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Winship, G. (2003). A Habermas Kritik. Free Associations, 10(2):223-235.

(2003). Free Associations, 10(2):223-235

A Habermas Kritik

Gary Winship

According to Baumann (2000), Critical Theory's descent into a hyperbole of untestable speculations (even if the stuff of genius) was arrested and indeed pegged back by Jurgen Habermas and Karl-Otto Kapel, the most influential second-generation Frankfurt Scholars, who set about ensuring that philosophies theoretical principles could be open to validation. Habermas's pragmatic programme of pursuing the intellectual validity of Critical Theory arose from the mists of a more ubiquitous crisis in the mid-late twentieth century regarding the purpose of philosophy (Dews, 1999). Into the breach Habermas asserted that the ‘point of philosophy’ was that it should be research, concerned with plausibility and the framework of accepted social science. Furthermore, said Habermas, philosophy had the integrity of a multilingual function of asserting value dimensions straddling laboratories, courtrooms, and museums alike. It was, therefore, a pertinent working tool that went beyond the traditions of critique and deconstruction, because the abstract contemplations of philosophy were foundational for the ever-pressing work of reconstruction. Habermas thus located a tradition that followed Karl Mannheim's Social Reconstruction project1 that the point of knowledge was to apply it; a sort of philosophic perestroika.

Habermas developed a detailed set of best fit constructions as to how he saw the good society realized. Debates necessarily persisted as to where he drew compromise lines in regard to an erstwhile radical agenda. His assertion that he was the ‘last Marxist’ (1992b, p. 469) needs to be critiqued, because it suggested that the utopian agenda had expired. It may have been a relief to ‘the end of historians’ who called the epoch the final chapter, that concession was all that was possible.

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