Critical Theory Today: Habermas and Beyond

Term: Fall 2009

Subject Code: GPHI

Course Number: 6531

This seminar examines the state of critical theory today and assess its future prospects. Our guiding question is: "What is living and what is dead in critical theory?" We begin by revisiting Habermas's diagnosis of the aporias besetting the first generation's formulation and his own effort to reconstruction the project's normative and social-theoretical foundations. Then, aiming to explore possible "post-Habermassian" futures for critical theory, we survey work by such thinkers as Luc Boltanski, Judith Butler, Rainer Forst, Nancy Fraser, and Axel Honneth. Key issues include the relations among political philosophy, social theory, and cultural critique; the relative weight of Kantian, Hegelian, Marxian, and Nietzschean moments; the relation of the theory to its addressees; the role of moral psychology versus discourse theory in establishing the theory's normative underpinnings; the possibility/desirability of a "grand" totalizing theory versus a "modest" disciplinary division of labor; and the challenges of feminism, post-structuralism, postcolonialism and globalization theory.

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