Walter Benn Michaels (born 1948) is an American literary theorist and author whose areas of research include American literature (particularly 19th-century to 20th-century), Critical Theory, identity politics, and visual arts. 
Known for challenging the "prevailing trends of postmodernist theory," Michaels has produced works connecting postmodernism, neoliberal capitalism, and socioeconomic inequality.  Two of his best-known books are Our America: Nativism, Modernism and Pluralism (1995) and The Shape of the Signifier: 1967 to the End of History (2004)  —the latter being adopted from his 2001 essay of the same name. 
Michaels earned his BA from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1970 and his PhD from the same institution in 1975. He taught at Johns Hopkins University from 1974 to 1977 and again from 1987 to 2001, and at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1977 to 1987). Since 2001, he has taught in the Department of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He was head of the department from 2001 to 2007.
"Against Theory", an article co-written by Michaels and Steven Knapp, is included in the Norton Anthology of Literary Criticism . His study of American Naturalism, The Gold Standard and the Logic of Naturalism; American Literature at the Turn of the Century, was published in 1987.
Michaels realized that three phenomena were happening around the same time, from 1967 onward. First, what was becoming fashionable in academia was a postmodernist current in literary theory. Following French theorist Roland Barthes, it asserted the "death of the author" and, in turn, the death of intended meaning. Second, a new form of liberal ideology, perhaps best expressed in Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man (1992), proclaimed the eternal victory of neoliberal capitalism. Lastly, social conditions in neoliberal capitalist economies were increasingly characterized by staggering inequality, whereby almost all gains were captured by an elite minority while the middle and working classes saw their real wages decline.  These insights was first explored in his 2004 book, The Shape of the Signifier,  adapted from his 2001 article in Critical Inquiry . Michaels claims that the death of "intentional meaning" as result of the postmodern shift in literary theory has had the effect of depoliticizing the economic impoverishment that characterizes the modern era. 
In The Beauty of a Social Problem,   Michaels argues that there is a major disconnect between what neoliberalism is purportedly dedicated to — the equality of people’s various identities — and the economic inequality produced by capitalism, while postmodernism makes it impossible to criticize such outcomes as choices: 
For once we think of the beholder as playing a role in the production of the work’s meaning, we replace the question of what the work means with the question of how it affects us. That is, we are no longer concerned with our interpretation of the work — our beliefs about what it says or does — we are concerned instead with our responses to the work, the effect it has on us or, in a more pragmatic vein, what we can do with it.… The transformation of differing interpretations into differing responses is thus one form of the effort to disarticulate difference from inequality. Correct interpretations are better than incorrect ones, but there is no such thing as a correct response and no (legitimate) reason therefore to think of any response as better than any other. And (as I argue in Shape), we can see in this refusal of disagreement the theoretical apparatus of an emerging politics of difference in which what becomes central is not the inequality of differing ideologies (i.e., different beliefs about what is true) but the equality of differing subject positions.
In economics, a free market is an economic system in which the prices of goods and services are determined by supply and demand expressed by sellers and buyers. Such markets, as modeled, operate without the intervention of government or any other external authority. Proponents of the free market as a normative ideal contrast it with a regulated market, in which a government intervenes in supply and demand by means of various methods such as taxes or regulations. In an idealized free market economy, prices for goods and services are set solely by the bids and offers of the participants.
Postmodernism is a mode of discourse that is characterized by philosophical skepticism toward the grand narratives offered by modernism; that rejects epistemological certainty and the stability of meaning; and rejects the emphasis on ideology as the means of maintaining political power. Postmodernism dismisses claims that facts are objective as naïve realism, given the conditional nature of knowledge. The investigative perspective of Postmodernism is characterized by self-reference, epistemological relativism, and moral relativism, pluralism, irony, and eclecticism; and dismisses the universal validity of the principles of binary opposition, the stablility of identity, hierarchy, and categorization.
Anti-capitalism is a political ideology and movement encompassing a variety of attitudes and ideas that oppose capitalism. In this sense, anti-capitalists are those who wish to replace capitalism with another type of economic system, such as socialism or communism.
A market economy is an economic system in which the decisions regarding investment, production and distribution to the consumers are guided by the price signals created by the forces of supply and demand. The major characteristic of a market economy is the existence of factor markets that play a dominant role in the allocation of capital and the factors of production.
Late capitalism, late-stage capitalism, or end-stage capitalism is a term first used in print by German economist Werner Sombart around the turn of the 20th century. In the late 2010s, the term began to be used in the United States and Canada to refer to perceived absurdities, contradictions, crises, injustices, inequality, and exploitation created by modern business development.
An information society is a society where the usage, creation, distribution, manipulation and integration of information is a significant activity. Its main drivers are information and communication technologies, which have resulted in rapid growth of a variety of forms of information. Proponents of this theory posit that these technologies are impacting most important forms of social organization, including education, economy, health, government, warfare, and levels of democracy. The people who are able to partake in this form of society are sometimes called either computer users or even digital citizens, defined by K. Mossberger as “Those who use the Internet regularly and effectively”. This is one of many dozen internet terms that have been identified to suggest that humans are entering a new and different phase of society.
Social theories are analytical frameworks, or paradigms, that are used to study and interpret social phenomena. A tool used by social scientists, social theories relate to historical debates over the validity and reliability of different methodologies, the primacy of either structure or agency, as well as the relationship between contingency and necessity. Social theory in an informal nature, or authorship based outside of academic social and political science, may be referred to as "social criticism" or "social commentary", or "cultural criticism" and may be associated both with formal cultural and literary scholarship, as well as other non-academic or journalistic forms of writing.
Fredric Jameson is an American literary critic, philosopher and Marxist political theorist. He is best known for his analysis of contemporary cultural trends, particularly his analysis of postmodernity and capitalism. Jameson's best-known books include Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991) and The Political Unconscious (1981).
David W. Harvey is a British-born Marxist economic geographer, podcaster and Distinguished Professor of anthropology and geography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY), though he often claims to prefer the term Marxian. He received his PhD in geography from the University of Cambridge in 1961. Harvey has authored many books and essays that have been prominent in the development of modern geography as a discipline. He is a proponent of the idea of the right to the city.
Empire is a book by post-Marxist philosophers Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. Written in the mid-1990s, it was published in 2000 and quickly sold beyond its expectations as an academic work.
William Eugene Connolly is an American political theorist known for his work on democracy, pluralism, capitalism and climate change. He is the Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University. His 1974 work The Terms of Political Discourse won the 1999 Benjamin Lippincott Award.
Nancy Fraser is an American philosopher, critical theorist, feminist, and the Henry A. and Louise Loeb Professor of Political and Social Science and professor of philosophy at The New School in New York City. Widely known for her critique of identity politics and her philosophical work on the concept of justice, Fraser is also a staunch critic of contemporary liberal feminism and its abandonment of social justice issues. Fraser holds honorary doctoral degrees from four universities in three countries, and won the 2010 Alfred Schutz Prize in Social Philosophy from the American Philosophical Association. She is president of the American Philosophical Association Eastern Division.
Transnational feminism refers to both a contemporary feminist paradigm and the corresponding activist movement. Both the theories and activist practices are concerned with how globalization and capitalism affect people across nations, races, genders, classes, and sexualities. This movement asks to critique the ideologies of traditional white, classist, western models of feminist practices from an intersectional approach and how these connect with labor, theoretical applications, and analytical practice on a geopolitical scale.
Criticism of capitalism ranges from expressing disagreement with the principles of capitalism in its entirety to expressing disagreement with particular outcomes of capitalism.
Michael Burawoy is a sociologist working within Marxist social theory, best known as the leading proponent of public sociology and the author of Manufacturing Consent: Changes in the Labor Process Under Monopoly Capitalism—a study on the sociology of industry that has been translated into a number of languages.
Wendy L. Brown is an American political theorist. She is the UPS Foundation Professor in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ. Previously, she was Class of 1936 First Professor of Political Science and a core faculty member in The Program for Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley.
The following events related to sociology occurred in the 1990s.
Feminist epistemology is an examination of epistemology from a feminist standpoint.
A critical theory is any approach to social philosophy that focuses on society and culture to reveal, critique and challenge power structures. With roots in sociology and literary criticism, it argues that social problems stem more from social structures and cultural assumptions than from individuals. It argues that ideology is the principal obstacle to human liberation. Critical theory finds applications in various fields of study, including psychoanalysis, sociology, history, communication theory, philosophy and feminist theory.
Progressive capitalism is an approach to capitalism that seeks to improve the current neoliberal American capitalism that emerged in 1980. Progressive capitalism aims to improve economic results through four defining beliefs, namely the vital role businesses play in the economy by creating jobs, fostering innovation, enabling voluntary exchange, and providing competitive goods and services; the recognition of the important role public goods, public institutions, public services and public infrastructure play in supporting businesses including: research, schools, health care, social insurance, taxation, labor law and regulation of markets; the need for the state to be involved in design and oversight of the playing field; and the integration of social justice, stewardship of natural resources and responsibility to all major stakeholders. It is being advocated by Ro Khanna and Joseph Stiglitz.