Kritiks can be scary, but we can demystify them by breaking them down into their component parts: a framework, a disadvantage that links to the framework, and an alternative or counter-advocacy that solves the disadvantage. The kritik critiques something wrong about the aff (the disadvantage), says why it’s bad (the framework), and offers a solution (the alternative).
K Frameworks or “Why It’s Bad”
Traditional Ethical Frameworks
Many kritiks employ ethical or moral frameworks commonly found in LD. Take for instance the Biopower K that argues that the aff maintains government control over life. This kritik could link to a Kantian framework which says the form of government coercion in the aff case is immoral. Additionally, most kritiks will point out a harmful impact that could link into a consequentialist or utilitarian framework. If you want to go for a traditional ethical framework to back up your kritik, you might pick one of the following:
- Other autonomy- or freedom-based framework
- Consequentialist frameworks such as utilitarianism or rule consequentialism
- Contract-based theories, especially social contract
These kritiks do not attack the policy or impacts forwarded by the aff case but instead focus on the way the aff case was presented. They might criticize the way something was discussed, e.g. a Gender K that argues the aff’s represents a certain group in a gendered or essentialist way. Say on the November/December 2014 topic, the aff argues about women affected by revenge porn. A negative kritik could claim the aff’s portrayal essentializes women as mere victims and excludes others harmed by revenge porn. Note that this argument is about how the aff was discussed which does not engage the aff on its terms, how the right to be forgotten is important. Another route is to criticize a particular word used by the aff. Say on the September/October 2014 topic about organ procurement, the neg argues that the aff’s use of the term “brain dead” is offensive to some people. Again, this has little to do with presumed consent policy and much to do with the way it was argued or described.
An imperfect but useful analogy is to think about debate as a game board. Most of the arguments are about the pieces on the game board (e.g. a counterplan), but representative kritiks question the behaviors of the game-players, not the pieces on the game board. They say, “Hey, you shouldn’t play that piece that way!”
These kritik frameworks are unlike traditional ethical frameworks because they argue what the debate should be about, not what is moral or just. For instance, they might argue that the debate speech has real world impacts, while the policy advocacy does not. They might argue that rhetorical analysis is more important to how we think and do policy or philosophical debate. Often, these K frameworks will not have a value criterion but instead use a “role of the ballot.” The role of the ballot (ROB) is just a framework argument that describes what is most important to discuss or what matters in the debate. For instance, if the ROB is to “vote for whomever best breaks down capitalism in the debate,” this acts as a criterion: the debate is about who best links to stopping capitalism. The only difference is how you argue this type of framework. Now, it’s not about proving a moral theory but instead proving what’s best for debate or the participants in debate.
A category that fits within representative kritiks are those that talk about the identity of certain debaters and how their identities play into the arguments.
Epistemology is the study of how we know, what constitutes knowledge. These K frameworks explain that indicts of the aff’s ways of knowing always come first. Ontology is the study of being. These K frameworks prioritize understanding being and existence as a prerequisite to discussion about the world. Of course, you might have epistemological or ontological arguments in a traditional ethical framework, but these K frameworks are singular in focus. They will often use continental philosophers such as Derrida, Husserl, or Heidegger.
These frameworks may well be representational/discursive as well, but they don’t have to be. They may claim that the aff’s epistemology, the way it came to know about its framework or its impacts, is flawed. Such an argument could be used to prioritize some impacts over others (e.g. a Security K might make an epistemology argument to reject big war scenarios) or to say that we should only talk about what we know.
The K Disadvantage or “Where the Aff Goes Wrong”
This is the bulk of the critique and the most familiar part. The neg shows something wrong with the aff (a link) and what that causes or leads to (an impact). The structure is often link-impact just like you’d find in a disadvantage (disad or DA). If you are unfamiliar with disadvantages, consider the typical negative contention. The neg might say on the RTBF topic that the right defended by the aff (a link) leads to totalitarian control over what people can say about governments (an impact). A kritik is no different, except that it generally comes in a different form, labeling the link and the impact. Common impacts are genocide, nuclear war, totalitarianism, loss of value to life, or oppression of various sorts.
The K Alternative or “The Solution”
The K alternative is how the negative proposes to solve the problem. (In technical jargon, this creates uniqueness for the links, i.e. how the neg avoids the problem in the aff.). The alternative is subject to similar constraints as a counterplan: it should prove it solves the kritik impacts and that it is competitive with the aff (better than a combination of the aff and alternative). Kritik alternatives should be more specific than simply rejecting the aff – they should take proactive action to eliminate the ideology or systems criticized. For instance, the alternative to a Biopower K could be to interrogate biopower by rejecting all instances of state control over life. With a representative K that criticizes a particular word used by the aff, the alternative might be to use a different word.
How Kritiks Win
- More Offense to the Neg Framework / Framework
Just like winning an NC, the neg might have more offense (or reasons to vote for them) linking back to the neg framework. So if the framework is to reject militarism, the neg better rejects militarism through the alternative than the aff does.
This is most likely to happen with representative/discursive kritiks where the negative wins that what matters is the words or descriptions in the debates, not some pretend policy impacts from the implementation of the resolution. If the aff fails to win a ROB in response to the neg’s ROB, then the debate underneath that framing may be fairly lopsided in the neg’s favor.
- More Offense to the Aff Framework on the Impact Level
First, the neg might win that its impacts outweigh on the aff framework, just like with a disad. If the neg kritik has a genocide impact, and the aff has a util framework, genocide would be pretty bad and possibly outweigh the aff impacts.
Second, the neg might win that the ideology or system criticized is the root cause of the aff impacts, so solving for capitalism, biopower, patriarchy, etc. solves the aff impacts too.
Third, the neg could win that the K impacts turn the aff on the link level, e.g. capitalism turns the aff’s solvency. The aff harms its own impacts because of the disadvantage stated by the kritik.
- The Alternative
The most common way to win on the alternative is to win an “alt solves case” argument that the alternative solves the aff impacts better than the aff.
A more esoteric strategy is to win a PIC (plan-inclusive counterplan) or floating PIC – this is to argue for an alternative that encompasses a large part of the aff. The kritik alternative thus gets a large part of the aff, but gets rid of the bad parts. E.g. a PIC with a representation K of a word the aff uses would be an alternative that endorses the whole aff except that word. The “floating” PIC is a negative that attempts to hide the PIC, perhaps by not explicitly stating it in the alternative but slipping it in the line-by-line where it might not be caught. Generally, this is considered an unfair negative strategy.