Theses on the Critique of Needs

Round Table
July 6, 2022 18:30 - 20:00
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Auditorium Grimm Zentrum Geschwister-Scholl-Straße 1/3, 10117 Berlin

Robin Celikates, Maeve Cooke, Lawrence Hamilton, Rahel Jaeggi, Sarah Clark Miller, Frank Nullmeier and Alessandro Pinzani discussed their takes on a critique of needs.


Needs are central to many social controversies, but widely regarded as non-negotiable. The latter is due to the nature-like quality of many needs, but also to the assumption that the needs, interests, and desires of individuals are simply given. Critical theory offers an alternative approach that seeks to analyse the formation of needs, thus turning them into objects of critical analysis and debate. The public roundtable of this year’s International Critical Theory Summer School provided an opportunity to discuss and examine contemporary approaches to a critique of needs.


Robin Celikates is Professor for Practical and Social Philosophy at Freie Universität Berlin and deputy director of the Humanities and Social Change Center. His current work mainly focuses on critical theory, civil disobedience, democracy, migration and citizenship.

Maeve Cooke is Professor of Philosophy at University College Dublin. She works on Critical Social Theory; Political Philosophy; Philosophy of Law and authored “Re-Presenting the Good Society” (2006).

Lawrence Hamilton is SA UK Bilateral Research Professor in Political Theory, Universities of the Witwatersrand and Cambridge. He wrote “The Political Philosophy of Needs” (CUP 2003) and has published numerous essays on the politics of needs.

Rahel Jaeggi is Professor for Practical and Social Philosophy and director of the Humanities and Social Change Center at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Her main historical research is Critical Theory, her main systematic research Social Philosophy, Social Theory, Social Ontology and Anthropology, Political Philosophy and Ethics.

Sarah Clark Miller is a Associate Professor of Philosophy, Bioethics, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Penn State University. She authored “The Ethics of Need: Agency, Dignity, and Obligation” (2012).

Frank Nullmeier is a Full Professor for Political Science at Universität Bremen. His research focuses on social policy research, welfare state theory, and political theory. He is an expert on needs-based justice

Alessandro Pinzani is Professor for Ethics and Political Philosophy at University of Santa Catarina. He is currently working on a book-project on needs.



Theses on the Critique of Needs