Theories of justice often fixate on purely rmative, abstract principles unrelated to real-world situations. The philosopher and theorist Axel Honneth addresses this disconnect, and constructs a theory of justice derived from the rmative claims of Western liberal-democratic societies and anchored in morally legitimate laws and institutionally established practices. Honneth's paradigm-which he terms a democratic ethical life -draws on the spirit of Hegel's Philosophy of Right and his own theory of recognition, demonstrating how concrete social spheres generate the tenets of individual freedom and a standard for what is just. Using social analysis to re-found a more grounded theory of justice, he argues that all crucial actions in Western civilization, whether in personal relationships, market-induced ecomic activities, or the public forum of politics, share one defining characteristic: they require the realization of a particular aspect of individual freedom. This fundamental truth informs the guiding principles of justice, enabling a wide-ranging reconsideration of its nature and application.
Axel Honneth is professor of philosophy at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University of Frankfurt and the Jack C. Weinstein Professor for the Humanities at Columbia University. His books include Pathologies of Reason: On the Legacy of Critical Theory; The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts; Philosophical Interventions in the Unfinished Project of Enlightenment; and The Critique of Power: Reflective Stages in a Critical Social Theory.