SAAP Annual Meeting 2014

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Axel Honneth and the Frankfurt School’s Reception of Dewey

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Though they share many philosophical and methodological assumptions, the Frankfurt school has until recently been largely hostile or indifferent to American pragmatism. Axel Honneth has sought to reverse this trend, but even when he works to incorporate the works of the pragmatists, he tends to keep them at arm’s length. This paper analyzes Honneth’s reception of John Dewey’s political philosophy and finds that while Honneth embraces Dewey as a potential ally for critical theory, he fails to see the full extent of Dewey’s potential contributions. In particular, Dewey can help us understand the role of what Honneth calls “paradoxes”—contradictions in the social world that do not lead to the kind of dialectical change Marx foresaw. Dewey is not merely a psychologist who can bridge the gap between theories of personal development and public engagement, but can help build the robust theory of social change Honneth is seeking.


Christopher Lauer    
University of Hawaii-Hilo
United States


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