„I never had an idea of my own,” a famous American critic once said in an interview. By evoking his idea at the beginning of this introductory note, I am not simply trying to exemplify what the quotation is about, and reaffirm the validity of the late scholar’s thought some thirty years ago. Nor am I only trying to leave it up to the reader to derive this assertion, so emphatically unnamed and unreferenced, from this or that source. And not even do I intend, by leaving the Researcher in a typified form, to lend a parabolic dimension to something unique in a Kafkaesque manner. My aim is much rather to offer for reconsideration a question which at this moment happens to gather around the particular formula et al.: the question of inheritance, repetition, seriality, abbreviation, the question of an invisible end or a nameless other, and finally, a question also of the plurality and indefinite gender of this other. Yet, what seems fundamentally to be at stake here is the very gesture of signification. For such a name, et al., will presumably generate a whole range of “technical” problems and difficulties, whenever its usage as a proper name intermingles with its abbreviatory or substitutive function so familiar from bibliographies. And all this will most likely happen precisely within bibliographies. No doubt, such a name is no life insurance, if no suicidal attempt either.
As to the label of “critical theory,” it is meant here in a relatively broad sense, which exceeds its more common narrow meaning limited to the Frankfurt School. It involves all critically committed instances of transdisciplinary research, which bear what seems as their most significant common feature the characteristic of not taking for granted the self-dependence of their concepts and methods, or the self-containment of scientific disciplines and respective research areas in general, that is, a sovereignty which can only conceive of connections as interdisciplinary contacts (taking the form of peaceful neighborhood, fruitful commerce, or of hostile border incidents, or even invasion). There is little room for such contacts if differences emerge not only in distinct frontier zones, but pervade the Hinterland of neighboring countries throughout. “I only have one language; it is not mine” — a possible formulation, this time paraphrasing a French thinker. Le monodisciplinarisme de l’autre — the monodisciplinarity of the other. Within such loose borders “criticism” and “theory” do not exclude any elements of the Greek words krinein and theorein (or theomai): they distinguish, divide, take apart and minutely describe their subject, as they study, investigate, contemplate or simply view it. Such broadness involves or allows for both “crisis” and “theatre”.
According to its Wikipedia entry, “critical theory” is a broadly conceived, comprehensive expression, a sort of “umbrella term.” Gazing at the photograph of our parachute landing, we may perhaps behold even that: a touchdown which is first and foremost that of an “umbrella”, a Schirm, the landing of the colorful parachute of critical theory. Or its set-off. Lectori salutem.