Summer School

Since 2017, the Critical Theory Summer School at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin takes place every year in collaboration with the New School for Social Research in New York and the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research. The format mixes elements of workshops with text-based, advanced seminars. Over the course of one week, young researchers, graduate students and senior scholars jointly discuss new systematic perspectives and “classic” texts from the Critical Theory corpus.

International Summer School in Critical Theory 2024. Social Critique and Economics

July 1-5, 2024


in cooperation with New School for Social Research, New York

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International Summer School Critical Theory 2023. Radical Social Transformation

July 3-7, 2023 | Berlin

Classical Critical Theory was characterized by a dichotomy. On the one hand, only fundamental change could overcome the wrongs of existing society. Yet, on the other hand, the social revolution predicted by Marxist thinkers failed to materialize. In our time, multiple crises again intensify the need for social transformation; but in many fields, capitalist societies seem far too slow in their ability to change, despite their inherent dynamic. Against this background, the summer school will explore the drivers of and obstacles to radical social transformation today with a focus on the role of social activism and the material preconditions of change.

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International Summer School Critical Theory 2022. Politics of Needs

July 3-8, 2022 | Berlin

Needs are central to many social controversies, but widely regarded as non-negotiable. The latter is due to the nature-like quality of many needs, but also to the assumption that the needs, interests and desires of individuals are simply given. Critical theory offers an alternative approach that seeks to analyse the formation of needs, thus turning them into objects of critical analysis and debate. In the Summer School, we will reconstruct this approach and discuss its current relevance by confronting it with prominent positions in the contemporary philosophical debate on needs.

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International Summer School Critical Theory 2021. Foundations of Solidarity

From July 4th to 9th 2021 | Berlin

This years International Critical Theory Summer School took place online from July 5th –  9th.

Despite a widespread diagnosis that solidarity is in crisis, appeals to solidarity are ubiquitous today. We encounter them on the level of personal and professional relations but also with regard to institutions and systems of social security and welfare. They gain a dramatic character when human lives are in danger, e.g. when refugees have to cross the Mediterranean in floating death traps or when climate change is devastating the livelihood of whole populations. In all these cases, appeals to solidarity are invoking a ‘we’: We, the family or friends; we, the co-workers or professionals of our branch; we, the members of a national community or a social collective; we, leftists or members of a political movement; we, human beings; …

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International Summer School Critical Theory 2019. Democracy and Social Unreason

July 1st-6th, 2019 | Berlin

Democracy is in crisis. Various phenomena such as the electoral success of authoritarian leaders, distrust in public institutions and media, rising social tensions, neo-nationalism and reactionary family politics certify this. But what are the underlying reasons for such developments? Is this crisis democracy’s own crisis, or does it originate elsewhere in the social order?

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International Summer School Critical Theory 2018. Re-Thinking Ideology

From July 16th-20th 2018 | Berlin

Why do people often accept, and even embrace, social and political conditions that seem to run counter to their own interests? How is it possible that we sometimes support forms of domination with our ways of behaving and thinking without intending or even realizing it? One answer to these questions refers to the notion of ideology. Ideologies are more or less coherent systems of practices and beliefs that shape how individuals relate to their social reality in ways that distort their understanding of what is wrong with that reality and thereby contribute to its reproduction.

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International Summer School Critical Theory 2017. Progress, Regression and Social Change

From July 17th to 21th 2017 | Berlin, Humboldt University

Is there such a thing as moral or social progress? How do we understand phenomena that might be seen as instances of social regression? And how, after all, are we to conceptualize social change?
While some Critical Theorists hold that we need a notion of progressive social change (and its counterpart) in order to understand and evaluate the dynamics of the transformations we undergo, the very notion of progress (as it is entrenched in the self-understanding of western modernity) seems to be ambivalent and is strongly contested.

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