Critical Theory, Critical Thinking and Safety
I have written before about the need for greater levels of critical thinking, discernment (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/real-risk/ ) and envisioning (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/envisioning-risk-seeing-vision-and-meaning-in-risk/ ) in the safety industry:
Critical/ethical thinking can be learned and comes from understanding the basics of social politics and Critical Theory. Indeed, when studying Ethics, the beginning of developing an ethic is to define the nature of power and personhood. Defining these two should be your priority if you want to work out what your ethic is. We start with such matters when we study an SPoR approach to Ethics (https://cllr.com.au/product/an-ethic-of-risk-workshop-unit-17-elearning/). Unfortunately, the AIHS BoK Chapter on Ethics (https://safetyrisk.net/the-aihs-bok-and-ethics-check-your-gut/) does neither indeed, it is not a study in Ethics at all but rather more akin to behaviourist/deontological propaganda.
Critical Theory (https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/critical-theory/ ) emerges out of the post-Marxist tradition and is associated with the Frankfurt School of philosophers (https://iep.utm.edu/frankfur/ ). This school of thought is most associated with: Fromm, Habermas, Horkheimer and Adorno. The Social Psychology of Risk (SPoR) emerges out of this tradition. Fromm should be compulsory reading and study for anyone in the risk and safety industry.
A study in Critical Theory helps one think about the persons in relation to: power, material/matter, ideology, hegemony, dialectic, social politics, Mentalitie and Ethics. Here are a few suggested readings to get you started:
One of the characteristics of the risk and safety industry is mono-disciplinarily. You will find nothing about Critical Theory anywhere in the safety industry. Yet, if one was studying in a real profession such as Law, Teaching, Social Work and Nursing, this would be considered 101 Introductory reading.
Every time I brush against those in safety in debate it is astounding that they know so little about foundational disciplines in relationship to power, social politics and ethics. It is so fascinating to read what they think I mean, when they have no background, language or research in the following:
- Discourse Analysis
- Social Psychology
- Jungian research
- Religious Studies
- Critical Theory
The only thing they Safety knows for certain is that I’m am wrong, toxic and deluded. Such is the nature of this safety non-profession. Such is this industry bankrupt of any Transdisciplinarity that it doesn’t even know how religious it is (https://safetyrisk.net/making-safety-religious/). Without some background in these disciplines there is really little language we share in common. Wouldn’t you think an industry so deeply concerned about culture, risk and decision making would be interested in finding out what it doesn’t know? Apparently not.
Whenever I write blogs and papers to this industry, I always direct readers to further reading and research. You simply will not find any mention of the disciplines listed above in any safety arena. Unfortunately, the delusions of behaviorism, scientism and engineering dictate the narrow paradigm with which this industry considers valid knowledge. Lest take an example of just one of these: culture.
So much of what gets paraded about safety as being about culture is none of the sort. Most of the stuff trotted out as being about culture is simple about behaviourism and systems. Isn’t it strange in the AIHS BoK when it searches for knowledge on matters such as culture and ethics it consults Safety for information, not expertise in ethics and culture. When you frame the world by the small narrow mono-discipline of safety you keep everything safe, narrow and dumb. Then you feed the safety masses with dumb, proclaiming authoritative knowledge. Neither of the AIHS Chapters on Ethics or Culture are of any value, mostly just provide guides into the propaganda of safety not learning about either. So much is missing about culture in the chapter on culture and about ethics in the chapter on ethics, provides students in SPoR with a field day of deconstructing nonsense.
So, let’s return to Critical Theory. Critical Theory is the best place to start in understanding the nature of power, ideology, Politics, Ethics and Law. How strange that Safety shows no interest in it, leading to the most profound ignorance in matters essential for professionalism. No wonder Safety is sidelined when something goes wrong.
Even when the AIHS launched a conference on ‘power and politics’, not one paper or presentation was on power or politics (https://www.aihs.org.au/events/aihs-national-health-safety-conference-power-politics ). Why not read this https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312674815_Introduction_What_Is_Critical_Theory/link/5b72e78d92851ca6505d7f71/download and then compare it to the program.
If Safety needed something to make it truly different it could start with some Critical Theory. How strange that even when Safety parades things as ‘different’ it’s more of the same with new slogans. The substance remains focused on behaviours and systems so that nothing changes.
Perhaps I’ll leave the last word to Fromm:
‘Power on the one side, fear on the other, are always the buttresses on which irrational authority is built.’