(Updated 27.04.18)

Module Outline

This module is one of three research-orientated modules offered annually to final year undergraduate students in the Summer Term. Its focus is the research tradition of critical theory – that is, the tradition of researchers that pursue what Marx described as “the self-clarification of the struggles and wishes of the age”. This tradition is varied and contested. This year, the emphasis will be on the critical theory of alienation and reification. This topic is especially suited to give us access to the rich and diverse sources of critical theory as well as to a variety of contemporary approaches, especially from the Frankfurt School tradition.

In a first step, we will explore the sources of the critique of alienation and reification in Hegel, Marx, and Lukacs. Discussing these authors, we will see a variety of ways in which social life may include forms of alienation and reification and diverse ways of problematizing these features of social organization. In a second step, we will turn to three contemporary approaches to alienation and reification in the works of Jürgen Habermas, Axel Honneth, and Rahel Jaeggi, which take up and develop the critique with regard to contemporary society. In a third and final step, we will include meta-critical discussions that raise the question whether objectification and alienation might define an irreducible dimension of our social and self-conscious existence.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module students should have:

1. developed relevant research skills, such as independence of thought, the capacity to organise and structure a project report, the ability to explore the secondary literature on a particular topic in a more autonomous way, and to develop their own ideas and arguments in pursuing a self-defined project;
2. deepened their knowledge in the area relevant to the topic they have selected;
3. developed transferable skills such as the ability to pitch a project, time management skills, and communication and presentation skills.