Critical Theory: Current State and Future Prospects

Critical Theory: Current State and Future Prospects

Critical Theory: Current State and Future Prospects

Critical Theory: Current State and Future Prospects

Synopsis

The retirement of the distinguished philosopher Jürgen Habermas from his chair at the University of Frankfurt signalled an important caesura in the history of Critical Theory: the transition from the Habermasian project, to different forms of inquiry in the work of the next generation. This change-over happens at a time when it has become clear that Habermas's systematic exploration of communicative rationality has reached the point where both its achievements and its limitations had become evident. The essays collected in this volume address the problems connected with this transition, partly by returning to the insights of the first generation (Adorno and Benjamin), partly by focusing on questions raised by Habermas's work. Whatever the difference in the authors' positions, this collection gains its unity through their common interest in the significance and value of Critical Theory today and in its future as a philosophical project.

Excerpt

Peter Uwe Hohendahl and Jaimey Fisher

The essays appearing in this volume were delivered at a conference, “The Future of Critical Theory … A Reassessment” held at Cornell University in April 1998. The conference was prompted by two important events marking the history of Critical Theory: first, the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Dialectic of Enlightenment and, second, the recent retirement of Jürgen Habermas from his chair at the University of Frankfurt. While the year 1947 marked the most important philosophical intervention of the first generation of Critical Theory, the second event signals the transition from the generation of Habermas to a group of younger theorists, among them Axel Honneth and Christoph Menke. Habermas's project, that is, the systematic exploration of communicative rationality, has reached the point where both its achievements and limitations have become evident. Therefore a thoroughgoing assessment of both the current state and future prospects of Critical Theory seems timely.

The essays in this volume address the problems connected with this history and these transitions, partly by returning to the insights of the first generation (especially of Adorno and Benjamin), partly by focusing on problems in and posed by Habermas's work. In the volume's first essay, “From the Eclipse of Reason to Communicative Rationality and Beyond,” Peter Uwe Hohendahl attends to one key element of the transition between the first, second, and now third generations of Critical Theory, namely, its relation to rationality. Against the presumed one-way trajectory from Adorno's and Horkheimer's vigorous critique of instrumental reason to Habermas's embrace of communicative rationality, Hohendahl demonstrates a . . .

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