The Self and Individual Autonomy in the Frankfurt School

Authored by: Kenneth Baynes

The Routledge Companion to the Frankfurt School

Print publication date:  November  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138333246
eBook ISBN: 9780429443374
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter explores the ambivalent (or "dialectical") attitude toward the self and individual autonomy among three Frankfurt School theorists. These concepts are described as ideological yet indispensable for critical and normative theory. Horkheimer’s critique of "self-preservation without a self," Adorno’s effort to rethink Kant’s account of rational autonomy in connection with Freud, and Habermas’s development of a communicative or recognitional account of autonomy reflect different attempts to clarify this deep ambivalence and propose a critical position. The final section explores Habermas’s account in connection with the phenomenon of adaptive preference formation and its role in social criticism.

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