the impact Axel Honneth’s work has had on the Frankfurt School’s social-theoretical foundations , and, in particular, the impact the critical theory of recognition has had on the framing of ‘social pathology’. Frankfurt School scholarship can seem imposing to the uninitiated as it elides disciplines, uniting Marxian theory, Freudian
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.
Recent killings of unarmed black citizens are a fresh reminder of the troubled state of racial integration in the United States. At the same time, the unfolding Black Lives Matter protest movements and the responses by federal agencies each testify to a not insignificant capacity for addressing social pathologies surrounding the color line. In order to respond to this ambivalent situation, this article suggests a pairing between the work of James Baldwin and that of the psychoanalyst Melanie Klein. I will argue that we cannot fully appreciate the depths of what Baldwin called the “savage paradox” of race without the insights provided by Klein and object relations psychoanalysis. Conversely, Baldwin helps us to sound out the political significance of object relations approaches, including the work of Klein and those influenced by her such as Hanna Segal and Wilfred Bion. In conversation with the work of Baldwin, object relations theory can help to identify particular social settings and institutions that might allow concrete efforts toward racial justice to take root.
With Honneth’s The Struggle for Recognition , a restrictive and ‘domesticated’ account of social pathology emerged. 1 In this chapter, I show how variations on the ‘pathologies of recognition’ framing achieved dominance across social theory which problematically impacted applied social research. As Onni Hirvonen, a leading
student activists, encouraging their fusing of theory and practice ( Marcuse, 1969 ). He also presented a (relatively) more accessible diagnosis of the social pathologies rooted in the technological realities of the day (see Chapter 7 ). Erich Fromm, likewise, did not pale into abstract contemplation. While Adorno was accused of an excessive intellectualism and a failure to
In Part I , I argued that Axel Honneth’s ‘recognition monism’ must be dispensed with in favour of a critical theory true to the founding insights of the Frankfurt School. This requires a return to the original social-theoretical foundations of critical theory, characterised by their distinct framing of social pathology. Rebuilding such an
an archetype of the problem of ‘pleonexia’ – excessive and insatiable greed, raging ambition and envy combined with distributive unfairness of money, power, honour and of all divisible social goods. Three millennia of religious, ethical, philosophical, political and even medical discourse identify pleonexia as a social pathology, as being the problem of the Classical city, paradigmatically Athens, where its greatest minds, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, all identify it as the cause of the collapse of civilization, a theme repeated by the historian Thucydides and by
of Hegelian-Marxism are immanently incoherent and counter-productive. I conclude this chapter demonstrating that the foundational insights of Hegelian-Marxism for social pathology scholarship are wilfully neglected by Honneth’s recognition monism. This is shown to be to the detriment of a critical theory of society. Honneth’s work erases the foundational materialist inversion
theory. In Chapter 3 , I come to the crux of my own distinctive contribution to this debate, demonstrating how Honneth’s approach has percolated through to the social-theoretical foundations of critical theory, eroding the pathology diagnosing bedrock of Frankfurt School research. Part I of Critical Theory and Social Pathology thus demonstrates the necessity of renewing
the raptor flies free, so much so that the principle of neoliberal political-economic and moral theology becomes ‘greed is good’. But this apparent vitality, seen from a different aspect, is like a cancer, proliferating, thriving, metastasizing; an aggressive and deathly form of growth, giving rise to extensive and intensive social pathologies, threatening civilization with sociocide and ecocide. And it is not just a process of de-symbolization that is taking place (de-symbolization occurs at other times of crisis and transition in the history of civilization – the