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Normative reconstruction and social theory in contemporary critical theory

Grant number: 15/13820-1
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Post-Doctorate
Effective date (Start): September 01, 2015
Effective date (End): March 28, 2016
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Philosophy - Ethics
Principal researcher:Luiz Sérgio Repa
Grantee:Nathalie de Almeida Bressiani
Home Institution: Centro Brasileiro de Análise e Planejamento (CEBRAP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Associated research grant:14/11611-3 - Public sphere and reconstruction: on the constitution of a reconstructive paradigm within Critical Theory, AP.TEM


The relationship between theory and praxis is central to the project of critical theory, according to which the diagnosis of the times is not something that accompanies critique or corresponds to the social reality that will be evaluated by it. It is rather the basis of social criticism and determines it. With that in view, Axel Honneth claims that, once Jürgen Habermas departs from a reconstruction of the rational structure of the communicative praxis, which would be responsible for the symbolic reproduction of the lifeworld, he seems to purify it from the direct influence of power and understands its distortion as something coming from the outside. Linked to a dualist social theory, the notion of normative reconstruction developed by Habermas would have prevented him from diagnosing the pathologies reproduced through communicative praxis, as well as from criticizing the capitalist economy. In this sense, Honneth argues that the refusal of Habermas' social dualism and his diagnosis of social pathologies has consequences regarding the normative basis of his critical theory. This conclusion is endorsed by the new critical models that have been developed not only by Honneth, but also by a new generation of critical theorists, composed by authors like Rahel Jaeggi, Robin Celikates and Martin Saar. For them, the need to develop a new diagnosis of social pathologies that problematizes capitalism and symbolic forms of domination requires a distinct form of normative reconstruction, or even of immanent critique, which drives then away from Habermas. Attentive to these shifts, this research (linked to the FAPESP thematic project number 2014/11611-3) aims to analyze the relationship established between normative reconstruction and social theory in contemporary critical theory. To fulfill this aim, its first step will be to analyze Honneth's turn toward a theory of social freedom, which leads him to abandon important theses of his recognition theory and to reshape the relationship established earlier between normative reconstruction and social theory. Afterwards, considering that there is a new generation of critical theorists that seek to address this question, we will turn our attention to the texts where they discuss it.

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