"Intervention" was in common usage in academia before it became an MTV-sanctioned watchword for the dramatized fight against addiction, but even without that post-facto reappropriation (there's a word for another day), this is one of the most annoying terms in the critical theory lexicon. Why? In a nutshell, it implies a vision of the critical theorist as an activist which, I think, simultaneously inflates and undercuts the stakes of the project.
|"I actually did that."|
Those who have come since have generally hoped for a similarly spectacular, direct impact - but the inconvenient truth is that claiming to be making an "intervention" is more a quantitative than a qualitative claim. That is, it implies that one believes one's own work should - perhaps even that it will - have the kind of deep, short-term social impact that Butler's did. Inevitably, most of these "interventions" have come up short, turning the word into self-important ash in its users' mouths.
But is the picture of critical theory's impact implied by the term "intervention" even the one we should be committed to?