Volume 72, 2018
Intersubjectivity, Power and Critique
Axel Honneth’s Reconstruction of Social Philosophy
Axel Honneth’s development of a theory of recognition is aimed at an intersubjective reconfiguration of social philosophy grounded on normative and anthropological premises. Honneth attempts to extend Jürgen Habermas’ communicative paradigm beyond its linguistic formulations and challenges the social-theoretical separation of system and lifeworld, whilst offering important insights towards an intersubjective theory of power and analysis of social action. In this sense, Honneth seeks to investigate the normative, intersubjective relations underlying all social spheres, including the market and state bureaucracy. However, despite his early insights into an alternative analysis and critique of power, in his subsequent development of a theory of recognition, Honneth does not adequately account for power as a constitutive factor in relations of recognition. It might be argued that Honneth’s intersubjective theory requires a consideration of power not only in terms of domination, but also as an ontological category constitutive of identity and social formations. This paper investigates the problems that result from Honneth’s attempt to bring together a theory of intersubjectivity, normative theory and the project of critique, and considers the resulting loss of insights regarding an intersubjective theory of power.