International Summer School Critical Theory 2022. Politics of Needs

July 3-8, 2022

Summer School
Topic Resume


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 analyze the formation of needs, thus turning them into objects of critical analysis and debate. In the Summer School, we reconstructed this approach and discussed its current relevance by confronting it with prominent positions in the contemporary philosophical debate on needs.

The Summer School involved plenary lectures and discussions, reading sessions, small group discussions and panel debates. Only the panel debates were open to the broader public. We explored classical approaches such as Marx on the production of needs, Theodor Adorno’s »Theses on Needs«, and Herbert Marcuse’s analysis of false needs while also engaging with the work of leading contemporary theorists: Maeve Cooke, Nancy Fraser, Lawrence Hamilton, Sarah Clark Miller, and Frank Nullmeier participated and discussed their work.

Organizers: Robin Celikates, Rahel Jaeggi, Susann Schmeißer, Christian Schmidt (Humanities and Social Change Center Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), in cooperation with the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research and the New School for Social Research.

Maeve Cooke (University College Dublin)

Lawrence Hamilton (University of the Witwatersrand,
University of Cambridge)

Sarah Clark Miller (Pennsylvania State University)

Frank Nullmeier (Universität Bremen)


Robin Celikates (Freie Universität Berlin)

Rahel Jaeggi (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)

Christian Schmidt (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)

International Summer School Critical Theory 2022. Politics of Needs