Photo of Darrow Schecter

Darrow Schecter
Professor of Critical Theory and Modern European History (History)
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Research

Darrrow Schecter began his academic research career with a study of Antonio Gramsci's factory council writings.  Gramsci and the Theory of Industrial Democracy (1991) examines the possibilities and difficulties involved in democratising the workplace as part of the project to extend the principles of formal democracy to other spheres of social life.  The book was followed by a co-authored work on Gramsci (Gramsci and the Italian State, with Professor Richard Bellamy of UCL, in 1993, translated in Japanese in 2012), which in turn was followed by broader research on diverse currents that one might roughly group together under the rubric of libertarian socialism.  Radical Theories: Paths beyond Marxism and Social Democracy (1994) thus explores the history of an array of movements and ideas that regard socialism first and foremost as a question of de-centralised self-government and not, in the first instance, as a matter of democratic centralism or centralised state planning of the economy and other social systems that become functionally differentiated in the course of the evolution of modern societies.  Amongst other aims, the book attempts to draw attention to the ongoing relevance of the ideas of G.D.H. Cole.

Sovereign States or Political Communities? Civil Society and Contemporary Politics (2000) provides the broad outlines of the main political institutions that could best underpin an economy based on libertarian socialist self-government.  It is shown that taken together, the public sphere, community, and diverse practices of recognition in civil society could offer the de-centred bases of a far more legitimate state than centralised nation-states can ever really be in practice.  It is made clear why such states, typically organised according to the dogmas of sovereign unity, are unsuited to the crucial tasks of realising institutional pluralism and enhancing the quality of individual autonomy.  

The theme of legitimacy is analysed with more stringency and greater detail in Beyond Hegemony: Toward a New Philosophy of Political Legitimacy (2005).  That study is focused on the twin project of reconciling collective humanity with external nature in libertarian socialism, whilst also reconciling individual humanity with internal, human nature through aesthetic experience.  Whilst the first form of reconciliation is concerned with universal human interests, and the second is concerned with unique individual values, both are related to different aspects of the knowledge process.  The argument proceeds by investigating the implications of the phenomenon that humanity is part of nature but never reducible to nature, such that humanity lives in two dimensions at the same time.  Beyond Hegemony shows why legitimate politics, beyond merely legally-sanctioned politics, cannot dispense with a non-instrumental mediation of collective human interests and individual values.  The book touches on the continuing relevance of the ideas of G.D.H. Cole for a reconciliation between collective humanity and external nature.  My thoughts on this subject prompted an updating and more detailed elaboration of some of the issues and questions raised in Radical theories.

The History of the Left from Marx to the Present: Theoretical Perspectives (2007), translated into Spanish (2014) and Turkish (2015) enriches the chief concerns of Radical Theories with a series of parallel reflections on (1) civil society (2) legitimacy, (3) the critique of everyday life, (4) the critique of instrumental reason, and (5) critical theory.  The two books that follow The History of the Left take up and develop the main aspects of 4-5.

The Critique of Instrumental Reason from Weber to Habermas (2010, translated into German in 2013) and Critical Theory in the Twenty-First Century (2013, currently being translated into German) are related projects.  The 2010 book demonstrates that the critique of instrumental reason can best be updated by transforming the original critique, as it appears in the writings of the first generation of Frankfurt School thinkers, into a twin critique of instrumental legitimacy and linear, accelerated time.  A rigorous updating of the critique of instrumental reason in this sense must lead to an updating of critical theory more generally; this is attempted in the 2013 book.

I am now working on Critical Theory and Sociological Theory: Re-Thinking the Bases of Political Integration in Late Modernity, as an attempt to elaborate the findings of the 2010 and 2013 books, and as part of my work as co-editor of the Manchester UP Critical Theory and Contemporary Society series.  My endeavours as editor, author and teacher thus complement each other.  I am currently seeking manuscripts on critical theory and feminism, critical theory and environmental politics, critical theory and globalisation, critical theory and photography, critical theory and philosophy, critical theory and history, and related topics.  I welcome research proposals on these topics as well as further suggestions for other ways of renewing the project of advancing critical, interdisciplinary socio-historical research.