The Neo-Hegelian Theory of Freedom and the Limits of Emancipation



This paper critically evaluates what it identifies as ‘the institutional theory of freedom’ developed within recent neo-Hegelian philosophy (by Robert Pippin and, in a different way, Axel Honneth). While acknowledging the gains made against the Kantian theory of autonomy as detachment it is argued that the institutional theory ultimately undermines the very meaning of practical agency. By tying agency to institutionally sustained recognition it effectively excludes the exercise of practical reason geared toward emancipation from a settled normative order. Adorno's notion of autonomy as resistance is enlisted to develop an account of practical reason that is neither institutionally constrained nor without appropriate consideration of the historical location of the practical agent.