This working paper examines the notion of "immanent critique", a central methodological commitment of critical theories of society. In the first part, I distinguish immanent critique - a critique which reconstructs norms immanent in a social practice which point beyond the normative self-understanding of its members - from both external and internal critique and examine three questions that a theory of immanent critique has to answer (a social ontological, an epistemological and a justificatory question). After surveying some of the classic (...) accounts of immanent critique in part two, I then distinguish two varieties of immanent critique, a hermeneutic and a practice-theoretic approach. Drawing on theories in recent analytic philosophy, I finally argue for a practice-theoretic approach to immanent critique that locates the relevant norms in a practice constituted by mutual recognition. (shrink)
Recent disclosures suggest that many governments apply indiscriminate mass surveillance technologies that allow them to capture and store a massive amount of communications data belonging to citizens and non-citizens alike. This article argues that traditional liberal critiques of government surveillance that center on an individual right to privacy cannot completely capture the harm that is caused by such surveillance because they ignore its distinctive political dimension. As a complement to standard liberal approaches to privacy, the article develops a critique of (...) surveillance that focuses on the question of political power in the public sphere. (shrink)
This article considers the question ‘What makes hope rational?’ We take Adrienne Martin’s recent incorporation analysis of hope as representative of a tradition that views the rationality of hope as a matter of instrumental reasons. Against this tradition, we argue that an important subset of hope, ‘fundamental hope’, is not governed by instrumental rationality. Rather, people have reason to endorse or reject such hope in virtue of the contribution of the relevant attitudes to the integrity of their practical identity, which (...) makes the relevant hope not instrumentally but intrinsically valuable. This argument also allows for a new analysis of the reasons people have to abandon hope and for a better understanding of non-fundamental, ‘prosaic’ hopes. (shrink)
Many contemporary forms of oppression are not primarily the result of formally organized collective action nor are they an unintended outcome of a combination of individual actions. This raises the question of collective responsibility. I argue that we can only determine who is responsible for oppression if we understand oppression as a matter of social practices that create obstacles for social change. This social practice view of oppression enables two insights: First, that there is an unproblematic sense in which groups (...) can bear irreducible collective responsibility for oppression. Second, that there are derived forms of individual responsibility for members of dominant groups. (shrink)
According to Jürgen Habermas, his Theory of Communicative Action offers a new account of the normative foundations of critical theory. Habermas’ motivating insight is that neither a transcendental nor a metaphysical solution to the problem of normativity, nor a merely hermeneutic reconstruction of historically given norms, is sufficient to clarify the normative foundations of critical theory. In response to this insight, Habermas develops a novel account of normativity, which locates the normative demands of critical theory within the socially instituted practice (...) of communicative understanding. Although Habermas has claimed otherwise, this new foundation for critical theory constitutes a novel and innovative form of “immanent critique.” To argue for and to clarify this claim, I offer, in section 1, a formal account of immanent critique and distinguish between two different ways of carrying out such a critique. (shrink)
The article defines the boundaries of social and institutional power clearly; it argues that all institutional power rests finally on the acceptance of sanctioning authority and thus on mutual recognition.
This paper critically evaluates the semantic externalist conception of Race and Gender concepts put forward in Sally Haslanger's 2012 essay collection "Resisting Reality". I argue that her endorsement of "objective type externalism" limits the options for critique compared to social externalist approaches.
Although the critique of reification is a core commitment of critical theories, there is no widely accepted account of its normative foundation. In Lukács’s original analysis, this foundation is provided by a strong concept of practice which is, however, not acceptable from a contemporary point of view. I argue that the systematic character of reification theory can only be upheld if this concept is replaced by a more intersubjective notion of normative practices. Reification can then be analysed as a second-order (...) pathology of social practices, as an inhibition of reflexivity by their normative shape. The normative justification of such critique, however, turns out to be more context-dependent than it is usually imagined. (shrink)
This book discusses the concept of immanent critique, i. e. whether there is a form of critique which neither just applies empirically accepted standards nor independently justified norms but rather reconstructs norms which are immanent to social practices. -/- It surveys both political theories of criticism (Walzer, Taylor, MacIntyre) and contemporary critical theories (Habermas, Honneth) for how they describe such forms of critique and develops a new model of immanent critique. For this purpose, it takes up both contemporary social ontology (...) theories and the discussion about rule-following. The book argues that we can speak of immanent rules as far as persons can practically recognize each other as members of rule-governed practices if they attribute each other defeasible normative authority. -/- Finally, it describes the consequences of the adoption of such a model for our description of a practice of critique and analyzes both first-order immanent critique and the second-order critique of reification. (shrink)
The Hegelian insight that subjectivity depends on recognition has been taken up by two competing traditions: Post-Hegelian theories (Honneth, Brandom) take recognition to be a precondition for a critical stance of subjects towards society. In contrast, theories of subjection (Althusser, Butler) take the dependency of subjects on subordinating relations of recognition as undermining their capacity for critique. I argue that this worry has not been taken seriously enough by the post-Hegelian tradition, especially by its model of immanent critique. However, theories (...) of subjection ignore that the very structure of recognitive relations supports critical capacities that can never be fully effaced by ideology. (shrink)
In verschiedenen philosophischen Traditionen findet sich die These, dass Haltungen der Anerkennung eine zentrale Rolle für die Existenz von sozialen Institutionen spielen. Der Artikel gibt einen kurzen Überblick über zentrale anerkennungstheoretische Modelle in der Sozialontologie.
How are changes in the social order of recognition to be evaluated normatively? We argue that the conventional means of liberal philosophical theories of justice are insufficient to answer this question. This is for three reasons: First, relations of recognition are neither basic rights nor distributable goods, but rather constitutive for the meaning of those rights and goods which constitute the object domain of distributive theories of justice. Second, relations of recognition provide the framework for many questions of justice, outside (...) of which they make no sense. Third, the focus of contemporary theories of justice on basic rights risks supporting colonialization tendencies of purely legal forms of recognition. As an alternative, we discuss hermeneutic theories of justice and a conception of social freedom as inclusion and individualization. (shrink)
The problem of the social foundations of normativity can be illuminated by discussing the narrower question whether rule-following is necessarily a social matter. The problems with individualistic theories of rule-following seem to make such a conclusion unavoidable. Social theories of rule-following, however, seem to only push back one level the dilemma of having to choose either an infinite regress of interpretations or a collapse into non-normative descriptions. The most plausible of these models, Haugeland's conformism, can avoid these objections if it (...) is supplemented with an ontologically reasonable concept of the collective attitude of a group. Groups of individuals who are bound to shared norms by recognizing each other as equipped with a standard authority of criticism have the necessary properties for ascribing to those groups such collective attitudes. Given such a weak notion of a collective attitude, there is hope for a plausible collectivist theory of rule-following. (shrink)
Collective intentionality is one of the most fundamental notions in social ontology. However, it is often thought to refer to a capacity which does not presuppose the existence of any other social facts. This chapter critically examines this view from the perspective of one specific theory of collective intentionality, the theory of Margaret Gilbert. On the basis of Gilbert’s arguments, the chapter claims that collective intentionality is a highly contingent achievement of complex social practices and, thus, not a basic social (...) phenomenon. The argument proceeds in three steps. First, Gilbert’s thesis that certain kinds of collective intentionality presuppose joint normative commitments is introduced. Second, it is argued that, on this view, individual commitments can only constitute the relevant kinds of collective intentional states if there are socially shared “principles of membership” that connect the force of individual commitments to a shared content. Third, it is shown that strong collective intentionality depends on the practical acceptance of shared norms and on the establishment of authority relations through mutual recognition. (shrink)
This chapter discusses a fundamental ambivalence in Marx's use of the term "ideology". On the one hand, he employs a cognitivist critique of ideologies, condemning them in virtue of their epistemic or cognitive insufficiencies. On the other hand, what he so describes as false is a specific second-order belief: The belief that the cognitive is independent from material practice. If this belief is false, however, a merely epistemic critique of ideologies must miss its very point. -/- The chapter argues that (...) there is a way out of this dilemma if we assume, that ideologies are correct expressions of false practices. Ideological practices are practices which are constituted by norms that deny people the opportunity to legitimately question the categories which express basic distinctions established in the practices. In this case, ideological beliefs are not false, but deficient insofar they can only be expressed by employing concepts that rely on a limitation of our cognitive abilities. (shrink)
In regard to the explanation of actions that are governed by institutional rules, John R. Searle introduces the notion of a mental “background” that is supposed to explain how persons can acquire the capacity of following such rules. I argue that Searle’s internalism about the mind and the resulting poverty of his conception of the background keep him from putting forward a convincing explanation of the normative features of institutional action. Drawing on competing conceptions of the background of Heidegger and (...) Wittgenstein, I propose to revise Searle’s conception. The background of institutional agency can only provide a convincing explanation if it includes the context of actions and intersubjective structures of a shared life-world. I suggest that a further development of this idea would lead to the identification of the background with a web of social recognition. (shrink)
Georg (György) Lukács (1885–1971) was a literary theorist and philosopher who is widely viewed as one of the founders of “Western Marxism”. Lukács is best known for his pre-World War II writings in literary theory, aesthetic theory and Marxist philosophy. Today, his most widely read works are the Theory of the Novel of 1916 and History and Class Consciousness of 1923. In History and Class Consciousness, Lukács laid out a wide-ranging critique of the phenomenon of “reification” in capitalism and formulated (...) a vision of Marxism as a self-conscious transformation of society. (shrink)
Critical theories often express scepticism towards the idea that social critique should draw on general normative principles, seeing such principles as bound to dominant conceptual frameworks. However, even the models of immanent critique developed in the Frankfurt School tradition seem to privilege principles over particular moral experiences. Discussing the place that particular moral experience has in the models of Honneth, Ferrara and Adorno, the article argues that experience can play an important negative role even for a critical theory that is (...) committed to the necessity of conceptual mediation, as moral experiences can undermine our confidence in the appropriateness of our moral concepts. Building on McDowell’s account of moral perception and Brandom’s interpretation of Hegel’s theory of experience, one can reconstruct Adorno as providing a “radically negativist” approach to immanent critique that takes particular moral experience seriously. (shrink)