AbstractsPolitical Science

Pathologies of recognition: the communicative turn and the renewed possibility of a critical theory of society

by Gary Hazeldine

Institution: University of Birmingham
Department: Department of Political Science and International Studies
Year: 2015
Keywords: HM Sociology; JC Political theory
Record ID: 1405270
Full text PDF: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/5745/


This thesis explores the communicative turn in critical theory, beginning with Jürgen Habermas’s and Axel Honneth’s criticisms of the work of the early Frankfurt school; it then analyses Habermas’s ideas on language and discourse ethics alongside Axel Honneth’s development of a ‘recognitive-theoretical’ model of Critical Theory. Following Honneth’s lead, I then bring the work of Michel Foucault into dialogue with the communicative turn and explore the merits of both approaches. Habermas’s and Honneth’s accounts of non-coercive dialogical exchange are found wanting, and I argue that they idealise the public sphere, communication and recognition, and also reproduce procedural conceptions of freedom that abstract from difference and particularity. Foucault compensates for this, but his genealogical work displays an excessive and indiscriminate view of power, alongside an inadequate conception of subjectivity, whilst his later work on ethics/aesthetics idealises the self as a work of art and lacks a substantive account of culture, democracy, and responsibility. I argue that Theodor Adorno’s account of non-reified culture and ethics – as a response to the suffering produced by commodification, identity thinking and technological rationality – overcomes the shortcomings of the work of Habermas, Honneth and Foucault, whilst providing us with a more complete account of recognition and solidarity.