Continuity through Rupture with the Frankfurt School

Axel Honneth's Theory of Recognition*

Authored by: Mauro Basaure

Routledge International Handbook of Contemporary Social and Political Theory

Print publication date:  March  2011
Online publication date:  March  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415548250
eBook ISBN: 9780203875575
Adobe ISBN: 9781135997946


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The vitality of a school of thought is based more on its capacity for self-criticism, change and continuous development through waves of rediscovery than on devotedly clinging to “the classics.” This dynamic of continuity through rupture explains the power of the Frankfurt School's (FS) tradition of critical theory. Just as Jürgen Habermas, the most renowned representative of that tradition's second generation, both continues and breaks with the work of Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse (to name only the most central authors of the founding generation of the FS), Axel Honneth – as both a disciple of Habermas and the most prominent member of a third generation of that tradition – forges his own path in regard to the work of both those founding authors and with respect to Habermas. The FS tradition's survival is now to a large extent dependent on Honneth's theoretical effort to achieve continuity through rupture with Habermas’ work. The purpose of this chapter is to provide readers who are interested in the current state of the FS tradition with a guide to the main aspects of Honneth's work and, based on this description, in the second section, to explore certain key ruptures with his predecessors, particularly Habermas.

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