Crisis and Critique : On the Fragile Foundations of Social Life book cover
1st Edition

Crisis and Critique
On the Fragile Foundations of Social Life

ISBN 9781138393011
Published March 22, 2019 by Routledge
198 Pages

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Book Description

Fragility is a condition that inhabits the foundations of social life. It remains mostly unnoticed until something breaks and dislocates the sense of completion. In such moments of rupture, the social world reveals the stuff of which it is made and how it actually works; it opens itself to question.

Based on this claim, this book reconsiders the place of the notions of crisis and critique as fundamental means to grasp the fragile condition of the social and challenges the normalization and dissolution of these ‘concepts’ in contemporary social theory. It draws on fundamental insights from Hegel, Marx, and Adorno as to recover the importance of the critique of concepts for the critique of society, and engages in a series of studies on the work of Habermas, Koselleck, Arendt, and Foucault as to consider anew the relationship of crisis and critique as immanent to the political and economic forms of modernity.

Moving from crisis to critique and from critique to crisis, the book shows that fragility is a price to be paid for accepting the relational constitution of the social world as a human domain without secure foundations, but also for wishing to break free from all attempts at giving closure to social life as an identity without question. This book will engage students of sociology, political theory and social philosophy alike.

Table of Contents


Part I. Sociology of crisis/Critique of sociology

1. The critique of crisis

2. The crisis of critique

Part II. Models of crisis/Forms of critique

3. Diremptions of social life: Bringing capitalist crisis and social critique back together —Jürgen Habermas

4. The non-closure of human history: Misfortunes of social critique and the political foundations of concepts —Reinhart Koselleck

Part III. Fragile foundations/Political struggles

5. The fragile world in-between: Totalitarian destruction and the modesty of critical thought —Hannah Arendt

6. Making things more fragile: The persistence of crisis and the neoliberal disorder of things —Michel Foucault


Decoding social hieroglyphics: Notes on the philosophical actuality of sociology

—Theodor Adorno

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Rodrigo Cordero is Associate Professor in Sociology at University Diego Portales, Chile.


Society is not a solid crystal, but an organism capable of change, and constantly engaged in a process of change." This quote from the Preface to Capital signifies not only a cornerstone of sociology but is more actual than ever. Society, and this is the brilliantly explained throughout Cordero’s book, appears as a solid crystal once critique is isolated from crisis and crisis from critique. Cordero’s fascinating and well written book forces the petrified oppositions between paradigms of discourse analysis (Foucault) and political action theory (Arendt), of societal (Habermas) and conceptual (Koselleck) theories of modern society to dance by singing their own tune to them. This opens the path to a new, and much stronger theoretical combine that reveals new paths to utopia within the existing relations of power and production. The solidity of the crystal consisted in frozen concepts. It needs a categorical spring to make them melt. This book is spring-time for the return of social theory.

Hauke Brunkhorst, Professor of Sociology at the University of Flensburg, Germany. He is author of Solidarity: From Civic Friendship to a Global Legal Community and Critical Theory of Legal Revolutions.

When a person is in crisis, she goes to see a psychoanalyst. When society is in crisis, sociology emerges as a psychoanalysis on a grand scale. And when critique enters into crisis, one turns to Rodrigo Cordero. Not that one will find a way out of the crisis, but following a rich investigation of the relation between critique and crisis in social theory, from Marx to Habermas and Arendt to Foucault, one will rediscover the human frailty in the cracks of society and our responsibility to respond to it.

Frederic Vandenberghe, Professor in Sociology at the Institute of Social and Political Studies, Rio de Janeiro State University. Author of A Philosophical History of German Sociology.

Rodrigo Cordero has done a magnificent job in shedding light on the pivotal role that both crisis and critique play in the tension-laden construction of human reality. This book is a powerful reminder of the profound fragility that permeates the whole of social life, including its seemingly most solidified dimensions. I have never come across a more persuasive account of the multiple ways in which the dynamic relationship between the experience of crisis and the practice of critique defines – and, indeed, constantly redefines – the normative parameters for what it means to be human.

Simon Susen, City University London. Author of The ‘Postmodern Turn’ in the Social Sciences and The Foundations of the Social: Between Critical Theory and Reflexive Sociology.