Toward a political critique of reification: Lukacs, Honneth and the aims of critical theory

Philosophy and Social Criticism 36 (5):587-606 (2010)
Abstract
This article engages Axel Honneth’s recent work on Georg Lukács’ concept of reification in order to formulate a politically relevant and historically specific critique of capitalism that is applicable to theorizing contemporary democratic practice. I argue that Honneth’s attempt to reorient the critique of reification within the terms of a theory of recognition has done so at the cost of sacrificing the core of the concept, which forged a connection between the socio-political analysis of capitalist domination and an analysis of the unengaged, spectatorial stance of human beings toward the world, showing how they together impede emancipatory social transformation. In order to accomplish the unfinished task of rendering the critique of reification applicable to contemporary critical theory, I seek to synthesize the advantages of Honneth’s approach, which focuses on the normative aspects of the critique of reification, with Lukács’ emphasis on the practical, political-economic dimensions of reification and the historically specific pathologies of the capitalist social form
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