Marjan Ivković’s monograph The Critical Theory of Axel Honneth: Towards the Overcoming of Metaphysics presents a comprehensive reconstruction of the theoretical perspective of one of the leading authors of the “third generation” of critical theory, the German philosopher and sociologist Axel Honneth. The monograph has a specific systematic aim: to examine the fruitfulness of Honneth’s perspective as a basis for formulating a post-metaphysical critique of domination. Apart from being one of the still rare systematic works on Axel Honneth’s theoretical perspective, Ivković’s study contributes to contemporary debates on the adequate epistemological foundations of social theory, as well as on the relationship between theoretical explanations of social reality and normative-theoretical statements about it, i.e., social criticism. Ever since the well-known “linguistic turn” of Jürgen Habermas, critical theory has, according to Ivković, been faced with one essential challenge: articulating a theoretical critique of social domination that would at the same time be substantive and “post-metaphysical”. This means that social critique should provide causal explanations of forms of domination based on social theory but at the same time refrain from making essentialist statements about social reality (its structure, basic elements, its telos throughout history, etc.) that lay claim to trans-contextual validity. Ivković’s central argument is the thesis of greater potential of Honneth’s early works (primarily The Critique of Power [Kritik der Macht]) in meeting the challenge of resolving this contradiction, by articulating an empirically sensitive causal critique of social domination that remains at the level of post-metaphysical plausibility defined by Habermas.
The Critical Theory of Axel Honneth: Towards the Overcoming of Metaphysics
Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory
University of Belgrade
Year of publication: 2017