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Civitas - Revista de Ciências Sociais

versão impressa ISSN 1519-6089versão On-line ISSN 1984-7289


HONNETH, Axel. The diseases of society: Approaching a nearly impossible concept. Civitas, Rev. Ciênc. Soc. [online]. 2015, vol.15, n.4, pp.575-594. ISSN 1984-7289.

Though the idea of “social pathologies” or “diseases” of a whole society has been quite common since Rousseau’s Second Discourse and especially prominent within the tradition of critical theory, it is not really clear who precisely is proposed to have fallen ill here in the first place. Is it only some sufficient number of individual persons, is it the collective understood as a macro-subject, or is it the “society” itself as having been encroached upon by a particular disorganization of its social institutions in their functional efficiency to such an extent that one can confidently speak of a distinctively social “disease”? For all three alternative attributions – i. e., the sporadic individuals with the total amount of their illnesses, the collective with its own particular clinical syndrome, and the society itself as fallen ill – sufficient instances can be found in the corresponding literature. In order to find a way out of these conceptual perplexities lying at the very heart of this way of talking, I deal with the theoretical proposals by Alexander Mitscherlich and Sigmund Freud, who both defend a specific concept of “social pathologies” or “diseases” based on psychoanalytical insights. The result of my critical reconstruction will be that only an understanding of the society as an organic entity allows a nonreductive use of the idea of “social pathologies”.

Palavras-chave : Social pathologies; Social integration; Social institutions; Social order; Recognition.

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