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New Left Review I/115, May-June 1979

New Left Review

Introduction to Jürgen Habermas

In nlr 67 Göran Therborn argued that Jürgen Habermas, ‘the most celebrated of the successors of the Frankfurt School’, had elaborated a theory which represented a ‘development away from the Marxist positions of the founders of the School’. Habermas claimed to re-state what was valid in Marx in terms of a more general theory of social domination and communication, drawing on both linguistics and psychoanalysis. The directly political pronouncements made by Habermas in the late sixties aroused even more controversy than his theoretical programme for modernizing Marxism and seemed to place him squarely on the right wing of the latter-day exponents of critical theory. Thus he warned that some trends in the student movement could develop in the direction of a ‘left fascism’ and that the violence of the anti-Shah demonstrations in West Germany would only encourage a strengthening of the repressive character of the state. While many were radicalized by the sixties it seemed that Habermas was not. Today received opinion is dominated by the right but Habermas has again gone against the stream.

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