Saturday, January 16, 2010

Honneth on Hegel's Theory of Justice

From Axel Honneth's forthcoming book "The Pathologies of Individual Freedom: Hegel's Social Theory" (Princeton University Press, May 2010), a chapter on

Hegel's Philosophy of Right as a Theory of Justice [pdf]


"Although many contemporary philosophers have embraced Hegelian philosophy to a surprising degree - which may even help to bridge the gulf between the Analytic and Continental traditions - Hegel’s Elements of the Philosophy of Right has so far failed to exert the slightest influence on the current debates in political philosophy. Rather, in recent years - after the abrupt end of the Marxist phase and its reduction of modern right to a mere superstructure - philosophers returned on a broad front to the rationalist paradigm of the Kantian tradition, which essentially dominates the debate from Rawls to Habermas; and however hard these two authors in particular try to embed their Kantian concepts of justice in a realistic, almost social-scientific approach, the theoretical model of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right plays no decisive part in their thought. Nor has the situation changed much in response to the countermovement in political philosophy that came into being through the somewhat artificial grouping of theoreticians as diverse as Charles Taylor, Michael Walzer, or Alasdair MacIntyre under the heading of “communitarianism.” (.....)

"As I do not believe that either Hegel’s concept of the state or his ontological concept of spirit can in any way be rehabilitated today, I must be satisfied with the indirect reactualization of the Philosophy of Right. (.....) the goal of this “indirect” procedure is to demonstrate the current relevance of The Philosophy of Right by proving that it can be understood as a draft of a normative theory of those spheres of reciprocal recognition that must be preserved intact because they constitute the moral identity of modern societies".

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