Even if the historical addressee were not beyond the reach of the theory, the relation of the theory to a practice that might possibly be guided by it would have to be defined differently than it was in the classical doctrine. Both revolutionary self-confidence and theoretical self-certainly are gone.
Jürgen Habermas "A Reply to My Critics," 222
Critical Theory, which originated as an effort to reappraise and reconstruct Marxist theory in light of changed historical conditions, offers a conception of politics that stands at considerable remove from the one traditionally associated with Marxism. To the degree that one can speak of a conception of politics in Critical Theory, it is a politics informed by a vision of "distinctness without domination," a politics of a plurality of agents, a multiplicity of actions, and a vastly expanded arena of political struggle.
It is also true, however, that there is a fundamental discontinuity within Critical Theory, one effected by Habermas's paradigm shift. In extricating Critical Theory from the bounds of the philosophy of consciousness, Habermas has shifted analysis from issues of consciousness to problems of language, from the subject-object relation to the intersubjective relation, and from an instrumental to a communicative conception of action. The effect of these shifts is to change the very terms by which both the possibilities for and the practices of social transformation are understood. In this concluding chapter I first want to summarize the new conception of radical politics found in the early critical theorists' work and then, by identifying how this conception remains defined and limited by the perspective of the philosophy of consciousness, highlight the way Habermas's transposition of Critical Theory onto a new theoretical framework changes the focus of analysis. This change in focus results in a