Pathologies of Reason: On the Legacy of Critical Theory (New Directions in Critical Theory)
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Axel Honneth has been instrumental in advancing the work of the Frankfurt School of critical theorists, rebuilding their effort to combine radical social and political analysis with rigorous philosophical inquiry. These eleven essays published over the past five years reclaim the relevant themes of the Frankfurt School, which counted Theodor W. Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Walter Benjamin, Jürgen Habermas, Franz Neumann, and Albrecht Wellmer as members. They also engage with Kant, Freud, Alexander Mitscherlich, and Michael Walzer, whose work on morality, history, democracy, and individuality intersects with the Frankfurt School's core concerns.
Collected here for the first time in English, Honneth's essays pursue the unifying themes and theses that support the methodologies and thematics of critical social theory, and they address the possibilities of continuing this tradition through radically changed theoretical and social conditions. According to Honneth, there is a unity that underlies critical theory's multiple approaches: the way in which reason is both distorted and furthered in contemporary capitalist society. And while much is dead in the social and psychological doctrines of critical social theory, its central inquiries remain vitally relevant.
Is social progress still possible after the horrors of the twentieth century? Does capitalism deform reason and, if so, in what respects? Can we justify the relationship between law and violence in secular terms, or is it inextricably bound to divine justice? How can we be free when we're subject to socialization in a highly complex and in many respects unfree society? For Honneth, suffering and moral struggle are departure points for a new "reconstructive" form of social criticism, one that is based solidly in the empirically grounded, interdisciplinary approach of the Frankfurt School.
impairment of the rational ego and must lead to individual cases of stress from suffering.41 The methodological application of this fundamental psychoanalytic idea to the field of social analysis is not just a theoretical move that Habermas has contributed to Critical Theory.42 In his early essays, Horkheimer already describes social irrationality in concepts modeled on Freud’s theory, insofar as they measure the degree of social pathology by the effect of forces foreign to the ego.43 And
Dialectics will quickly ascertain what Adorno has in mind when he speaks of his text as a “web” or a music-like “composition” (21/44).1 The roughly fifty-page chapter has no derivation of a thesis, no step-by-step exposition and justification. Rather, it presents itself as an artfully woven net of a few, constantly varied thought motifs. If it were not enough that there seems to be no rising line of argumentation, the flow of text is barely graphically interrupted. Altogether in just three places
because this tradition places everything on replacing man’s violent natural condition with a morally legitimate legal order, it must covertly make violence into a natural “raw material” (ibid.) that cannot be ethically repudiated as long as it does not serve to implement unjustifiable (legal) ends. Referred back to the question that concerns Benjamin in these first pages—the role of violence in law—this means that in the natural law tradition the means-ends schema has led to a paradoxical
progress in the human being’s way of thinking, as we can summarize this first version, is the result of a social struggle for recognition that was forced on us by nature when it endowed us with an “unsocial sociability.”27 However, Kant’s reflections rely so heavily on Rousseau’s critique of civilization—according to which selfishness and vanity are the driving motives behind an intensifying struggle for distinction—that they have little in common with Hegel’s concept of a morally motivated
individual components. This common function also explains a generic characteristic of all theories that can be used in social criticism. Despite their methodological differences, they must provide an explanation for the mechanisms through which it was historically or socially possible for a practical model, needs schema, or attitudinal syndrome that contradicts our most deep-seated desires or intentions to penetrate into our institutional practices. According to the temperament of the critic and