For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"New Directions for a Critical Theory of Work: Reading Honneth Through Deranty"

by Boston, Timothy (2018)


Axel Honneth?s theory of recognition has been criticised for presenting a deficient concept of work and the normative significance of work. In recent years Jean-Philippe Deranty, among others, has suggested that Honneth could overcome this deficiency by reintroducing into his mature theory the critical concept of work that first appeared in his 1977?1985 writings. My paper critically reconstructs and assesses Derantys position. I argue that Deranty has understated the extent to which his research direction diverges from Honneth?s. Rather than simply nuancing Honneth?s existing philosophical system, Deranty?s work exposes some of its conceptual limits and points beyond it.

Key Passage

Of Axel Honneth’s many debts to the tradition of critical theory, the most significant is the idea that social critique must proceed from a standpoint immanent to, rather than transcendent of, its object. That is, rather than developing the concept of a just society and then evaluating existing institutions based on this external standard – as do Rawls and other political philosophers in the Kantian tradition – an immanent critique aims to conceptualise existing social institutions in such a way that they already appear as suboptimal, irrational or unstable forms of what they, on the basis of their own presuppositions, ought to be or become. In Honneth’s words, his recognition theory aims to locate an “intramundane element of transcendence”, a sense in which the existing social formation could not function as it does unless it also pointed beyond itself towards a better formation. (p.112)


Axel Honneth, Deranty, Normative Significance Of Work, Critical Theory Of Work, Frankfurt School Of Social Research


On Honneth, Critical Theory of Work

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