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Late Capitalism and Crisis: Reconsidering Habermas’s Critique of Marx
Rodrigo Cordero Vega
Department of Sociology
University of Warwick, UK
Elucidating the relationship between capitalism and crisis has been a pivotal concern for social
theory. Yet since the 1960s and 1970s, and more persistently after the collapse of Communism, the
formulation of crisis theories has been the object of harsh criticisms to the extent that the very
concept of crisis has lost validity as a sociological category. In this paper I challenge this scepticism
by means of discussing Jürgen Habermas’ defence of sociology as ‘the science of crisis per
excellence’ and his reconstruction of the tradition of crisis theory. However, I argue that Habermas
relies upon a critique that underestimates the ‘rich phenomenology’ of Marx’s conceptualisation of
crisis. In response to this impasse, I reconsider Marx’s 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte as an
exemplary resource—overlooked by Habermas—for an enriched understanding of contemporary
* Paper presented at the BSA Theory Study Group Annual Conference, 17-18th September 2009, University of
Warwick, UK