student was viewed as an empty account to be filled by the teacher."

The two important works by Freire are
Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Pedagogy of Hope

Other related keywords are
Critical pedagogy

1.3.7 Bourdieu

Pierre Bourdies (1930 - 2002) is a French sociologist who is known for concepts such as cultural, social and symbolic capital, and habitus. To borrow a summary in Wikipedia, "he asserts the primacy of social origin and culture capital by claiming that social capital and economic capital, though acquired cumulatively over time, depend upon it. Bourdieu claims that 'one has to take account of all the characteristics of social condition which are (statistically) associated from earliest childhood with possession of high or low income and which tend to shape tastes adjusted to these conditions'”. His theory has a particular significance to contemporary Japan where social class and stratification is (re)emerging.


Cultural capital

Symbolic capital

Social capital


Economicl capital

Social class

Social stratification


Search in WWW
Search in this blog

Keywords for Prof. Alastair Pennycook's Critical Applied Linguistics #3

1.2 Historical / political terms

1.2.1 Enlightenment

A dictionary definition of the Enlightenment is "a philosophic movement of the 18th century characterized by an untrammeled but frequently uncritical use of reason, a lively questioning of authority and traditional doctrines and values, a tendency toward individualism, and an emphasis on the idea of universal human progress and on the empirical method in science." (Merriam-Webster's Unabridged Dictionary).

Although, the Enlightenment is usually associated with the 18 century, as Paul Brians says in his homepage, the notion goes back to much further.

The 18th century is often described as the Age of Enlightenment, whereas the 17th is typically known as the Age of Reason.

Origins of the Enlightenment can be traced to thinkers like Descartes, Newton, Thomas Paine, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and David Hume

Following the revolution of knowledge, commenced by Rene' Descartes and Isaac Newton, and in a climate of increasing disaffection with repressive rule, Enlightenment thinkers believed that systematic thinking might be applied to all areas of human activity, and carried into the governmental sphere, in their explorations of the individual, society and the state.[5] Its leaders believed they could lead their states to progress after a long period of tradition, irrationality, superstition, and tyranny which they imputed to the Middle Ages. ...

The Age of Enlightenment receives modern attention as a central model for many movements in the modern period. Another important movement in 18th century philosophy, closely related to it, focused on belief and piety. Some of its proponents, such as George Berkeley, attempted to demonstrate rationally the existence of a supreme being. Piety and belief in this period were integral to the exploration of natural philosophy and ethics, in addition to political theories of the age. However, prominent Enlightenment philosophers such as Thomas Paine, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and David Hume questioned and attacked the existing institutions of both Church and State. The 19th century also saw a continued rise of empiricist ideas and their application to political economy, government and sciences such as physics, chemistry and biology.

But of course, we cannot afford to forget Kant, his work What is Enlightenment.

The Enlightenment established what we regard as "obvious" or even "sacred" such as freedom, democracy, reason, market mechanism, capitalism, scientific method

The Enlightenment is held to be the source of critical ideas, such as the centrality of freedom, democracy and reason as primary values of society. This view argues that the establishment of a contractual basis of rights would lead to the market mechanism and capitalism, the scientific method, religious tolerance, and the organization of states into self-governing republics through democratic means. In this view, the tendency of the philosophies in particular to apply rationality to every problem is considered the essential change. From this point on, thinkers and writers were held to be free to pursue the truth in whatever form, without the threat of sanction for violating established ideas. However, the Romanticism movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century had argued that the Enlightenment had elevated reason to the unwarranted status of a new authority.

Read Kant's short essay "What is Enlightenment?" provided by Wikisource. One of the most idealistic passages (not in an ironic sense) would be the following. Note how Kant used the terms "the public use of reason" and "the private use of reason."

For this enlightenment, however, nothing is required but freedom, and indeed the most harmless among all the things to which this term can properly be applied. It is the freedom to make public use of one's reason at every point. But I hear on all sides, "Do not argue!" The Officer says: "Do not argue but drill!" The tax collector: "Do not argue but pay!" The cleric: "Do not argue but believe!" Only one prince in the world says, "Argue as much as you will, and about what you will, but obey!" Everywhere there is restriction on freedom.

Which restriction is an obstacle to enlightenment, and which is not an obstacle but a promoter of it? I answer: The public use of one's reason must always be free, and it alone can bring about enlightenment among men. The private use of reason, on the other hand, may often be very narrowly restricted without particularly hindering the progress of enlightenment. By the public use of one's reason I understand the use which a person makes of it as a scholar before the reading public. Private use I call that which one may make of it in a particular civil post or office which is entrusted to him. ... Thus it would be ruinous for an officer in service to debate about the suitability or utility of a command given to him by his superior; he must obey. But the right to make remarks on errors in the military service and to lay them before the public for judgment cannot equitably be refused him as a scholar. The citizen cannot refuse to pay the taxes imposed on him; indeed, an impudent complaint at those levied on him can be punished as a scandal (as it could occasion general refractoriness). But the same person nevertheless does not act contrary to his duty as a citizen, when, as a scholar, he publicly expresses his thoughts on the inappropriateness or even the injustices of these levies, Similarly a clergyman is obligated to make his sermon to his pupils in catechism and his congregation conform to the symbol of the church which he serves, for he has been accepted on this condition. But as a scholar he has complete freedom, even the calling, to communicate to the public all his carefully tested and well meaning thoughts on that which is erroneous in the symbol and to make suggestions for the better organization of the religious body and church.

Read my short Japanese essay on the public use of reason:

1.2.2 Colonialism

In a narrower sense, colonialism started or began to be the way it is understood now in the sixteenth century, when "colonialism changed decisively because of technological developments in navigation that began to connect more remote parts of the world." (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy ). Colonialism is often used as a synonym for imperialism.

Colonialism was often justified by a "religious discourse that legitimized military conquest as a way to facilitate the conversion and salvation of indigenous peoples" or by the idea of a “civilizing mission.”(Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy )

For controversies on colonialism, see

The year of 1492 for The Spanish Empire is very symbolic for colonialism as MOTOHASHI Tetsuya says.

In that year The Spanish Empire saw the expulsion of Muslims and Jews from its land, the departure of Christopher Columbus, and the publication of a grammar book of the Castillian language by Antonio de Nebrija, all of which solidified the modernity of the Empire.

1.2.3 Emancipation

Emancipation is a general political term that means "various efforts to obtain political rights or equality."

In Pennycook's book, the term is sometimes associated with Habermas whose "theoretical system is devoted to revealing the possibility of reason, emancipation and rational-critical communication latent in modern institutions and in the human capacity to deliberate and pursue rational interests."

1.2.4 Liberalism

The term "liberalism" has variety of meanings, and it is not easy to define it both comprehensively and succinctly. The general definition that Wikipedia gives, however, seems a reasonable one.

Liberalism refers to a broad array of related ideas and theories of government that consider individual liberty to be the most important political goal. Modern liberalism has its roots in the Age of Enlightenment.

Broadly speaking, liberalism emphasizes individual rights and equality of opportunity. Different forms of liberalism may propose very different policies, but they are generally united by their support for a number of principles, including extensive freedom of thought and speech, limitations on the power of governments, the rule of law, the free exchange of ideas, a market or mixed economy, and a transparent system of government. All liberals ― as well as some adherents of other political ideologies ― support some variant of the form of government known as liberal democracy, with open and fair elections, where all citizens have equal rights by law.

Another way to define liberalism is the way Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy does in the conclusion part of the entry, which defines the concept negatively: what liberalism is NOT.

Radical democrats assert the overriding value of equality, communitarians maintain that the demands of belongingness trump freedom, and conservatives complain that the liberal devotion to freedom undermines traditional values and virtues and so social order itself. Intramural disputes aside, liberals join in rejecting these conceptions of political right.

Note the difference between liberalism and neo-liberalism. Neo-liberalism is a development (or distortion) of the traditional liberalism for the aspect of economic liberalism. As Elizabeth Martinez and Arnoldo Garcia, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights say, neo-liberalism is even admired by many conservatives in the US:

"Liberalism" can refer to political, economic, or even religious ideas. In the U.S. political liberalism has been a strategy to prevent social conflict. It is presented to poor and working people as progressive compared to conservative or Rightwing. Economic liberalism is different. Conservative politicians who say they hate "liberals" -- meaning the political type -- have no real problem with economic liberalism, including neoliberalism.

Elizabeth Martinez and Arnoldo Garcia define the features of neo-liberalism as follows:

The main points of neo-liberalism include:
THE RULE OF THE MARKET. Liberating "free" enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government (the state) no matter how much social damage this causes. Greater openness to international trade and investment, as in NAFTA. Reduce wages by de-unionizing workers and eliminating workers' rights that had been won over many years of struggle. No more price controls. All in all, total freedom of movement for capital, goods and services. To convince us this is good for us, they say "an unregulated market is the best way to increase economic growth, which will ultimately benefit everyone." It's like Reagan's "supply-side" and "trickle-down" economics -- but somehow the wealth didn't trickle down very much.
CUTTING PUBLIC EXPENDITURE FOR SOCIAL SERVICES like education and health care. REDUCING THE SAFETY-NET FOR THE POOR, and even maintenance of roads, bridges, water supply -- again in the name of reducing government's role. Of course, they don't oppose government subsidies and tax benefits for business.
DEREGULATION. Reduce government regulation of everything that could diminish profits, including protecting the environment and safety on the job.
PRIVATIZATION. Sell state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors. This includes banks, key industries, railroads, toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water. Although usually done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed, privatization has mainly had the effect of concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs.
ELIMINATING THE CONCEPT OF "THE PUBLIC GOOD" or "COMMUNITY" and replacing it with "individual responsibility." Pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves -- then blaming them, if they fail, as "lazy."

1.2.5 Dialectic

To borrow Merriam-Webster Dictionary's definitions, "dialectic" in a general sense means "any systematic reasoning, exposition, or argument that juxtaposes opposed or contradictory ideas and usually seeks to resolve their conflict b: an intellectual exchange of ideas." However, the term often has philosophical associations, either with Socrates ("discussion and reasoning by dialogue as a method of intellectual investigation; specifically : the Socratic techniques of exposing false beliefs and eliciting truth" or Hegel "a: the Hegelian process of change in which a concept or its realization passes over into and is preserved and fulfilled by its opposite; also : the critical investigation of this process b (1)usually plural but singular or plural in construction : development through the stages of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis in accordance with the laws of dialectical materialism".

The German word "Aufhebung" is famous for its use by Hegel. See the entry of Wikipedia ("sublation" as the English translation."

For a detailed explanation, see Wikipedia.

For applied linguists, it is interesting to note Prof. Lantolf, a socio-cultural researcher emhasises this notion.

This is a long-winded way of getting to my answer -- the single most important notion to be discovered in Vygotsky is his dialectical perspective on human consciousness. Until this notion emerges in your thinking, you are left with a collection of concepts (the ZPD, private speech, mediation, activity, sense, meaning, etc.). (p. 129)

To function dialectically means to be able to hold in one cognitive space notions that on the surface appear to be contrary (learning / development, implicit / explicit knowledge, input / output, etc.) and to come to understand how these seeming contraries fit together as necessary components of the object of study.

Dialogue and context are events and spaces. What matters is the quality of what happens in these events and spaces. A dialogue for instance can be antagonistic rather than dialectical. A dialogue can also be cooperative and even collaborative without being dialectical. (p. 129)

SLA is still functioning under a set of dichotomies that I think have prevented us from fully understanding the nature of language learning and teaching. These include competence / performance, learning / acquisition, input / output, leaning / use, individual / social, explicit / implicit knowledge, teaching / assessment, teacher-centered / learner-centered pedagogy, et cetera. At the moment I am carrying out what is likely to be an extended project on what SLA would look like from a dialectical rather than a dichotic perspective. (p. 129)

Deryn P. Verity Associate Editor, JALT Journal
Exploring the Dialectic: An Interview with James P. Lantolf
JALT Journal Volume 29, No.1, May 2007, pp. 123-130.

1.2.6 Marxism

As Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says, "it is hard to think of many who have had as much influence in the creation of the modern world."

Wikipedia explains typical features of Marxism as follows:

While there are many theoretical and practical differences among the various forms of Marxism, most forms of Marxism share:

* a belief that capitalism is based on the exploitation of workers by the owners of capital

* a belief that people's consciousness of the conditions of their lives reflects material conditions and relations

* an understanding of class in terms of differing relations of production, and as a particular position within such relations

* an understanding of material conditions and social relations as historically malleable

* a view of history according to which class struggle, the evolving conflict between classes with opposing interests, structures each historical period and drives historical change

Wikipedia summarizes Das Kapitalquite succinctly:

The central driving force of capitalism, according to Marx, was in the exploitation and alienation of labour. The ultimate source of the new profits and value-added was that employers paid workers the market value of their labour-capacity, but the value of the commodities workers produced exceeded that market value. Employers were entitled to appropriate the new output value because of their ownership of the productive capital assets. By producing output as capital for the employers, the workers constantly reproduced the condition of capitalism by their labour.

Perhaps it is more important for us, applied linguists and language teachers, to realize that without a proper understanding of Marx and Marxism, it is very difficult to understand the works of scholars that include (to mention just a too few):

Mikhail Bakhtin

Lev Vygotsky

Paulo Freire

Hannah Arendt

Immanuel Wallerstein

Antonio Negri

James Lantolf

We are tempted to categorize thinkers like the above as "Marxist philosophers," but the diversity of Marx's influence prevents an easy categorization.

The phrase "Marxist philosophy" itself does not indicate a strictly defined sub-field of philosophy, because the diverse influence of Marxist theory has extended into fields as diverse as aesthetics, ethics, ontology, epistemology, and philosophy of science, as well as its obvious influence on political philosophy and the philosophy of history. The key characteristics of Marxism in philosophy are its materialism and its commitment to political practice as the end goal of all thought.

The following is a small portion of famous words of Marx, which is now almost cliches.

* The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it."Theses on Feuerbach" (1845), Thesis 11

* Hegel remarks somewhere that history tends to repeat itself. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. Alternative translation: "The first time as a tragedy, the second time as a comedy." The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852)

The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. WORKING MEN OF THE WORLD, UNITE! Das Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei (1848), by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

* The first premise of all human history is, of course, the existence of living human individuals. Thus the first fact to be established is the physical organisation of these individuals and their consequent relation to the rest of nature. Volume I; Part 1; "Feuerbach. Opposition of the Materialist and Idealist Outlook"; Section A, "Idealism and Materialism" Die deutsche Ideologie (1845/46), by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

For Marxism in general, see the website below for further study:

Here's my article on Marx's dialectics according to David Harvey.

Please read my summary of Moishe Postone (1993) Time, Labor, and Social Domination: A reinterpretation of Marx's critical theory (Cambridge University Press)

For a quick introduction to Das Kapital, read my Japanese page.

1.2.7 Humanism

Humanism seem an uncontroversial term when it is defined as "a doctrine, set of attitudes, or way of life centered upon human interests or values: as a: a philosophy that rejects supernaturalism, regards man as a natural object, and asserts the essential dignity and worth of man and his capacity to achieve self-realization through the use of reason and scientific method" (Merriam-Webster Dictionary) or when you read Wikipedia.

However, the term does not look so uncontroversial when we consider "antihumanism." My personal opinion is that the versions of antihumanism that have been advocated by structuralists, Michel Foucault, Jack Derrida or Niklas Luhmann deserve careful attentions.

Introduction to Foucault:

See also Open Culture.

1.2.8 Critical Theory

As Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says, "Critical Theory has a narrow and a broad meaning in philosophy and in the history of the social sciences.

“Critical Theory” in the narrow sense designates several generations of German philosophers and social theorists in the Western European Marxist tradition known as the Frankfurt School. According to these theorists, a “critical” theory may be distinguished from a “traditional” theory according to a specific practical purpose: a theory is critical to the extent that it seeks human emancipation, “to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them” (Horkheimer 1982, 244). Because such theories aim to explain and transform all the circumstances that enslave human beings, many “critical theories” in the broader sense have been developed. They have emerged in connection with the many social movements that identify varied dimensions of the domination of human beings in modern societies. In both the broad and the narrow senses, however, a critical theory provides the descriptive and normative bases for social inquiry aimed at decreasing domination and increasing freedom in all their forms.

The term is also used in lierary criticism.

The explanation of Critical Theory given by Wikipedia is to contrast the notion in the two areas: social theory and literary criticism.

Critical Theory as a social thoery has its roots in Kant and Marx:

This version of "critical" theory derives from Kant's (18th-Century) and Marx's (19th Century) use of the term "critique", as in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason and Marx's concept that his work Das Kapital (Capital) forms a "critique of political economy". For Kant's transcendental idealism, "critique" means examining and establishing the limits of the validity of a faculty, type, or body of knowledge, especially through accounting for the limitations imposed by the fundamental, irreducible concepts in use in that knowledge system. Early on, Kant's notion associated critique with the disestablishment of false, unprovable, or dogmatic philosophical, social, and political beliefs, because Kant's critique of reason involved the critique of dogmatic theological and metaphysical ideas and was intertwined with the enhancement of ethical autonomy and the Enlightenment critique of superstition and irrational authority. Marx explicitly developed this notion into the critique of ideology and linked it with the practice of social revolution, as in the famous 11th of his "Theses on Feuerbach," "Philosophers have only interpreted the world in certain ways; the point is to change it".

A broader understanding of Critical Theory as a social theory is as follows:

The term critical theory, in the sociological or philosophical and non-literary sense, now loosely groups all sorts of work, including that of the Frankfurt School, Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu, disability studies and feminist theory, that has in common the critique of domination, an emancipatory interest, and the fusion of social/cultural analysis, explanation, and interpretation with social/cultural critique.

According to Habermas, Critical Theory was redifined in the following manner, expanding its scope to include various branches of social theories:

In the late 1960s Ju"rgen Habermas of the Frankfurt School, redefined critical theory in a way that freed it from a direct tie to Marxism or the prior work of the Frankfurt School. In Habermas's epistemology, critical knowledge was conceptualized as knowledge that enabled human beings to emancipate themselves from forms of domination through self-reflection and took psychoanalysis as the paradigm of critical knowledge. This expanded considerably the scope of what counted as critical theory within the social sciences, which would include such approaches as world systems theory, feminist theory, postcolonial theory, critical race theory, performance studies, transversal poetics, queer theory, social ecology, the theory of communicative action (Ju"rgen Habermas), structuration theory, psychoanalysis and neo-Marxian theory.

Critical theory in literary criticism does not necessarily have social and political orientations. The relationship between these two versions are explained in Wikipedia as follows:

To use an epistemological distinction introduced by Ju"rgen Habermas in 1968 in his Erkenntnis und Interesse (Knowledge and Human Interests), critical theory in literary studies is ultimately a form of hermeneutics, i.e. knowledge via interpretation to understand the meaning of human texts and symbolic expressions, while critical social theory is, in contrast, a form of self-reflective knowledge involving both understanding and theoretical explanation to reduce entrapment in systems of domination or dependence, obeying the emancipatory interest in expanding the scope of autonomy and reducing the scope of domination. From this perspective, much literary critical theory, since it is focused on interpretation and explanation rather than on social transformation, would be regarded as positivistic or traditional rather than critical theory in the Kantian or Marxian sense. Critical theory in literature and the humanities in general does not necessarily involve a normative dimension, whereas critical social theory does, either through criticizing society from some general theory of values, norms, or oughts, or through criticizing it in terms of its own espoused values.

It is important to notice that the two versions of Critical Theory share interests in language communication.

From the 1960s and 1970s onward, language, symbolism, text, and meaning became foundational to theory in the humanities and social sciences, through the short-term and long-term influences of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Ferdinand de Saussure, George Herbert Mead, Noam Chomsky, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida and other thinkers in the traditions of linguistic and analytic philosophy, structural linguistics, symbolic interactionism, hermeneutics, semiology, linguistically oriented psychoanalysis (Jacques Lacan, Alfred Lorenzer), and deconstruction. When, in the 1970s and 1980s, Ju"rgen Habermas also redefined critical social theory as a theory of communication, i.e. communicative competence and communicative rationality on the one hand, distorted communication on the other, the two versions of critical theory began to overlap or intertwine to a much greater degree than before.

1.2.9 Frankfurt School

A brief definition of Frankfurt School can be found in the Introduction to the Frankfurt School:

The scholars that made up the Frankfurt school were all directly, or indirectly associated with a place called the Institute of Social Research. The nickname of the thinkers, originates in the location of the institute, Frankfurt Germany. The names of the men who made significant contributions to this school of thought are, Theodor W. Adorno (philosopher, sociologist and musicologist), Walter Benjamin (essayist and literary critic), Herbert Marcuse (philosopher), Max Horkheimer (philosopher, sociologist), and later, Jurgen Habermas.

For a more detailed explanation, see Wikipedia

Some features of Adorno's theory are explained in Wikipedia as follows:

Adorno, along with the other major Frankfurt School theorists Max Horkheimer and Herbert Marcuse, argued that advanced capitalism had managed to contain or liquidate the forces that would bring about its collapse and that the revolutionary moment, when it would have been possible to transform it into socialism, had passed. As he put it at the beginning of his Negative Dialectics (1966), philosophy is still necessary because the time to realise it was missed. Adorno argued that capitalism had become more entrenched through its attack on the objective basis of revolutionary consciousness and through liquidation of the individualism that had been the basis of critical consciousness.

Adorno's work in the years before his death was shaped by the idea of "negative dialectics", set out especially in his book of that title. A key notion in the work of the Frankfurt School since Dialectic of Enlightenment had been the idea of thought becoming an instrument of domination that subsumes all objects under the control of the (dominant) subject, especially through the notion of identity, i.e. of identifying as real in nature and society only that which harmonized or fit with dominant concepts, and regarding as unreal or non-existent everything that did not. Adorno's "negative dialectics" was an attempt to articulate a non-dominating thought that would recognize its limitations and accept the non-identity and reality of that which could not be subsumed under the subject's concepts.

1.2.10 Habermas

Habermas, as Stanford Encyclopedia suggests, is a philosophical hero to many.

See YouTube if you're interested

But Pennycook seems to have some reservation when he mentions Habermas rather frequently in his book. I also share the reservation because I am influenced by Luhmann.

I hope the book "Theorie der Gesellschaft oder Sozialtechnologie: Beitr. z. Habermas-Luhmann-Diskussion" be paid more attention. (A Japanese translation was published, but now out of print.)

For an introduction of Habermas in the context of Frankfurt School, see

"Habermas links" is a very useful site.

If you believe in "post-modernity," it must be so easy to deride Habermas for his "project of modernity." Yet, efforts are needed whether the concept of modernity is really "obsolete" and of no use as a norm.

I highly recommend a short paper "The Challenge of Modernity: Habermas and Critical Theory" by Prof. Jason L. Powell, School of Community, Health Sciences and Social Care, University of Salford. The paper gives a very clear synopsis of what Habermas is about and is not. Here are its first two paragraphs.

The theoretical-philosophical work of Jurgen Habermas occupies a significant position in western social and political discourse. Roderick (1986) claims Habermas represents the most important attempt at re-constructing critical theory out of the shadows of Marx. Coupled with this, Habermas uses Kant and Hegel to revitalise Marxism by developing an emancipatory theory of society. In addition, drawing on the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory (Adorno, Horkheimer, Benjamin and Marcuse), Habermas elaborates a far-reaching critique of methods of domination in modern society. Despite this critique, Habermas is more affirmative and keen towards the classical philosophical tradition, particularly the ‘enlightenment’. For the past two decades in particular, Habermas has written on the enlightenment project in a reflexive manner, facing up to enlightenment thought and legacy via a systematic critical analysis of the present: its historiography, pathologies, and future prospects. At the same time, there has been a huge escalation of neo-Nietzschean philosophers under the labels of ‘postmodernist’ and ‘post-structuralist’ who have castigated the enlightenment to the dustbin of the history of ideas, claiming that its metanarratives of ‘progress’ and ‘freedom’ have failed and that western rationality is exhausted.

Habermas (1992) agrees that neo-Nietzschean critiques of enlightenment fail because they lose a sense of direction. In regard to Foucault (1977), Habermas (1992) accuses him of ‘cryptonormativity’ and ‘irrationality’: the former applies because Foucault cannot explain the standards Habermas thinks must be pre-supposed in any condemnation of the present; the latter because of Nietzsche’s affirmation of power over against reason. The somewhat legendary albeit brief dispute between Habermas and Foucault turns on whether Foucault is understood to be criticising modernity from a pre-modern or postmodern view. Habermas is willing to defend his own reconstruction of the modern enlightenment tradition, against those critics of modernity he considers to be anti-modern because of the reactionary implications of their views.

The following is some excerpts from HABERMAS’S THEORY OF COMMUNICATIVE ACTION AND THE THEORY OF SOCIAL CAPITAL by Prof. Roger Bolton, Department of Economics and Center for Environmental Studies, Williams College, concerning four models of social actions:

Habermas distinguishes four kinds of action by individuals in society (TCA1, pp.85-86):
--teleological action, with strategic action as a subset;
--normatively regulated action;
--dramaturgical action;
--communicative action.

All four are actually "models," he says, a word he uses again and again.

Teleological Action. The actor makes a "decision among alternative courses of action, with a view to the realization of an end, guided by maxims, and based on an interpretation of the situation" (TCA1, p. 85). In the subset called strategic action the actor anticipates what other actors directed by goals will do, and a model that lies behind decision theory and game theory (ibid.). Certainly it seems to be what we might call the meat and potatoes of standard economics. However, while here strategic action is a subset of teleological action, later in the book Habermas uses "strategic" as more or less synonymous with teleological.

Normatively Regulated Action. Actors in a social group pursue common values or norms of the group, "fulfilling a generalized expectation of behavior" (ibid.;“expectation” is in the sense of entitlement). This model of action underlies role theory in sociology (ibid.). ...

Dramaturgical Action. Sometimes an actor is neither solitary nor a member of a social group, but is interacting with people who are "constituting a public for one another, before whom they present themselves. The actor evokes in his public a certain image, an impression of himself …." (TCA1, p. 86). He has privileged access to his own intentions, desires, etc. but can monitor or regulate public access to them. ...

Communicative Action. Here two or more actors establish a relationship and“seek to reach an understanding about the action situation and their plans of action in order to coordinate their actions by way of agreement. The central concept of interpretation refers in the first instance to negotiating definitions of the situation which admit of consensus. …" (ibid.). Habermas credits George Herbert Mead (1934) and Harold Garfinkel (1967) for helping give paradigmatic significance to communicative action. ...
pp. 6-8

See also what Wikipedia says about this book.

Read the entry of "public sphere" (German term "Öffentlichkeit") in Wikipedia. Habarmas's The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere made a great contribution to conceptualize the notion of the public sphere.

Here is the first paragraph:

The public sphere is an area in social life where people can get together and freely discuss and identify societal problems, and through that discussion influence political action. It is "a discursive space in which individuals and groups congregate to discuss matters of mutual interest and, where possible, to reach a common judgment." The public sphere can be seen as "a theater in modern societies in which political participation is enacted through the medium of talk" and "a realm of social life in which public opinion can be formed".

Note also that Habermas was influenced by Hannah Arendt for the notion.
My brief introduction to Arendt (The Human Condition, in particular) is here.

I once wrote a paper which analyzed the practice of a renowed Japanese English teacher throgh the framework of Arendt's philosophy.
The English version of the paper is here.

The Japanese version is here.

If you read Japanese and want to be entertained by PowerPoint slides to know more about Arendt, downloard my slides here.

If you read Japanese, read my short essay on Habermas's Technology and Science as Ideology, another important work by Habermas.

1.2.11 Orientalism

Edward Said used the term "Orientalism" to refer to the Western view of the East, by which the westerners see or justifiy themselves in opposition to the East. Said argues the divide between the East and the West was created rather than discovered.

According to Wikipedia, Said summarized his work in these terms:

"My contention is that Orientalism is fundamentally a political doctrine willed over the Orient because the Orient was weaker than the West, which elided the Orient’s difference with its weakness. . . . As a cultural apparatus Orientalism is all aggression, activity, judgment, will-to-truth, and knowledge" (Orientalism, p. 204).

Said also wrote:

"My whole point about this system is not that it is a misrepresentation of some Oriental essence ― in which I do not for a moment believe ― but that it operates as representations usually do, for a purpose, according to a tendency, in a specific historical, intellectual, and even economic setting" (p. 273).

Or the main argument can be summarized as follows as Wikipedia did:

Said contended that Europe had dominated Asia politically so completely for so long that even the most outwardly objective Western texts on the East were permeated with a bias that even most Western scholars could not recognise. His contention was not only that the West has conquered the East politically but also that Western scholars have appropriated the exploration and interpretation of the Orient’s languages, history and culture for themselves. They have written Asia’s past and constructed its modern identities from a perspective that takes Europe as the norm, from which the "exotic", "inscrutable" Orient deviates.

1.2.12 Feminism

Feminism is "the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men." ( Unabridged (v 1.1)). It has varieties of versions.

The history of feminism has three "waves."

The history of feminism is the history of feminist movements and their efforts to overturn injustices of gender inequality. Feminist scholars have divided feminism's history into three "waves".[1][2] Each is described as dealing with different aspects of the same feminist issues. The first wave refers to the feminism movement of the 19th through early 20th centuries, which dealt mainly with the Suffrage movement. The second wave (1960s-1980s) dealt with the inequality of laws, as well as cultural inequalities. The Third wave of Feminism (1990s-current), is seen as both a continuation and a response to the perceived failures of the Second-wave.

As a representative feminist of the second-wave feminist, we may take Betty Friedan. Her book, The Feminine Mystique “ignited the contemporary women's movement in 1963 and as a result permanently transformed the social fabric of the United States and countries around the world” and “is widely regarded as one of the most influential nonfiction books of the 20th century,”according to the New York Times obituary. Wikipedia summarizes the theme of the book as follows: Friedan hypothesized that women are victims of a false belief system that requires them to find identity and meaning in their lives through their husbands and children. Such a system causes women to completely lose their identity in that of their family.

As is true with any influential books, it received criticism, one of which claimed that she solely focused on the plight of the middle-class white female, and did not gave ample attention to the differing situations encountered by women in less stable economical situations, or women of differing race.

Or in the Japanese context, Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex is probably better known. Wikipedia uses Judith Butler's summary to address the importance of the book.

Judith Butler says that de Beauvoir's formulation that "One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman", distinguishes the terms 'sex' and 'gender'. Butler says that the book suggests that 'gender' is an aspect of identity which is "gradually acquired". Butler sees The Second Sex as potentially providing a radical understanding of gender.

The third-wave feminism can be summarized as follows:

Third-wave feminism seeks to challenge or avoid what it deems the second wave's "essentialist" definitions of femininity, which often assumed a universal female identity and over-emphasized experiences of upper middle class white women. A post-structuralist interpretation of gender and sexuality is central to third wave ideology. There is a heightened emphasis on the discursive power and fundamental ambiguity inherent in gender terms and categories. Third-wave theory usually encompasses queer theory, transgender politics and a rejection of the gender binary, anti-racism and women-of-color consciousness, womanism, post-colonial theory, critical theory, transnationalism, ecofeminism, libertarian feminism, and new feminist theory. Also considered part of the third wave is sex-positivity, a celebration of sexuality as a positive aspect of life, with broader definitions of what sex means and what oppression and empowerment may mean in the context of sex. For example, many third-wave feminists have reconsidered oppositions to pornography and sex work of the second wave and challenge existing beliefs that participants in pornography and sex work can not be empowered.

For "queer theory", have a quick look at Wikipedia:

1.2.13 Linguistic imperialism

For applied linguists, this term is associated with books like Linguistic Imperialism by Robert Phillipson
Resisting Linguistic Imperialism in English Teaching by Suresh Canagarajah and A. Suresh Canagrajah

Robert Phillipson's home page is here:
(There are some downloadable materials.)

Suresh Canagarajah' home page is here:
(The Blog is pretty interesting!)

See also Adrian Holliday's homepage

For a general introduction, see Wikipedia

A central theme of Phillipson's theory is the complex hegemonic processes which, he asserts, continue to sustain the pre-eminence of English in the world today. His book analyzes the British Council's use of rhetoric to promote English, and discusses key tenets of English applied linguistics and English-language-teaching methodology. These tenets hold that:

*English is best taught monolingually ("the monolingual fallacy");
*the ideal teacher is a native speaker ("the native-speaker fallacy");
*the earlier English is taught, the better the results ("the early-start fallacy");
*the more English is taught, the better the results ("the maximum-exposure fallacy");
*if other languages are used much, standards of English will drop ("the subtractive fallacy").

For more references concerning the sociopolitics of English Language Teaching, see

Articles on this topic is available on the web
Theaching English as a Missionary Language (TEML)
Its abstract is this:

Surveying the massive current project of teaching english as a missionary language (TEML), this article raises concerns about the scale and cultural politics of this work, as well as issues of trust and disclosure, and the implicit support it provides for furhtering the global spread of English. We discuss various responses to this work, from the Christian evangelical and Christian service positions, to the liberal agnostic, secular humanistic and critical pedagogica. Unless we engage in debate over the various moral projects tied up with ELT, we argue, educators will be unable to establish the grounds for our choices between missiononary, liberal or critical projects.

Personally, I see the spread of English as "Imperial" but not as "imperialistic." The latter term "imperialistic" is an adjective of "imperialism, " mostly a 19th century notion. The current globalization, according to "Empire" by Heart and Negri, cannot and should not be explained by this old notion, but by a new concept of "Empire." According to them "Empire is emerging today as the center that supports the globalization of productive networks and casts its widely inclusive net to try to envelop all power relations within its world order and yet at the same time it deploys a powerful police function against the new barbarians and the rebellious slaves who threaten its order. (20)"

Excerpts of the book are available at

You can of course purchase the book.

However, the entire text is available on the web (be careful, this is a huge PDF file).

The sequence of the book, Multitude is also a very interesting book.

I wrote a very short essay in this blog entitled "ESL Empire of, by and for Multitude." See if you're interested

I'm also interested the aspect of commodification of ELT. Here's my short English report:

For a critical view on Phillipson's new book, Linguistic Imperialism Continued, please read the Japanese article below.

1.2.14 Critical Discourse Analysis

A definition by Prof. Allan Luke is clear:

Critical discourse analysis is a contemporary approach to the study of language and discourses in social institutions. Drawing on poststructuralist discourse theory and critical linguistics, it focuses on how social relations, identity, knowledge and power are constructed through written and spoken texts in communities, schools and classrooms.

Prof. Luke's introduction to Theory and Practice in Critical Discourse Analysis has sections as follows and it is worth reading:

1. Language and Discourse in Contemporary Education
2. Poststructuralist and Postmodern Discourse Theory
3. Educational Applications of Discourse Analysis
4. Critical Discourse Analysis
5. Conclusion
Suggested Further Reading

The following is a portion of its conclusion:

Discourses constitute what Wittgenstein called "forms of life", ubiquitous ways of knowing, valuing and experiencing the world. They can be used for the assertion of power and knowledge and they can be used for purposes of resistance and critique. They are used in everyday local texts for building productive power and knowledge and for purposes of regulation and normalisation, for the development of new knowledge and power relations, and for hegemony. If we accept the postructuralist view of primacy of discourse, than critical discourse analysis is necessary for describing and interpreting, analysing and critiquing social life.

Critical discourse analysis provides an interdisciplinary analytic approach and a flexible metalanguage for the sociological analysis of texts and discourses. The emergence of critical discourse analysis has at least three interrelated implications for educational studies and the sociology of education. First, it marks out a retheorisation of educational practice. Educational theory and practice historically has relied on foundational metaphors of the unfolding child, the industrial machine, the individual rationalist mind, and, most recently, the digital computer. The metaphor offered by poststructuralism is that of the text as an interpretable phenomena that is constitutive of all educational and intellectual endeavour.

Second, critical discourse analysis marks out a new set of methodological techniques and possibilities. The assumption shared by many quantitative and qualitative approaches to sociological research has been that observable realities, truths and social facts have an essential existence prior to discourse. Critical discourse analysis begins from a recognition of language and discourse as non-transparent, opaque ways of studying and representing the world. It recasts all data and research artefacts as discourse. It raises and addresses the question of self-reflexivity by making researchers' own uses of discourse a key problematic in design and inquiry.

Third, critical discourse analysis marks out the grounds for rethinking pedagogical practices and outcomes as discourse. The assumption underlying many postwar curriculum development and instructional models is that the purpose of education is to produce behaviours, skills and competences required for industrial-era workplaces and civic spheres. Critical discourse analysis suggests that mastery of discourse is the principle educational process and outcome, and that this mastery can be normatively reshaped to introduce teachers and students to critical analyses of text-based, postmodern cultures and economies.

The Website of Teun A. van Dijk provides much of his research activities in critical discourse studies in downloadable styles. This is the way an academic website should be!

See also Prof. Norman Fairclough's website:

Wikipedia, as always, has an entry

Wikipedia says about the methodology of CDA as follows:

Although CDA is sometimes mistaken to represent a 'method' of discourse analysis, it is generally agreed upon that any explicit method in discourse studies, the humanities and social sciences may be used in CDA research, as long as it is able to adequately and relevantly produce insights into the way discourse reproduces (or resists) social and political inequality, power abuse or domination. That is, CDA does not limit its analysis to specific structures of text or talk, but systematically relates these to structures of the sociopolitical context.

An introduction by Prof. Brett Dellinger is also available

Check also the Wikipedia entry of Discourse analysis: