Critical Theory and Religion

Authored by: Peter E. Gordon

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 raises general questions that should be of concern for the continuing dialogue between religion and the Frankfurt School. It discusses some of the major motifs in the Frankfurt School’s understanding of religion with a focus on the question as to whether religious traditions may still bear some redemptive potential for a social theory that nonetheless commits itself to wholly secular problems. The chapter offers a brief discussion of Benjamin, Adorno, and Horkheimer, before turning to Habermas’s earlier assessment of religion in The Theory of Communicative Action and the later assessment in various works since the publication of Postmetaphysical Thinking. The chapter places a special focus on Habermas’s claim that critical theory and public discourse can redeem the normative meanings of religion via the non-destructive technique of translation. The chapter concludes by examining the question of whether what Habermas calls the “curious dependency” of modern secular society on religious traditions is compatible with the left-Hegelian (Feuerbachian-Marxian) thesis that religion is an instance of alienation.

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