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Praxis

Praxis

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Praxis, from the Latin, is the opposite of theory. The Greek praxis and its related stem, prassein, means to do. It is commonly defined as action or practice. Traditionally, there has been a perceived dichotomy between theory (speculation, thinking) and praxis (action, doing). However, contemporary notions of praxis, especially as the Marxists see it, reject this distinction.

There are two prevalent meanings of praxis in the modern day: one in religion and ethics, and one in social theory and political philosophy. In Catholicism, praxis refers to applying the principles and ethics drawn from religion to everyday life. It is, in a sense, applied belief. The idea is that the practice of ones religious beliefs enables one to live a just life. Hence, belief (theory) leads to a just society.

In Phenomenology of Spirit, German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (17701831) argued for the interrelationship of thought and action, linking theory and praxis. Karl Marx (18181883), in a movement against idealism and metaphysics, proposed a practical-critical activity that combines theory with practice, where no thinking can be isolated from social practice (Marx 1845). This linkage of thinking with action marks the most sustained examination of the question of praxis in contemporary critical theory (CT).

Praxis is given a specific agenda and political program in the Frankfurt Schools CT. CT erases the distinction between theory and praxis by showing how one leads to and informs the other. Praxis is theory that serves the purpose of social transformation. The social transformation sought by praxis is not only informed by critical reflection (theory) but also by questions of justice and emancipation (social or collective action). It corresponds therefore to Marxs practical-critical thought.

Theory in CT is essentially a question about reflection as related to knowledge. As philosopher Max Horkheimer (18951973) understood it, CT is a form of knowledge distinguished not just by its specific object of knowledge but also by its special relation to this object. Knowledge or theory is directed at society and social relations (its object). The relation is not one of mere interpretation or analysis of this object-society. The relation to this object of study (society) is informed by the aim of emancipation. Theory is thus directed at a goal: a just society. Knowledge leads to, or at least aims for, social justice. In this sense CT is not independent of political action or program. This Marxist line, as Horkheimer elaborated, sees theory as an element in action leading to new social forms (Critical Theory 1972, p. 216). This emphasis on action and superior knowledge distinguishes it from traditional theory where the object of knowledge and the subject are in a passive relation. In CT, reflective theory engages with the object in such a way as to transform both itself and the object.

CT is here a program of social research, investigating social conditions of facts as well as of theory. It resists the institutional demarcation of theory and application. The philosophical (theory) and the social (praxis) come together in this formulation. It applies thought to the entirety of human existence.

CTs mode of engagement with the social can be described as knowledge as action. It calls for active thought that continually challenges the existing state of affairs in society. The praxis of CT is in its thinking differently about the social world, where a different thinking will lead to changes in the way life is lived. CT does not offer a program of change in material experience; it offers a mode of understanding that can transform how material experience in modernity is interpreted. In CT a critique of culture may bring about changes in society because it develops new frames for interpretation, knowledge, and action.

Feminist exponents of critical ethnography express these elements most strongly in making praxis the defining moment of all investigative methodology. Such an ethnography focuses on political practice and breaks down the gap between researcher and object of research. Others, such as the education and cultural studies scholar Handel Kashope Wright, see the discipline of cultural studies as social justice praxis work where interpretation, or theory, must be informed by a commitment to social justice. Thus, praxis is political action informed by knowledge, where knowledge itself is driven by self-reflection and the need to engage with goals of justice and emancipation.

SEE ALSO Activism; Critical Theory; Cultural Studies; Feminism; Justice; Marx, Karl; Marxism; Science

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. 1979. Phenomenology of Spirit. Trans. A. V. Miller. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Horkheimer, Max. 1972. Critical Theory: Selected Essays. Trans. Matthew J. OConnell. New York: Herder and Herder.

Lather, Patti. 1991. Getting Smart: Feminist Research and Pedagogy With/In the Postmodern. London: Routledge.

Marx, Karl. 1977. Theses of Feuerbach. In Karl Marx and Frederich Engels, Selected Works, vol. 1, 1315. Moscow: Progress Publishers.

Wright, Handel Kashope. 2003. Cultural Studies as Praxis: (Making) an Autobiographical Case. Cultural Studies 17 (6): 805822.

Pramod K. Nayar

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praxis

praxis A philosophical term referring to human action on the natural and social world. It emphasizes the transformative nature of action and the priority of action over thought. It is often, but not always, associated with Marxism and especially the work of Antonio Gramsci.

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Praxis

Praxis (Gk., ‘activity’). Action which arises from true belief, the manifestation of religion in practice. This is of particular importance in liberation theology.

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"Praxis." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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praxis

praxis practice, exercise. XVI. — medL. — Gr. prâxis doing, action, f. *prāk-, base of prā́ssein do.

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praxis

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