Jurgen Habermas' construction of a critical social theory of society grounded in communicative reason is one of the very few real philosophical inventions of recent times that demands and repays extended engagement. This elaborate and sympathetic study places Habermas' project in the context of critical theory as a whole past and future. J.M. Bernstein argues that despite its undoubted achievements, it contributes to the very problems of ethical dislocation and meaninglessness it aims to diagnose and remedy. Bernstein further argues that the precise character of the failures of Habermas' programme demonstrate the necessity for a return to the first generation critical theory of Adorno. Reading across nearly the whole range of Habermas' corpus, this book traces the development of the theory of communicative reason from its inception in Knowledge and Human Interests through its elaboration in The Theory of Communicative Action , and into its defence against postmodernism in The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity . In separate chapters Habermas' readings of Freud, Durkheim and Mead, Adorno and Foucault, Castoriadis and Taylor are critically examined.
The focus of Bernstein's analyses, however, is always problem centred and thematic rather than textual: * psychoanalytic theory as an account of self knowledge * the competing claims of ethical identity and moral reason * the place of judgement in practical reason * and the debate between philosophies of language based communities versus those oriented towards world-disclosure.