Analyse & Kritik

Journal of Philosophy and Social Theory

Social Theory Today. 30 Years of Analyse & Kritik

2008 (30) Issue 2


The founders and editors of this journal who got together thirty years ago to deliberate on its programme, had been influenced both by the critical and emancipatory aims of the Marxist tradition and by the rigour and sophistication of analytic philosophy. At the same time they were also dissatisfied with both traditions. They were repelled by the sectarian sides of Marxist economics, frustrated by the inscrutable language of the Hegelian Marxists and puzzled by the lack of explicit normative argument in Marxism. Though the deficits of analytic philosophy were less apparent, its constraint to remain strictly ’analytical’ in the narrow meaning of the term and to avoid the normative issues of classical social philosophy and ethics was a given. Analytic philosophy appeared ’value-free’ and without a normative framework that differentiated between relevant and irrelevant issues after conceptual details and logical subtleties had been cleared. It neither aspired to reforming society, nor did it feel the need to see its work within the larger social, political or historical context, something of a striking contrast to the Marxist perspective. The Marxian tradition may have been sectarian, self-involved and incriminated, but it was a social and political tradition. Alasdair MacIntyre, in a similar diagnosis of the drawbacks of both camps, thought the attempt to synthesize the two would lead to an even greater disaster—as he wittily made clear by the quip cited on the first page of the first volume of Analyse & Kritik. However, the problem turned out to be less the fact that their submerging would make a bigger splash than the difficulty to tie Marxism and analytic philosophy together in the first place. Or, even more anticlimatic, it seemed that in the course of time their destiny was to disappear altogether.

Parts of the social sciences in West-Germany, sociology especially, had been going through an ’identity crisis’ during the late 60ties and 70ties of the last century. This explained a growing interest in debates about global ’theoretical approaches’ and in the methodological and normative side of the social sciences. By the beginning of the 80ties, however, the collapse of Marxism as an academic discipline was foreshadowed, parallel to an about-turn of the social sciences to empirical rather than theoretical and conceptual research. ’Grand theories’ with all-embracing claims became suspicious. Rare exceptions in Germany were Niklas Luhmann’s ’systems-theory’ and Jürgen Habermas’ ’communicative action’ programme. What was soon to become known as the ’rational choice theory’, i.e. the generalization of the basic behavioural model of micro-economics, began to intrude into areas occupied formerly by other social sciences. In contrast to earlier conflicts between competing research programmes, these developments took place more in the form of night-raids rather than open battle. New theories displaced older ones, without philosophical reflection or proclamation. Fundamental comparisons between different approaches in the social sciences became rare during this change of pace, and even today are not very common, at least in the philosophically pretentious style of the 70ties.

On the philosophical side, again connected with the breakdown of Marxism, the erosion of social philosophy, a formerly thriving enterprise, had another, different impact on the original programme of Analyse & Kritik. With the exception of Habermas’ communication theory, there was hardly a research tradition around any longer which was inspired by the idea of integrating the two aims pursued by the best versions of Marxism: explanation and practical advice. In a sense this was not unexpected, as Marxism’s weakness in normative argument was one of its well-known lacunas. But analytic philosophy too began to change its shape during the 80ties, a fact sarcastically commented upon by Richard Rorty in a contribution to one of this journal’s early issues. After a period of maintaining a rather rigid, normative attitude towards the social sciences, the philosophy of science began to dissolve and most analytic philosophers returned to ’classical’ philosophical problems, including the interpretation of classic philosophers. As analytic philosophy lost confidence in its former programmes of positivism and ordinary language, it began turning into the open, variegated , technical, professionalized, even if somewhat helpless kind of philosophy it is today. If there is an exception to these trends which started in the 80ties, it applies to a part of philosophy little affected by the analytic programme in the first place: moral and political philosophy. John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice was, as Rorty stated in his article, the most reflective form of liberalism available at its time, and in accordance with the spirit of liberalism tried to free itself from every kind of philosophical foundation.

In sum, within a decade the situation within philosophy and the social sciences in Germany had changed substantially, compared to the time when Analyse & Kritik was founded. The development of the journal turned out quite differently than its founders had expected. The journal remained first and foremost an interdisciplinary journal with no scheduled convergence of the disciplines in sight—but neither excluding the hope for the spontaneous emergence of a mosaic that would assemble a coherent picture—even without a blueprint.

With the exception of extraordinary situations of scientific crisis, such as the one mentioned, most academics typically regard philosophical reflections on their work as being too ’foundational’ and of little practical use. To what extent it is ’value-free’ or partisan, ’scientistic’ or ’hermeneutical’, does not cut as much ice with empirically minded researchers as philosophers are inclined to think. And this gap of interest cuts both ways. Findings of scientists regularly need too much interpretation to elicit important insights for philosophers. If there have been, nevertheless, areas of common interest implied within the journal’s original programme, they have been, on the one hand, among those domains of the social sciences which are highly theoretical or philosophical themselves, and, on the other, among those philosophical topics which relate to our social existence as human beings. Most of the contributions during three decades of this journal have either fit into one of these two categories, or into an additional third one of a renewed moral and political philosophy. Social justice was indeed among the prominent topics listed in the editors’ original mission statement.

Over the years there have been many contributions from authors emanating from economics and the social and political sciences, applying newly developed terminologies and methods to old problems like those of norms, roles, cooperation, morality, altruism or justice. There have been analytic philosophers proposing explications of concepts like ’we-intentions’, ’psychoanalytic repression’, ’individualism’, ’health’ and ’disease’, ’rationality’, ’power’ or ’human nature’. In the area of moral and political philosophy Analyse & Kritik has engaged in debates on nuclear deterrence, euthanasia, environmental sustainability, human rights, internet communication, and more especially on topics of applied ethics, as those of basic income, organ allocation or globalisation. Analyse & Kritik has included among its contributors some of the most interesting and innovative philosophers and social scientists of today, a list of whom can be found on the journal’s homepage. After thirty years the editors feel it to be an appropriate occasion to once again express their deeply felt gratitude to all the contributors.

What is to be expected regarding one of our original hopes to achieve some kind of critical point of view through ’analysis’ by philosophical and conceptually theoretical means? Of course, as the journal’s development demonstrates, there is no such thing as ’pure analysis’, and the hope to achieve criticism by achieving clarity alone is misguided. If philosophy is in a position to achieve anything at all in society, it is either through its moral and political arguments, historic reminders or through linguistic innovations, all of which are not based on descriptive conceptual analysis alone. Even philosophers from the analytic tradition, meanwhile, have come to accept the old wisdom that it is only through awareness of their being part of historically evolved societies that their analytical instruments can be applied to issues of common interest rather than to the narrow domain of a small group of fellow philosophers. Only substantially contextualized and normatively embedded ’analysis’, then, can provide the insights that are expected from philosophers. In conclusion, therefore, we think that a genuine interdisciplinary rather than a professionally specialized journal is an apt medium to support and foster such work.

As the present 30th anniversary issue shows, scholars with interdisciplinary and integrative, empirical and normative, philosophical and scientific interests voice their specific perspectives and bring out the best in the reciprocal and fruitful combination of ’Analyse’ and ’Kritik’. We hope that in future the contributors to this journal will go on being as inventive and creative as their predecessors in the last 30 years. The outcome of this endeavour cannot be planned or anticipated—not 30 years ago and not today. But we can count on the ’invisible hand’ of scientific progress that the outcome will be valuable and enlarge our insight and capacity of judgement. Analyse & Kritik will continue to provide a forum which can help this invisible hand to work—let us look forward to the next 30 years in that spirit!

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Table of Contents

Title: Social Criticism and the Exclusion of Ethics
Author: Russell Keat
Page: 291-315

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.

Title: Practices: The Aristotelian Concept
Author: Kelvin Knight
Page: 317-329

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.

Title: The Long Goodbye: On the Development of Critical Theory
Author: Anton Leist
Page: 331-354

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.

Title: Die Idee einer Hegelianischen ,Wissenschaft’ der Gesellschaft
Author: Frederick Neuhouser
Page: 355-378

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.

Title: Logical Empiricism as Critical Theory? The Debate Continues
Author: John O'Neill / Thomas Uebel
Page: 379-398

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.

Title: On Critical Theory
Author: Ulrich Steinvorth
Page: 399-423

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.

Title: Ethics and Social Ontology
Author: Gideon Calder
Page: 427-443

’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.

Title: Reconsidering Relational Autonomy. Personal Autonomy for Socially Embedded and Temporally Extended Selves
Author: Holger Baumann
Page: 445-468

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.

Title: On the Concept of Basic Social Norms
Author: Wolfgang Detel
Page: 469-482

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.

Title: Two Approaches to Shared Intention: An Essay in the Philosophy of Social Phenomena
Author: Margaret Gilbert
Page: 483-514

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.

Title: Macht und Metamacht
Author: Marco Iorio
Page: 515-532

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’.

Title: The Ontology of Social Agency
Author: Frederick Stoutland
Page: 533-551

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.

Title: Homo Ökonomikus als Idealtypus. Oder: Das Dilemma des Don Juan
Author: Michael Baurmann
Page: 555-573

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.

Title: General Equilibrium Theory and the Rationality of Economics
Author: Carsten Köllmann
Page: 575-599

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.

Title: Was für ein Problem ist der hermeneutische Zirkel?
Author: C. Mantzavinos
Page: 601-612

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.

Title: On the Relationship between Political Philosophy and Empirical Sciences
Author: Thomas Schramme
Page: 613-626

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.

Title: Analyse und Kritik aus Sicht soziologischer Handlungstheorie
Author: Hans-Joachim Schubert
Page: 627-646

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.

Title: On Some Problems to Apply the Economic Model of Behaviour in Political Science
Author: Gebhard Kirchgässner
Page: 649-667

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.

Title: Social Rationality, Semi-Modularity and Goal-Framing: What Is It All About?
Author: Siegwart Lindenberg
Page: 669-687

’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.

Title: Theory and Empirical Research in Analytical Sociology: The Case of Cooperation in Problematic Social Situations
Author: Werner Raub / Vincent Buskens
Page: 689-722

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.

Title: Economic Imperialism
Author: Kurt W. Rothschild
Page: 723-733

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.

Title: Inseln der Rationalität: Wie überwindet man fehlerhafte Entscheidungen auf dem Markt, in der Wissenschaft und in der Politik?
Author: Erich Weede
Page: 735-756

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.