Review of Metaphysics 44 (2):430-431 (1990)

This is a book about Jurgen Habermas's attempt to replace historical materialism with communicative action as a social theory that is not external to society in the manner of traditional theories but is at work within it as an agency for human freedom. However, Rockmore is not so much interested in the genealogy of Habermas's theory of communicative action as in the complicated and sometimes confusing story of Habermas's own struggle with historical materialism as a way of accounting for social phenomena. The concept of historical materialism is itself very far from clear, and Habermas's own relation to it is highly unstable. Rockmore maps out the itinerary for Habermas's "reading of Marx and Marxism as a process in four stages, leading to his own theory of communicative action, consisting of the interpretation, critique, reconstruction, and rejection of historical materialism". In addition, Rockmore's book is in certain unsystematic ways a critique of Habermas's reading of Marx and Marxism; that is, it is not so much a defense of historical materialism as a criticism of the incompleteness of Habermas's efforts to get beyond it--an incompleteness that amounts, in Rockmore's view, to a backsliding into idealism, or at least into a German idealist theory of reason, including a restoration of the transcendental subject.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph1990442126
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