Habermas pp 42-56 | Cite as

Habermas’s Concept of Critical Theory

  • Rüdiger Bubner
Part of the Contemporary Social Theory book series


The concept of critical theory is ambiguous. It combines in a productive way two meanings of the word Kritik which were developed in classical German philosophy. The one meaning stems from the Kantian programme for a transcendental philosophy and signifies the testing of legitimacy. The other meaning goes back to the Young Hegelians’ attitude to the opposition of theory and practice and signifies negation. Ever since Marx developed his concept of a realist science, which sought to draw the consequences from the faltering beginnings and eventual failure of German idealism, the two meanings of the concept of Kritik have been fused together. Thus the ambiguity of the concept has been passed on from generation to generation and can be traced even to present-day neo-Marxism. This is what I wish to demonstrate in what follows.


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Notes and References

  1. 2.
    Cf. Karl Löwith, From Hegel to Nietzsche (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964 ); D. McLellan, The Young Hegelians and Karl Marx ( London: Macmillan, 1969 ).Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    G. Lukacs, History and Class Consciousness, trans. R. Livingstone ( London: Merlin, 1971 ).Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    T. Adorno, Ästhetischen Theorie, in Gesammelte Schriften, 7, ed. G. Adorno and R. Tiedemann ( Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1970 ).Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    J. Habermas, ‘Erkenntnis und Interesse’ (1965) [KHI pp. 301–17].Google Scholar
  5. 13.
    G. W. F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A. V. Miller (Oxford University Press, 1977) ch. 4.Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    K. Marx, ‘Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts’ (1844), in Karl Marx: Early Writings, ed. and trans. T. B. Bottomore ( New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964 ).Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    J.Habermas, ‘Arbeit und Interaktion’, in Theorie und Praxis (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1971) [TP pp. 142–69].Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    M. Horkheimer and T. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans. J. Cumming ( New York: Herder and Herder, 1972 ).Google Scholar
  9. 18.
    See J. Habermas, ‘Vorbereitende Bemerkungen zu einer Theorie der kommunikativen Kompetenz’, in J. Habermas and N. Luhmann, Theorie der Gesellschaft oder Sozialtechnologie - Was leistet die Systemforschung? ( Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1971 ) p. 121.Google Scholar
  10. 23.
    For example, J. Habermas, Wahrheitstheorien’, in Wirklichkeit und Reflexion, Festschrift W. Schulz, ed. H. Fahrenbach ( Pfullingen: Neske, 1973 ).Google Scholar
  11. 24.
    J. Habermas, Legitimationsprobleme im Spätkapitalismus (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1973) especially part III[LC part III].Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Limited 1982

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  • Rüdiger Bubner

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