Positive Freedom


Martin Jay in The Nation:

First, take a deep breath. Close your eyes to the appalling spectacle of American democracy collapsing all around us. Stop your ears to the cacophony of voices cheering on or lamenting its imminent demise. Instead, try to achieve enough inner calm to recall something that was once a source of solace: the idea of an alternative political and economic system—indeed, a whole new way of life—known as socialism. It may not be easy, because the din outside is deafening and the memory of socialism has faded for many. But only if you can summon the concentration and strength will you be in the proper frame of mind to consider Axel Honneth’s The Idea of Socialism.

Honneth is best known as the leading representative of the Frankfurt School’s “third generation.” He is an advocate of many of the lessons and ideas of its first two generations, but over the years, he has also broken with his forebears in a variety of ways. Moving beyond Jürgen Habermas’s theory of communicative reasoning, Honneth has stressed the important role that our struggle for recognition—as manifested in the pursuit of love, esteem, and respect—can and should play in egalitarian politics. He has also tried to renew the Frankfurt School’s mode of social criticism and analysis by mining a wide variety of sources—Michel Foucault, the American pragmatists George Herbert Mead and John Dewey, the British psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott—that he believes helps us better understand the pathologies of modern life, and he isn’t afraid to get into debates with fellow social theorists, including with Nancy Fraser over whether recognition or redistribution should be a key to radical politics.

More here.