Honneth on social pathologies: a critique

Critical Horizons 16 (2):131-152 (2015)
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Over the last two decades, Axel Honneth has written extensively on the notion of social pathology, presenting it as a distinctive critical resource of Frankfurt School Critical Theory, in which tradition he places himself, and as an alternative to the mainstream liberal approaches in political philosophy. In this paper, I review the developments of Honneth's writing on this notion and offer an immanent critique, with a particular focus on his recent major work "Freedom's Right". Tracing the use of, and problems internal to, Honneth's concept of social pathology serves to demonstrate his increasing reformism. It also serves to catalogue some of the dead ends that Critical Theory should avoid in taking up the idea of social pathology. The implication is not that this idea should be dropped. Rather, the paper is undertaking the necessary step of clearing the ground for further progress to take place on the question of what role the idea of social pathology can and should play in Critical Theory. The paper is critical in nature (and relentlessly so), but ultimately serves a constructive purpose.
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First archival date: 2015-01-24
Latest version: 2 (2015-06-03)
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Paradoxes of Capitalism.Hartmann, Martin & Honneth, Axel

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