The Critical Turn in Education: From Marxist Critique to Poststructuralist Feminism to Critical Theories of Race, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Critical Turn in Education

From Marxist Critique to Poststructuralist Feminism to Critical Theories of Race, 1st Edition

By Isaac Gottesman


176 pages

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The Critical Turn in Education traces the historical emergence and development of critical theories in the field of education, from the introduction of Marxist and other radical social theories in the 1960s to the contemporary critical landscape. The book begins by tracing the first waves of critical scholarship in the field through a close, contextual study of the intellectual and political projects of several core figures including, Paulo Freire, Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, Michael Apple, and Henry Giroux. Later chapters offer a discussion of feminist critiques, the influx of postmodernist and poststructuralist ideas in education, and critical theories of race.

While grounded in U.S. scholarship, The Critical Turn in Education contextualizes the development of critical ideas and political projects within a larger international history, and charts the ongoing theoretical debates that seek to explain the relationship between school and society. Today, much of the language of this critical turn has now become commonplace—words such as "hegemony," "ideology," and the term "critical" itself—but by providing a historical analysis, The Critical Turn in Education illuminates the complexity and nuance of these theoretical tools, which offer ways of understanding the intersections between individual identities and structural forces in an attempt to engage and overturn social injustice.


Gottesman’s book should be enthusiastically and widely read, and hopefully should set the tone for many more conversations on the status of critical educational studies, its epistemologies of ignorance, its sustenance in uncertain and fragmented times, and its future.

--Teachers College Record, December 2017

Isaac Gottesman establishes himself as an intellectual’s historian. Never before has there been such a detailed accounting of the Educational Left. He does more than trace the critical turn in education from Marxism to feminism to critical race theory. Gottesman provides the analytics that force us all to struggle with the burdens of the past without a clear path to the future other than the insistence on social justice. Books like The Critical Turn in Education only appear once in a generation. We don’t just read it, we are deeply affected by it.

--Zeus Leonardo, Professor of Education and the Critical Theory Designated Emphasis, University of California, Berkeley

Isaac Gottesman's smart little book represents our first truly critical history of the "critical turn" in education. As Gottesman shows, self-described critical theorists have too often insulated themselves within their own fiefdoms. His work will help all of us look beyond our narrow domains, to a much broader realm of academic scholarship and--I hope--of popular influence.

--Jonathan Zimmerman, Professor of Education and History, New York University

Table of Contents


Series Editor’s Introduction


Chapter One: Revolutionary Movements

Chapter Two: Political Economy and the Academic Left

Chapter Three: Ideology and Hegemony

Chapter Four: Critical Pedagogy

Chapter Five: Situated Knowledge and Feminist Standpoint Epistemology

Chapter Six: Critical Theories of Race




About the Author

Isaac Gottesman is an Assistant Professor in the School of Education at Iowa State University.

About the Series

Critical Social Thought

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