Timeliness or Untimeliness of the Concept of Labour

Notes to the Study of Axel Honneth

The paper aims to reconstruct the intellectual context in which the category of work took a backseat among recent social theories. The loss of significance of the term ‘labour’ is not only present in the works of Niklas Luhmann, but also in those of Claus Offe and Jürgen Habermas. As a result of this, the problem of classes seemed less and less relevant for social theory. The paper also emphasises that Axel Honneth’s theory of recognition aims at a different understanding of economy and the social sphere of work, discarding the idea of them being a reified spheres bereft of normative principles. Instead, the theory of recognition stresses the fact that the economical structures (including the ones of capitalism) can only sustain themselves because subjects imply moral norms in their actions. Because of this normative horizon of expectations, the category of labour becomes a critical term again.

Released: Replika 92–93, 31–38.