Rethinking the Normative Content of Critical Theory: Marx, Habermas, and Beyond

Rethinking the Normative Content of Critical Theory: Marx, Habermas, and Beyond

Rethinking the Normative Content of Critical Theory: Marx, Habermas, and Beyond

Rethinking the Normative Content of Critical Theory: Marx, Habermas, and Beyond

Synopsis

One of Marxism's chief failings is its dependence on trans-historical categories. Theorists such as Jürgen Habernas also fall short by restricting their critique to the cultural sphere. This book extends the reach of critical theory and its key idea of intersubjectivity to the economic system. The economy is a realm of morality that social movements influence in the course of their struggles.

Excerpt

On the one hand, critical theory refers to a particular tradition that runs from the German idealist tradition of Kant, Fichte and Hegel through Marx and Lukács to the Frankfurt School of Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse, Habermas and Honneth. On the other hand, critical theory refers to the tendency of modernity to subject its own grounding assumptions to an ongoing evaluation. (To this extent, postmodernism comprises a branch of critical theory in so far as it problematizes modernity's founding presuppositions.) Nevertheless, these two forms of critical theory are dirempted from one another. Thus while the former retains an allegiance to 'transcendental' formulations, the latter articulates the 'empirical' standpoint of participants. One of the main aims of this book is to develop further their reconciliation through an historically grounded version of critical theory.

In Marx this diremption manifests itself in the tendency to ground the critique of capitalism, not in the historically emergent struggles of the labour movement, but in the essential properties of value-producing labour. To this end, Marx sets out to discover the transhistorical conditions for the possibility of production in general. the latter provides the ground for his critique of the corrupted form social production takes under capitalism. Although Marx attempts to historicize value-producing labour, he cannot do so without dissolving labour into capital. As the historical form taken by labour under capitalism, capital sets labour to work as one of its own components. Consequently, value is the 'product' of capital — self-valorizing value. in order to circumvent this outcome, Marx falls back upon a transhistorical conception of labour grounded in production in general. This, however, renders Marx's critique of capitalism vulnerable to his own critique of political economy in so far as his transhistorical conception of labour mimics the historical form taken by economic relations under capitalism. To this extent, Marx's drive to locate the source of capital in labour results in a transhistorical conception of labour that mirrors the subject-object diremption of capitalist sociality.

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