A kritik (pronounced "critique") is a pre-fiat disadvantage. In other words, a kritik argues that the opposing team creates a problem in the real world simply by endorsing a specific mindset or position. It then argues that the judge should discourage this mindset by voting them down, regardless of the validity of their position or the persuasiveness of their other arguments.
Kritiks form the basis of many different types of larger rhetorical structures, which are then referred to as kritikal (pronounced "critical"). For instance, kritikal affirmatives argue that the status quo is morally flawed in its basic mindset; they can then ignore the effects of the plan itself, as long as it remedies the flawed mindset.
Kritiks are based on the idea that there are two worlds that the debate round impacts: the pre-fiat world and the post-fiat world. The kritik argues that the pre-fiat world is more important - pre-fiat impacts actually affect real people, whereas post-fiat impacts are merely hypothetical (the judge does not actually have the power to pass the Affirmative plan.)
Framework: Essentially, states the difference between a kritik and a disadvantage, and argues that pre-fiat impacts should take precedence over post-fiat impacts.
Link: Explains what the opposition argued or said to cause the kritik.
Impact: Explains why endorsing the opponent's position is bad.
Alternative: Shows the judge that he/she has a choice; he/she can vote down the opposition and discourage this mindset. The alternative, or "alt", generally presents a specific alternative mindset to endorse (socialism vs. capitalism, patriarchy vs. egalitarianism, etc.)
The word "kritik" is sometimes used to describe post-fiat arguments that are based on mindsets; for example, an argument stating that the Affirmative fundamentally misunderstands their harms, dooming their plan to failure. These arguments are not kritiks in the conventional sense of the word, because they concern the hypothetical post-fiat world of the plan, rather than the "real" world of the debate round. Nevertheless, they are sometimes referred to as "kritiks".
Many debaters argue strenuously that the word "kritik" should not be used to describe any post-fiat arguments, because it is technically inaccurate and causes confusion about what a kritik actually is. There is no clear brightline to distinguish "mindset" arguments from "specific" arguments, they argue. At what point does a solvency argument become a post-fiat kritik? When the Affirmative plan misunderstands a specific technology? When they misunderstand the application of the technology? When they misunderstand the nature of technology itself? When they misunderstand reality? Because there is no clear brightline, they argue, trying to define a "post-fiat kritik" as a specific, useful thing is impossible.
Kritiks are rare within the NCFCA and Stoa, but are occasionally seen. Kritiks are much more frequently seen in other leagues, however, and their pervasiveness has generated complaints from many coaches and debaters.