As a practice meant to improve society, evaluation is implicated in discussions about which societal and cultural values and principles of justice will prevail and which ones will get subverted or ignored altogether. For the most part, as currently configured, the relationship of evaluators to policy makers has jeopardized evaluation's ability to provide the critical lens needed for feedback on the effects of a society's practices, policies, and structures. Many theorists believe that it is only by examining and critically assessing how knowledge is produced and reproduced in society that we can better reflect on and imagine new, more socially just, social configurations and relations. One such approach, critical theory, is a pedagogical practice that employs a systemic and historical critique of social and cultural formations and practices in a way that fosters citizens' abilities to evaluate and alter them. The intent of this issue of New Directions for Evaluation is to show the relevance of critical social theory for evaluation practice. Each of the authors in this volume addresses in a different way and from a variety of disciplinary fields what a critical theory lens might offer evaluation practice.
This is the 127th volume of the Jossey-Bass quarterly report series New Directions for Evaluation, an official publication of the American Evaluation Association.