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Between Forms of Life and Immanent Criticism: Towards a New Critical Theory?

Susen, S. ORCID: 0000-0003-0643-1891 (2022). Between Forms of Life and Immanent Criticism: Towards a New Critical Theory?. Journal of Political Power, 15(2), pp. 279-336. doi: 10.1080/2158379x.2022.2055279


The main purpose of this paper is to examine Rahel Jaeggi’s critical theory. Jaeggi’s work has become increasingly influential, especially in European and Anglo-American circles. The following analysis focuses on central aspects of Jaeggi’s account of forms of life and immanent criticism. The first section provides some preliminary remarks on the concept of forms of life, emphasizing its importance for the critique of social domination and the possibility of human emancipation. The second section argues that the construction of forms of life, understood as orders of human co-existence, poses serious questions about the relationship between instrumental rationality and value rationality. The third section grapples with concepts and phenomena relevant to fleshing out the constitutive components of forms of life. The fourth section identifies core characteristics of forms of life and criteria for establishing their presence. The fifth section illustrates why practices, rather than actions, are the backbone of forms of life. The sixth section asks why forms of life may be regarded as both interpretive and functional contexts. The seventh section scrutinizes the role of norms and normativity in the consolidation, and potential transformation, of forms of life. The eighth section considers the case for immanent criticism and its place in a critical theory of forms of life. The ninth section clarifies seven key features of immanent criticism, in addition to highlighting their significance for a critical theory of forms of life. The tenth section seeks to push the debate forward by reflecting on several issues arising from Jaeggi’s framework. The paper concludes by suggesting that, notwithstanding its shortcomings, Jaeggi’s approach represents a major contribution to contemporary social philosophy and that, more broadly, critical theory will continue to serve as a reservoir of conceptual tools for the study of power relations.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License. (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
Publisher Keywords: Critical theory, forms of life, immanent criticism, Rahel Jaegg, inormativity, power relations, practices
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
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