Political Science Faculty Publications and Presentations

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2021


This article concerns how a critical theory of reification should be conceptualized to grasp the 2007 crisis, state-imposed austerity, and the rise of right-wing authoritarian populism. It argues that Jürgen Habermas’s, Axel Honneth’s, and Georg Lukacs’s interpretations of reification cannot provide a theoretical framework for a critical social theory of these developments due to their inadequate theories of domination, crises, character formation, and historical development. It then outlines a critical theory of reification that draws on Max Horkheimer’s notion of reified authority and contemporary Marxian critical theory’s interpretation of the critique of political economy to conceive of domination, crises, and character formation as inherent to the reproduction of capitalist society, which is characterized by a process of historical development that drives humanity into new types of barbarism. It concludes by indicating how such an approach, in contrast to Habermas’s, Honneth’s, and Lukács’s theories, provides a conception of reification that can grasp our present moment.


© 2021 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. Original published version available at https://doi.org/10.1086/713522

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Publication Title

Critical Historical Studies





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