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If we engage in reflection on standards of critique, we are entering the terrain of metaethics, or the question of which ethical standards we should accept. The question is not only, in the sense of self-awareness, what we as individual researchers or as a critical discourse analysis community think or feel about a specific social phenomenon. The metaethical question is about what we should think or feel.
The aim of this article is to argue for a specific perspective on critique, namely, an immanent critique that takes social suffering as the starting point for discourse analysis. I will show that the suffering produced by human beings or suffering that could be abolished or alleviated by human beings must be behind every informed critique in CDS.
In a first step, I will present different sources of critique that can be found in CDS and argue in favour of the approach of immanent critique as a model for CDS (I). I will then develop a theory of social suffering that is sensitive to the enormous diversity of normative spheres and normative claims and that can be used as an anchor for critique (II). Finally, I will show how and when this type of critique becomes social critique, or a critique towards the fundamental structures of societies, and reconnect the approach presented here to the existing forms of critique in CDS (III).
If CDS wants to not only combine discourse analysis and critique but also to perform discourse analysis as critique, then CDS must more explicitly consider not only text and talk but also silent and silenced forms of suffering. As social suffering is a complex phenomenon that requires interdisciplinary approaches based in philosophy, politics, psychology and sociology, DA must broaden its methods towards empathic understanding, affective reactions, practices, and material dispositions.