Friday, February 01, 2008

The End of Immanent Critique?

By Craig Browne


Immanent critique has been a defining feature of the programme of critical social theory. It is a methodology that underpins theoretical diagnoses of contemporary society, based on its linking normative and empirical modes of analysis. Immanent critique distinctively seeks to discern emancipatory or democratizing tendencies. However, the viability of immanent critique is currently in question. Habermas argued that it was necessary to revise the normative foundations of critical social theory, late-capitalist developments tended to undermine immanent critique. Although there is a need for critical social theory to incorporate aspects of alternative interpretations of the contemporary period, the logics of influential theoretical perspectives on the present, especially postmodernism, the risk society and globalization, will be shown to be inconsistent with some of immanent critique's presuppositions. The synthetic aspirations of critical social theory nevertheless persist in recent attempts to reconcile positive liberty and social justice.

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