Is the Market a Sphere of Social Freedom?

Critical Horizons 16 (2):187-203 (2015)
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In this paper I examine Axel Honneth’s normative reconstruction of the market as a sphere of social freedom in his 2014 book, Freedom’s Right. Honneth’s position is complex: on the one hand, he acknowledges that modern capitalist societies do not realise social freedom; on the other hand, he insists that the promise of social freedom is implicit in the market sphere. In fact, the latter explains why modern subjects have seen capitalism as legitimate. I will reconstruct Honneth’s conception of social freedom and investigate how it is realised in the sphere in which Honneth sees it most successfully at work, the sphere of interpersonal relations. I then move on to the sphere of the market economy and discuss two related problems of this view that stem from his interpretation of Hegel. Next, I consider Honneth’s method of “normative reconstruction” and his reconstructions of the sphere of consumption and, finally, the labour market. My conclusion will be that market institutions cannot realise social freedom, and that this insight should orient the philosophical direction of critical social theory.
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First archival date: 2014-10-08
Latest version: 2 (2015-04-26)
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