Critical theory and social pathology

The Frankfurt School beyond recognition

By Neal Harris

Critical theory and social pathology


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-5473-6
  • Pages: 200
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: November 2022
  • BIC Category: Social Theory, Social theory, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / Social Theory, POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory, PHILOSOPHY / Movements / Critical Theory, Society & social sciences / Political science & theory, Ethics & Moral Philosophy, Humanities / Social & political philosophy, Society & social sciences / Social theory
  • Series: Critical Theory and Contemporary Society


The social-theoretical foundations of critical theory have crumbled. This is a result of the unchecked embrace of an aggressive variant of 'recognition theory'. While first-generation critical theorists grasped the potency of structural power as a force that reified thought, denatured the imagination and recoded desires, recognition theory views power as a post-hoc effect that exists only after intersubjective relations have been established. This is a troubling state of affairs and has led to the debilitation of the Frankfurt School's research programme. New and secure social-theoretical foundations are urgently needed. In this regard, the work of first-generation critical theorists such as Erich Fromm and Herbert Marcuse remains as powerful today as ever.


'Critical theory and social pathology makes a major contribution to the field. Harris shows how Erich Fromm's work offers profound and timely insights into the nature of societal pathologies. As such, the book points beyond the recognition approach to social research and offers the foundations for a critical theory of society which reconnects with the founding aspirations of the Frankfurt School.'
Gerard Delanty, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University Of Sussex

'Critical theory, once the purview of thinkers that were independent, iconoclastic and engaged, has sadly become academic and pedantic, flitting from one intellectual fad to the next. Neal Harris is a welcome exception to this trend. With original and committed intelligence, he reveals the pretensions of academic critical theory and exposes the pedantry that dominates the field. Above the deafening bleats of what now passes for critical theory, Harris's book renews the faith that critique can once again be fused with emancipatory political purpose and the best traditions of modern reason.'
Michael J. Thompson, Professor of Political Theory, William Paterson University


Introduction: on the battle for critical theory
Part I: Social pathology and the crisis of critical theory
1 Social pathology: the 'explosive charge' of critical theory
2 Distorted by recognition
3 Pathologies of recognition
Part II: Foundations of pathology diagnosing critique
4 Rousseau and the foundations of pathology diagnosing social criticism
5 Hegelian-Marxism: pathologies of reason, pathologies of production
Part III: A Fromm-Marcuse synthesis
6 Erich Fromm and pathological normalcy
7 The pathological normalcy of what? Towards a Fromm-Marcuse synthesis
Conclusion: the Frankfurt School beyond recognition


Neal Harris is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Oxford Brookes University

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