Rahel Jaeggi

Published by Columbia University Press

Published in print August 2014 | ISBN: 9780231151986
Published online November 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780231537599 | DOI:

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This book reconceives alienation as the absence of a meaningful relationship to oneself and others, something that manifests itself in feelings of helplessness and the despondent acceptance of ossified social roles and expectations. It draws on the Hegelian philosophical tradition, phenomenological analyses grounded in modern conceptions of agency and recent work in the analytical tradition. It notes that the Hegelian–Marxist idea of alienation fell out of favor after the post-metaphysical rejection of humanism and essentialist views of human nature. It shows how a revived approach to alienation helps critical social theory engage with phenomena such as meaninglessness, isolation, and indifference. By severing alienation's link to a problematic conception of human essence while retaining its social-philosophical content, the book provides resources for a renewed critique of social pathologies, which is a much-neglected concern in contemporary liberal political philosophy. The work revisits the arguments of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Søren Kierkegaard, and Martin Heidegger, placing them in dialogue with Thomas Nagel, Bernard Williams, and Charles Taylor.

Keywords: alienation; social pathologies; humanism; human nature; social theory; meaninglessness; isolation; indifference

Book.  304 pages. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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