What Approach to Social Totality Does a Critical Theory Need Today?

at Work
December 9, 2021

Is there still a need for a comprehensive social theory today that clarifies the interrelation and interaction of the various social spheres? In her influential 1994 essay “Gender as Seriality,” Iris Marion Young is skeptical. Much effort, she argues, has gone into theories that serve no particular purpose other than “to understand, to reveal the way things are.” Now, however, she continues, it is time to proceed more pragmatically, that is: “driven by some problem that has ultimate practical importance and […] not concerned to give an account of a whole”. There is nothing wrong with addressing such practical problems—in Young’s case, it is a question of determining the commonality in the experiences of sexist discrimination under the condition of radically different social situations in which such experiences occur. However, the question Young poses, a question of eminent practical importance for feminism, seems to point back to the horizon of a social theory since it is a question about the coherence of social phenomena after all. For this is precisely what a social theory has to do: it has to show the connections that exist between social sub-fields and thus between the experiences made there.

Often enough, social theoretical designs have tried to accomplish this task by postulating clear hierarchies of social phenomena and derivations between them. This strategy made social theory unattractive to many of the new social movements. Today, however, the question is what connects the inheritors of these movements or at least allows us to deal with the conflicts between them on a theoretical level. If the multiple concrete experiences of exploitation, discrimination, exclusion and so on are not to be reduced to an abstract as well as politically ineffective denominator such as “suffering” or “injustice”, must not then the hour of theories, which promise to reconstruct the coherence of social relations, strike again?

The workshop approaches this question by discussing the candidates which attempts at social theory could take up today. We will discuss this with Lillian Cicerchia, Victor Kempf, Kristina Lepold, Kolja Möller, Dirk Quadflieg, Hartmut Rosa, Martin Saar and Titus Stahl.



14:00-14:30 Einführung
14:30-15:30 Kolja Möller: Worauf beruht die Kritik der kritischen Systemtheorie?
15:30-16:30 Lillian Cicerchia: Gibt es ein Primat der Ökonomie und was bedeutet ein solches Primat?
17:00-18:00 Victor Kempf: Ist der kommunikative Rationalitätsstandard als Kritikstandard zu halten?
18:00-19:00 Titus Stahl: Ist Herrschaft der Zentralbegriff einer aktuellen Gesellschaftstheorie?

14:00-15:00 Martin Saar: Wie gelingt der Sprung von der allgemeinen Analyse der Machtverhältnisse zur konkreten Gesellschaftsanalyse?
15:00-16:00 Hartmut Rosa: Wie hängen Deutungsnotwendigkeit und Steigerungsimperativ zusammen?
16:30-17:30 Dirk Quadflieg: Was heißt gesellschaftliche Totalität?
17:30-18:30 Abschlussdiskussion

What Approach to Social Totality Does a Critical Theory Need Today?