The workshop’s point of departure is the observation that "Critical Theory," as an area of thought and practice, is in a continuous philosophical, ethical and political crisis. The critical theories created a rich and sophisticated toolbox for analyzing social power relations, and the critical discourse grew by linking the critical dimension, whose main thrust is to question ideologies, with the promotion of goals that have political and ethical value, such as liberty and equality. It seems, however, that many of the critical discourses must rethink the conceptual toolbox they rely on and their attitude toward it.
The critical approaches that deal with the critique of power—that is, analyzing and deciphering social power relations—focused their critique on the fundamental values of critical theory, such as emancipation, equality, and criticism. This critique begs the question whether these concepts can still serve as the basis for an ethical-political horizon directed at political action, or generate collective political subjects.
At the same time, the critical theory toolbox has been adopted by conservative and rightwing groups that give these tools a meaning that is different and sometimes contrary to what the critical discourse intended. These groups argue that they are excluded and discriminated against and that they are subject to symbolic violence. This too brings us back to the question of the relation between the critique of power and fundamental values that this critique is trying to promote.