Theory in public

A key notion of radicals at the start of the sixties was that theorizing could be done in public, with and in the midst of the people.

There are numerous instances of this sense. Here’s one. Tom Hayden, in a draft of the document that became The Port Huron Statement, tenets for the founding of SDS and more generally of the political side of 1960s student-led counterculture:

“The house of theory [is] not a monastery. I am proposing that the world is not too complex, our knowledge not too limited, our time not so short, as to prevent the orderly building of a house of theory, or at least its foundation, right out in public, in the middle of the neighborhood.”

There are many ways to see this. I like to conceive of it as a pedagogy.

After all, the document was written by students. Weren’t they thinking about the way they had been and were being taught? They wanted something different. Mainly two things different: 1) not so pragmatic, contingent; 2) not cloistered, but out there.