Freedom's Right: The Social Foundations of Democratic Life (New Directions in Critical Theory)
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Theories of justice often fixate on purely normative, abstract principles unrelated to real-world situations. The philosopher and theorist Axel Honneth addresses this disconnect, and constructs a theory of justice derived from the normative claims of Western liberal-democratic societies and anchored in morally legitimate laws and institutionally established practices.
Honneth's paradigm―which he terms "a democratic ethical life"―draws on the spirit of Hegel's Philosophy of Right and his own theory of recognition, demonstrating how concrete social spheres generate the tenets of individual freedom and a standard for what is just. Using social analysis to re-found a more grounded theory of justice, he argues that all crucial actions in Western civilization, whether in personal relationships, market-induced economic activities, or the public forum of politics, share one defining characteristic: they require the realization of a particular aspect of individual freedom. This fundamental truth informs the guiding principles of justice, enabling a wide-ranging reconsideration of its nature and application.
private selfexamination. But their relation to later generations of rights, i.e. the connection between these original core liberties and more recent rights of political and social participation, remains controversial to this day.23 When it comes to normatively reconstructing modern legal relations, the historical circumstances and the sequential order in which these different classes of rights came to be established are of little importance. More important is what the normative connection
limitations of moral freedom – even where moral subjects are placed in intersubjective relationships so as to deprive them of pure self-referentiality. In both cases, the act of (individual or cooperative) self-legislation must be described in a way that allows subjects to adopt a perspective, through reflexive detachment from all given norms, from which they can judge the universalizability of moral principles in an entirely detached and thus unbiased manner. For the subjects that ascribe to
has not yet left me, without me knowing what I could do to be rid of it. This feeling of having come up short is likely due to the ambitious goal I had set for myself when I first undertook work on the book. I sought to follow the model of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right and develop the principles of social justice by means of an analysis of society. As I had realized a few years prior while studying Hegel’s famous text, this project could only succeed if the constitutive spheres of our society are
fulfils its inherent norm if both partners are constantly attentive to any behavioural changes that indicate a shift in the constitutive preferences or interests of the other. Even if the mutual expectation of being able to perceive such signals does not represent an explicitly agreed-upon obligation, the disappointment of this expectation does signify a breach of the rules, revealing the institutional limitations of the intimate relationship. Only where two people mutually agree to support each
changed from an ‘an sich’ to a ‘für sich’, because a previously silent third person has now been recognized and included as an independent entity. Father and mother no longer negotiate ‘over’ their children, but whenever possible ‘with’ their children, allowing the latter to have their ‘own voice’.85 Social Freedom 159 But before these new conditions could be fully established, which in turn presuppose that the father and the mother are equal part ners, the second process of