Can Honneth's theory account for a critique of instrumental reason?
capitalism and the pathologies of negative freedom
The critique of the pervasiveness of instrumental reason in modern capitalist societies is a hallmark of the Frankfurt School critical theory. In this regard, Axel Honneth's recognition theory seems to depart considerably from his predecessors in the critical tradition. He considers the representation of the economic system as a normatively neutralized social sphere a fictional and misleading one, an instantiation of the fallacy of misplaced concreteness. It can be argued, however, that Honneth's focus on morally motivated social struggles does not rule out the diagnosis of social pathologies systemically inflicted upon individuals by the impersonal, calculation-driven logic of the capitalist market. This is clear in the author's early Marxist essays, but can also be seen in his recent works on social freedom, where a renewed theoretical opening to a critique of instrumental reason can be identified in the form of a critique of negative freedom. The challenge faced by Honneth's theory now lies in articulating both approaches: the critique of instrumental reason as a critique of negative freedom can benefit a great deal from the sensitivity recognition theory has for the moral grammar of social conflicts, i.e., the experiences of injustice that function as the motivational force behind resistance to commodification and reification.
Teixeira, M. (2019)., Can Honneth's theory account for a critique of instrumental reason?: capitalism and the pathologies of negative freedom, in V. Schmitz (ed.), Axel Honneth and the critical theory of recognition, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 173-205.
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