Axel Honneth

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Axel Honneth in 2017

Axel Honneth (born July 18, 1949) is a German philosopher who is the Professor for Social Philosophy at Goethe University Frankfurt and the Jack B. Weinstein Professor of the Humanities in the department of philosophy at Columbia University.


  • Social philosophy is primarily concerned with determining and discussing processes of social decelopment that can be viewed as misdevelopments, disorders or "social pathologies."
    • Disrespect: The Normative Foundations of Critical Theory (2007), p. 4

Quotes about Axel Honneth[edit]

  • Honneth's overcommitment to a merely reformist project becomes clear when we consider his discussion of Marx. According to Honneth, any unfreedom and exploitation of workers should be addressed within the capitalist system because no practical alternative to it is currently identifiable. Here he abandons another key insight of (at least the first generation of) Critical Theory and, indeed of Marx (and even Hegel): anticipating what the alternative would be is neither necessary in order to engage in radical critique, nor possible. Such an alternative is only going to emerge from actual practical struggles; and only in retrospect can it be theoretically grasped. ... Status quo-reinforcing false consciousness ... might extend so far that even our faculties of theorizing and imagination are chained, ultimately, to reproducing the status quo. Instead of genuine alternatives, all we can conceive of is a tax reform or granting mothers an extra year towards the qualifying condition for the state pension. In sum, if we treat “the fact that there do not seem to be practical alternative to the economic system of the market” as decisive, then we are no longer doing context-transcending critique (whether it be guided by immanent standards or not). Then, we let how things socially appear determine our theorizing (and associated practices), rather than trying to look behind the social façade as Critical Theory aspired to do
    • Fabian Freyenhagen, "Honneth on Social Pathologies: A Critique" Critical Horizons, vol. 16 (2015), pp. 132-152

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