Tuesday, January 27, 2015

New Book on Axel Honneth's Critical Theory

Axel Honneth

by Christopher Zurn

(Polity Press, 2015)

240 pages


With his insightful and wide-ranging theory of recognition, Axel Honneth has decisively reshaped the Frankfurt School tradition of critical social theory. Combining insights from philosophy, sociology, psychology, history, political economy, and cultural critique, Honneth’s work proposes nothing less than an account of the moral infrastructure of human sociality and its relation to the perils and promise of contemporary social life.

This book provides an accessible overview of Honneth’s main contributions across a variety of fields, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of his thought. Christopher Zurn clearly explains Honneth’s multi-faceted theory of recognition and its relation to diverse topics: individual identity, morality, activist movements, progress, social pathologies, capitalism, justice, freedom, and critique. In so doing, he places Honneth’s theory in a broad intellectual context, encompassing classic social theorists such as Kant, Hegel, Marx, Freud, Dewey, Adorno and Habermas, as well as contemporary trends in social theory and political philosophy. Treating the full range of Honneth’s corpus, including his major new work on social freedom and democratic ethical life, this book is the most up-to-date guide available.


1. Introduction
2. Individuals’ Struggle for Recognition
3. Social Struggles for Recognition
4. Diagnosing Social Pathologies
5. Recognition and Markets
6. Social Freedom and Recognition
7. Concluding Speculations

Christopher Zurn is Associate Professor of Social and Political Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He is the author of "Deliberative Democracy and the Institutions of Judicial Review" (Cambridge University Press, 2007).

See also three of Zurn's papers on Axel Honneth's critical theory:

* "Recognition, Redistribution, and Democracy: Dilemmas of Honneth’s Critical Social Theory" [pdf] (2005)

* "Social Pathologies as Second-Order Disorders" [pdf] (2005)

* "Anthropology and Normativity" (2000).

See my post on Axel Honneth's book "Freedom's Right" (2014). 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a very fair and thorough of Axel Honneth's work. I am currently reading it through for a second time.
Honneth is a very deep, penetrating theorist, with a heart.