Rahel Jaeggi

Critique of Forms of Life

(German title: Kritik von Lebensformen)
ca. 480 pages
Rahel Jaeggi
Foto: Rahel Jaeggi
© Jürgen Bauer

Rahel Jaeggi is Professor of Practical Philosophy at the Humboldt University, Berlin.

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English world rights (Harvard UP), Chinese simplex rights (Beijing Normal UP), France (Vrin), Italy (Mimesis)


Can forms of life be subject to critique? Is it possible to say that a given form of life is good, successful, or even rational?

The political order of the liberal state conceives of itself as an attempt to arrange social co-existence in a way that is neutral or »ethically abstinent« toward different forms of life. As a result, questions regarding the ways we live our lives, collectively and individually, are relegated to the realm of preferences that are beyond further scrutiny or else regarded as unassailable issues of personal identity. Forms of life then become like questions of taste: not subject to debate. In this book, Rahel Jaeggi insists that, on the contrary, it is perfectly possible to debate forms of life, and moreover to do so with rational arguments. Forms of life can be subject to critique and possess a specific form of rationality. In defence of this thesis, Jaeggi also shows that the question of »how to live« cannot unproblematically be exempted from processes of will-formation.


»Critique of Forms of Life is a comprehensive work that convincingly sets out the philosophical kernel of Hegel’s view, reconstructing and updating it in such a way that it becomes a ›live‹ philosophical option for contemporary audiences. Jaeggi is a rare instance of a philosopher who is immersed in both Continental and Anglo-American philosophical traditions and skillfully unites them in one dialogue.« Fred Neuhouser, Barnard College, Columbia University

»Jaeggi combines [...] phenomenological attention to lived experience and an eye for social detail [...] She binds that together with a shrewd grasp of critical theory and the philosophical landscape of the present. Her footnotes alone would make a good book.« Terry Pinkard, European Journal of Philosophy

»Jaeggi offers an interesting new attempt to fulfill the task Habermas has set for critical theory. She recommends accepting the plurality of life forms [...] Nevertheless we can still uphold a general ideal of emancipation and judge the different contributions of different life forms to a more rational world, if we consider the abilities of life forms to learn from crises and to transform themselves accordingly.« Andreas Niederberger and Tobias Weihrauch, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

»Jaeggi has already earned a firm place in German philosophy. This book reinforces the impression that she has established an important philosophical voice that addresses society and its problems and that we will hear from in the future, even beyond the academy.« Eva Weber-Guskar, Süddeutsche Zeitung