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2008 (30) Heft 2

Social Theory Today. 30 Years of Analyse & Kritik


Abstracts | Inhalt | Editorial

1. Social Philosophy and Social Critique

Russell Keat
Social Criticism and the Exclusion of Ethics

Abstract: As Axel Honneth has recently noted, the critical concerns of social philosophers during the past three decades have been focused primarily on questions of justice, with ethical issues about the human good being largely excluded. In the first section I briefly explore this exclusion in both ‘Anglo-American’ political philosophy and ‘German’ critical theory. I then argue, in the main sections, that despite this commitment to their exclusion, distinctively ethical concepts and ideals can be identified both in Rawls’s Theory of Justice and in Habermas’s Theory of Communicative Action, taking these as exemplary, representative texts for each theoretical school. These ethical elements, and their implications for the critical evaluation of economic institutions, have gone largely unnoticed. In the final section I indicate the kinds of debates that might be generated, were these to be given the attention they arguably deserve. I focus especially on the significance of empirical issues, and hence on the role of social science in social criticism.

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Kelvin Knight
Practices: The Aristotelian Concept

Abstract: Social practices are widely regarded as the bedrock that turns one’s spade, beneath which no further justifications for action can be found. Followers of the later Wittgenstein might therefore be right to agree with Heideggerians and neo-pragmatists that philosophy’s traditional search for first principles should be abandoned. However, the concept of practices has played a very different role in the philosophy of Alasdair MacIntyre. Having once helped lead the assault on foundationalism in both moral and social philosophy, his elaboration of an Aristotelian’ concept of practices in After Virtue has since led him to embrace a metaphysical teleology. This paper attempts to outline MacIntyre’s Aristotelian concept, and to identify its ethical, political and philosophical significance.

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Anton Leist
The Long Goodbye: On the Development of Critical Theory

Abstract: It is not easy to give up on a tradition that promises to rationalize, explain, and thereby ultimately help improve, society. This article narrates the history of Critical Theory in three stages, following the dynamics of its own self-criticism during distinct historical periods and within different societies. Horkheimer/Adorno, Habermas and Honneth are read as participating in a philosophical project of societal rationalism which can be criticized by appeal to a pragmatist view of social theories, and specifically the ‘pragmatic maxim’. In spite of its post-metaphysical announcements, Critical Theory overextends itself when it seeks to reconcile fully the normative and the empirical. An alternative, and more explicitly ethical and empirically controllable, scheme for critical theories (plural!) is suggested.

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Frederick Neuhouser
Die Idee einer Hegelianischen ,Wissenschaft‘ der Gesellschaft

Abstract: This paper sets out the kind of intellectual enterprise Hegel’s science of society is by explaining its aim (reconciliation) and the method it employs to achieve that aim. It argues that Hegel’s science of society, similar to Smith’s and Marx’s, offers an account of the good social order that is grounded in both an empirical understanding of existing institutions and a normative commitment to a certain vision of the good life. It spells out the criteria Hegel appeals to in his judgment that the modern social order is fundamentally good and worthy of affirmation, namely, that its three principal institutions—the family, civil society, and the constitutional state—form a coherent and harmonious whole that promotes the basic interests of all its members in a way that also realizes freedom in all three of the senses relevant to social theory: personal, moral, and social freedom.

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John O'Neill / Thomas Uebel
Logical Empiricism as Critical Theory? The Debate Continues

Abstract: Is logical empiricism incompatible with a critical social science? The longstanding assumption that it is incompatible has been prominent in recent debates about welfare economics. Sen’s development of a critical and descriptively rich welfare eco nomics is taken by writers such as Putnam, Walsh and Sen to involve the excising of the influence of logical empiricism on neo-classical economics. However, this view stands in contrast to the descriptively rich contributions to political economy of members of the left Vienna Circle, such as Otto Neurath. This paper considers the compatibility of the meta-theoretical commitments of Neurath and others in the logical empiricist tradition with this first-order critical political economy.

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Ulrich Steinvorth
On Critical Theory

Abstract: I propose a conception of critical theory that is an alternative to that of the Frankfurt School and Habermas. It is based on the assumptions that critical theory is not unique but started off with the 5th century BC movement of the sophists that aimed at an understanding of society free from superstition and prejudice, can be better understood by considering the history of social thinking, does not look for knowledge for knowledge’s sake but for solving practical problems, distinguishes basic social problems from dependent problems, looks for and defends a value to guide it both in its research and its solutions, prefers the value of capability development to that of happiness.

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2. Analytic Social Philosophy

Gideon Calder
Ethics and Social Ontology

“Philosophers such as Frege and Popper, and more recently Jürgen Habermas have said that we should think of reality as dividing up into three different worlds. My own view is that we should never have started counting.” (Searle 1998, 144)

“Ethics is about human beings—but it is about what they are like, not what they like.” (Eagleton 2004, 126–127)

Abstract: Normative theory, in various idioms, has grown wary of questions of ontology—social and otherwise. Thus modern debates in ethics have tended to take place at some distance from (for example) debates in social theory. One arguable casualty of this has been due consideration of relational factors (between agents and the social structures they inhabit) in the interrogation of ethical values. Part 1 of this paper addresses some examples of this tendency, and some of the philosophical assumptions which might underlie it. Parts 2 and 3 discuss two issues of growing prominence—disability, and environmental concern—due attention to which, I argue, highlights strong reasons why severing ethics from social ontology is neither possible nor desirable. I conclude by recommending a qualified ethical naturalism as a promising candidate through which, non-reductively, to reunite these two areas of theoretical focus.

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Holger Baumann
Reconsidering Relational Autonomy. Personal Autonomy for Socially Embedded and Temporally Extended Selves

Abstract: Most recent accounts of personal autonomy acknowledge that the social environment a person lives in, and the personal relationships she entertains, have some impact on her autonomy. Two kinds of conceptualizing social conditions are traditionally distinguished in this regard: Causally relational accounts hold that certain relationships and social environments play a causal role for the development and ongoing exercise of autonomy. Constitutively relational accounts, by contrast, claim that autonomy is at least partly constituted by a person’s social environment or standing. The central aim of this paper is to raise the question how causally and constitutively relational approaches relate to the fact that we exercise our autonomy over time. I argue that once the temporal scope of autonomy is opened up, we need not only to think differently about the social dimension of autonomy. We also need to reconsider the very distinction between causally and constitutively relational accounts, because it is itself a synchronic (and not a diachronic) distinction.

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Wolfgang Detel
On the Concept of Basic Social Norms

Abstract: In sociology, social philosophy, social ontology, and classical choice theory the notion of a social norm is usually introduced by using a rich normative, semantic, and social vocabulary, while the notions that evolutionary game theory proceeds from seem too poor to elucidate the idea of social norms. In this paper, I suggest to define a notion of social norms that is as basic as possible, in the sense that it relies only on notions like affects, feelings as well as regularities, standards, and corrections of behaviour. These notions suffice to explain non-linguistic traditions, practices, sanctions, and, finally, basic social norms. Two of the aims of the paper are, first, to clarify the idea of genuine normativity and second, to explore whether the sort of normativity involved in basic social norms is part of a bridge between nature and the social realm.

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Margaret Gilbert
Two Approaches to Shared Intention: An Essay in the Philosophy of Social Phenomena

Abstract: Drawing on earlier work of the author that is both clarified and amplified here, this article explores the question: what is it for two or more people to intend to do something in the future? In short, what is it for people to share an intention? It argues for three criteria of adequacy for an account of shared intention (the disjunction, concurrence, and obligation criteria) and offers an account that satisfies them. According to this account, in technical terms explained in the paper, people share an intention when and only when they are jointly committed to intend as a body to do such-and-such in the future. This account is compared and contrasted with the common approach that treats shared intention as a matter of the correlative personal intentions, with particular reference to the work of Michael Bratman.

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Marco Iorio
Macht und Metamacht

Abstract: In this paper a distinction is made between the concept of social power and the more basic concept of power. Because the more basic concept is not a social or sociological notion, it is analysed with the tools of action theory. In light of this analysis the concept of social power can be seen in a new and revealing light. Additionally, a special version of social power comes into view. I dub this phaenomenon ‘meta-power’.

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Frederick Stoutland
The Ontology of Social Agency

Abstract: The main claim of the paper is that there are irreducibly social agents that intentionally perform social actions. It argues, first, that there are social attitudes ascribable to social agents and not to the individuals involved. Second, that social agents, not only individual agents, are capable of what Weber called “subjectively understandable action.” And, third, that although action (if not merely mental) presumes an agent’s moving her body in various ways, actions do not consist of such movements, and hence not only individual persons but social groups are genuine agents. We should be pluralists about individuation, rejecting both individualism and collectivism by granting that social agency is neither more nor less ultimate, well-founded, or basic than non-social agency.

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3. Reflections on the Status of Social Sciences

Michael Baurmann
Homo Ökonomikus als Idealtypus. Oder: Das Dilemma des Don Juan

Abstract: Neither the model of homo oeconomicus nor Max Weber’s concept of the ideal type have a good reputation these days – to try to combine the two does not seem a promising idea, therefore. It could result in the attempt to tie two sinking ships together – to borrow a metaphor of Alasdair MacIntyre’s which he used in a different context as a comment on the programme of Analyse & Kritik 30 years ago. But perhaps the reasons for the bad reputation of homo oeconomicus and ideal types are connected so that a common retrieval of their honour could be thinkable. I will contemplate this question in the following considerations that are not very systematical but rather exemplary and fragmentary.

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Carsten Köllmann
General Equilibrium Theory and the Rationality of Economics

Abstract: Most philosophers of economics are hostile towards neoclassical economics in general and general equilibrium theory in the vein of Arrow and Debreu in particular. Especially the latter’s dismissal is justified by pointing out its lack of direct relevance for an understanding of real economies. Many recommend a more pragmatic approach along the lines of Keynes instead. The criterion of scientific legitimacy underlying this approach derives from a philosophy of science developed along the lines of Popper and Lakatos. They, however, neglect the importance of conceptual problems and of the choice of adequate ‘language-systems’ in science. Since these conceptual and ‘linguistic’ aspects may be able to explain and to justify the rationale of the Arrow-Debreu approach, I recommend the more balanced philosophies of Carnap and Laudan, in which conceptual as well as empirical problems are allowed for, as a framework for methodological appraisal. I explain why such a balanced view is obstructed for most philosophers of economics and advocate a moderate pluralism leaving room for different theories, methodologies and language-systems, depending on the scientific aims that are pursued.

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C. Mantzavinos
Was für ein Problem ist der hermeneutische Zirkel?

Abstract: The hermeneutic circle serves as a standard argument for all those who raise a claim to the autonomy of the human sciences. The proponents of an alternative methodology for the human sciences present the hermeneutic circle either as an ontological problem or as a specific methodological problem in the social sciences and the humanities. In this paper I would like to check the soundness of this argument. I will start with listing and shortly sketching out three variations of the problem. I will then critically discuss these and appeal to alternative solutions and I will close with a short conclusion.

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Thomas Schramme
On the Relationship between Political Philosophy and Empirical Sciences

Abstract: In this paper, I will focus on the role that findings of the empirical sciences might play in justifying normative claims in political philosophy. In the first section, I will describe how political theory has become a discipline divorced from empirical sciences, against a strong current in post-war political philosophy. I then argue that Rawls’s idea of reflective equilibrium, rightly interpreted, leads to a perspective on the matter of justification that takes seriously empirical findings regarding currently held normative beliefs of people. I will finally outline some functions that empirical studies might have in political philosophy.

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Hans-Joachim Schubert
Analyse und Kritik aus Sicht soziologischer Handlungstheorie

Abstract: Social order and social change is based on social action. All sociological theories of action agree on this assumption. Beyond that insight action theories disagree on basic notions of how action can be explained, on basic principles clarifying the selection of action and on basic motivations of action as starting point to construct theories of social order and social change. Contemporary sociology accepts the multidimensionality of theoretical approaches. Open are questions of how action theories can be differentiated, related or combined to offer analytical instruments for empirical research. The idea this essay brings forward is that the classical dualism between utilitarism (homo oeconomicus) and normativism (homo sociologicus) is transcended in support of action theories concentrating on the meaning of culture (cultural turn), communication (linguistic turn), and on creativity (dialogical turn). Integrated as a new typology these five action theories provide an analytical framework to research social order and social conflicts of modern societies.

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Progress in the Social Sciences

Gebhard Kirchgässner
On Some Problems to Apply the Economic Model of Behaviour in Political Science

Abstract: After a short description of the economic model of behaviour it is shown that there are two reasons why problems arise if this model is applied to political processes and decisions. First, such decisions are often ‘low cost’, i.e. ‘wrong’ decisions have hardly any impact on the decision maker. Second, the behaviour of single individuals or small groups of individuals is to be explained. The common root of this problem is the difficulty to predict behaviour which is mainly preference governed and not guided by (changing) restrictions. Nevertheless, this should not lead to abolish the economic model because (i) it can be usefully applied also in this area and (ii) a better alternative is hardly available.

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Siegwart Lindenberg
Social Rationality, Semi-Modularity and Goal-Framing: What Is It All About?

“Our ability to selectively engage and disengage our moral standards […] helps explain how people can be barbarically cruel in one moment and compassionate the next.” (Albert Bandura)

Abstract: Human beings are not general problem solvers. Their mental architecture is modular and the microfoundations for the social sciences have to take that into consideration. Modularity means that there are hardwired and softwired functionally specific subroutines, such as face recognition and habits that make the individual particularly sensitive to a narrow range of information from both inside and outside. Goals are the most important creators of modules that contain both hard- and softwired submodules. Goals determine what we attend to, what information we are sensitive to, what information we neglect, what chunks of knowledge and what concepts are being activated at a given moment, what we like and dislike, what criteria for goal achievement are being applied, etc. Overarching goals govern large classes of submodules, and therefore the social sciences have to deal especially with these overarching goals. Three such overarching goals are identified: hedonic, gain, and normative goals. At every given moment one of them is focal (a goal-frame) and self-regulation is the process by which humans balance the dominance of goal-frames. In turn, self-regulation (here seen as the heart of ‘social rationality’), depends much on social circumstances that are open to sociological investigation.

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Werner Raub / Vincent Buskens
Theory and Empirical Research in Analytical Sociology: The Case of Cooperation in Problematic Social Situations

Abstract: The integration of theory and empirical research in analytical social science has always been a core topic of Analyse & Kritik. This paper focuses on how analytical theory and empirical research have moved closer to each other in sociology, using rational choice theory and game-theoretic models as well as empirical research on problematic social situations (social dilemmas, collective action problems, etc.) as an example. We try to highlight the use of complementary research designs (surveys, vignette studies, lab experiments) for testing the same hypotheses. We also try to show that empirical research indicates the need for the development of more complex theoretical models.

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Kurt W. Rothschild
Economic Imperialism

Abstract: Economic Imperialism is the claim of some economists that the methodology of neoclassical economics has superior scientific qualities and should be adopted by most or all social sciences. The paper first shows why such a dominant claim could develop among economists but in no other science and then goes on to point out the shortcomings of this claim of methodological superiority. These critical remarks are also relevant for methodological controversies within economics between a mainstream and heterodox economists.

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Erich Weede
Inseln der Rationalität: Wie überwindet man fehlerhafte Entscheidungen auf dem Markt, in der Wissenschaft und in der Politik?

Abstract: Rationality is the attempt to cope with human fallibility. It presupposes individual freedom and responsibility where responsibility includes suffering from one’s errors. If humans are fallible, then one of the most important characteristics of a social order is whether or not it provides mechanisms for eliminating and correcting errors. It is easiest to institutionalize rationality in an economy. Contestable markets, competition and the threat of bankruptcy suffice. Within academia or science, rationality requires humans to give up the utopian quest for certainty, but nevertheless to continue to rely on logic and experience to make theories ever more consistent as well as compatible with observable facts. It is most difficult to achieve a minimum of rationality in the field of politics. In politics one always suffers from the errors of others rather than from one’s own errors.

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