Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Stanley Aronowitz

Committee Members

Julia Wrigley

Rolf Meyersohn

Marnia Lazreg

Subject Categories



This study examines the relationship of Jurgen Habermas's ideas to those of Marx. A close reading of Habermas's major works, in conjunction with a close reading as well of the Marx texts he analyzes, comprises the thematically first part. The Habermas texts include the following, with original German publication dates: "Between Philosophy and Science: Marxism as Critique" (1960); Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962); Knowledge and Human Interests (1968); Legitimation Crisis (1973); "Reconstruction of Historical Materialism" (1975); and, The Theory of Communicative Action (1981). These texts are shown to contain a two decade-long argument that, (a) the relevance of Marx's theories is severely restricted to the period in which he lived; (b) the original Frankfurt School Critical Theory (of Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse and others) tacitly retained a Marxist orthodoxy none the less; and, (c) Habermas's theory of communicative action and reason first faces up to and successfully overcomes the problems associated with (a) and (b).

The thematically second part identifies, delineates and examines a public sphere—describing its motivation and content—concerning the practical implications of Habermas's critique of Marx, while arguing that it was deliberately shaped by Habermas, along with supporters. It is concluded that this public sphere, Habermas's mode of critique of Marx's theories and of the original Frankfurt School of Critical Theory, drew more attention and support before the collapse of Communism than that part of it which continued in its 1990s aftermath. This can be partly explained with close attention to yet a newer critique of Critical Theory, also from within that tradition—Moishe Postone's Time, Labor and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx's Critical Theory (1993). The latter both explains socially Habermas's theory, and offers a better critical approach to post- Communism on the basis of a reinterpretation of Marx's Grundrisse and Capital. However, important areas of agreement with Habermas's critique of Marx, especially an assessment of the lack of a contemporary relevance of Marx's 1844 Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts, stands in the way of this new approach's break from Critical Theory and improved prospects for the practical potential of Marx's humanism.


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