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Critical theory once offered a powerful, distinctive approach to social research, enabling sociologists to diagnose the irrationalities of the social world across institutions and forms of thought, even within the subject’s deepest desires. Yet, with the work of Axel Honneth, such analytical potency has been lost. The ‘domestication’ of critical theory stems from the programme’s embrace of Honneth’s ‘recognition-cognitivist’ understanding of social problems; where all social maladies are understood to lie, ultimately, within the head of social subjects and within the intersubjective relationships they enact. This book explores the manifold limitations of this dominant understanding of social pathologies and builds towards an alternate theoretical infrastructure, drawn from a marriage of insights from Erich Fromm and Herbert Marcuse. While Honneth’s critical theory leads to researchers exploring all social problems as ‘pathologies of recognition’, a return to Fromm and Marcuse reminds critical theorists that power precedes subjectivation and that a wide range of pressing social problems exists which are invisible to the recognition framework. As such, this book urges critical theorists to once again think beyond recognition.

Neal Harris

. Neo-Idealism: power precedes recognition In addition to the social-theoretical limitations of recognition theory, outlined above, Michael J. Thompson and Lois McNay have both targeted the ‘reductive understanding of power’ manifest in Honneth’s account ( McNay, 2008 : 2). Honneth presents the recognition dyad as the genesis of social power relations. For McNay ( 2008 : 138

in Critical theory and social pathology
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On the battle for critical theory
Neal Harris

emergent ‘fourth generation’ of critical theory (see Corradetti, 2021 ), yet such claims remain contested. The most prominent figure associated with this new era is Rainer Forst, whose critical theory of judgement retains many of the central features of Honneth’s account, especially his ‘neo-Idealism’ ( Thompson, 2016 : 15). While for Habermas the primary entry point to the social world was

in Critical theory and social pathology
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Why a history of International Relations theory?
Torbjørn L. Knutsen

efforts to theorize about the post-Cold War world. Chapter 14 first recalls some of the events that led up to the collapse of the USSR in 1991. It then discusses the sentiment of triumph which washed across the West in the wake of the Soviet collapse. Post-Cold War International Relations was coloured by the Western view that the USSR had been defeated and that the West had emerged victorious with its liberal ideals vindicated. A wave of Neo-idealism swept across the Western world. It coloured the rhetoric of statesmen and stateswomen and affected the theories of

in A history of International Relations theory (third edition)
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The end of International Relations?
Torbjørn L. Knutsen

], pp. 122–3); it took place not in a lawless international system but in an international society marked by rules, regimes and other ordering institutions. Ideational shifts were another aspect of the new international context. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War were followed by a wave of Neo-idealism which washed across world affairs. It was reflected in the idea that peace, wealth, liberty and other good things go hand in hand with democracy. One of its manifestations was a rejuvenated and more active UN – whose General Secretary

in A history of International Relations theory (third edition)
Neal Harris

fall into the trap of neo-Idealism (see Thompson, 2016). In contrast to Honneth, Rousseau demonstrated that a ‘polycentric and multilateral’ account of social pathology is possible ( Fraser and Honneth, 2001 : 209), and that recognition insights can sit as part of a broader research endeavour, without overdetermining the theoretical perspective adopted. Engaging with Rousseau shows that the collapse into

in Critical theory and social pathology
Christopher Duggan

Giuseppe Mazzini’s view that the national question needed to be formulated in religious terms if the masses were ever to become engaged, received a powerful fillip from the anti-rationalist doctrines that emerged in Europe around the turn of the century. The writings of Georges Sorel and Gustave Le Bon, with their emphasis on the mobilising power of myth, fell on receptive soil in Italy – both on the left and 32 The cult of the Duce the right. Further intellectual support for the opponents of positivism came from the neo-idealism of Benedetto Croce and Giovanni

in The cult of the Duce
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Pathologies of reason, pathologies of production
Neal Harris

interpersonal relation, or self-relation, which is held to precede such socialisation. Honneth’s reframing of reification serves to entrench the erroneous ontological primacy of the recognition moment within his programme. Such an effort lapses plainly into a clear neo-Idealism. Honneth’s account is again predicated on the idea there are some a priori

in Critical theory and social pathology