Axel Honneth

Freedom`s Right - The Social Foundations of Democratic Life

(German title: Das Recht der Freiheit)
ca. 628 pages
Axel Honneth
Foto: Axel Honneth
© Jürgen Bauer

Axel Honneth, born 1949, is Professor of Philosophy at the Goethe University in Frankfurt/Main and Managing Director of Frankfurt’s renowned Institute of Social Research.

Prizes and Awards (selection):

Bruno-Kreisky-Preis 2015

Ernst-Bloch-Preis 2015

»Axel Honneth has found wide reverberation with his socio-philosophical work. (...) In the perception of the profession Honneth stands next to such philosophers as Martha Nussbaum, Robert Pippin, Avishai Margalit, Judith Butler. That his books find such considerable resonance betrays as much about the substance of theory as about the authorial talent of the writer.« Jürgen Habermas, Die Zeit

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USA & Canada (Columbia UP), UK & Commonwealth (Polity), Spanish world rights (Katz), Chinese simplex rights (Social Sciences Academic Press), Brazilian Portuguese rights (Martins Fontes), Arabic world rights (Librairie Orientale), France (Gallimard), Italy (Codice), Korea (April Books), Japan (Hosei UP), Czech Republic (Filosofia)


Since The Struggle for Recognition, this is the first great monograph of one of today’s most significant social philosophers.

The theory of justice is one of the most intensively reflected fields in contemporary philosophy. Most theories of justice, however, have only reached their high level of argumentation at the cost of a large deficit: with their fixation on purely normative, abstract principles, they stray significantly from the sphere that is in fact their field of application – social reality.

Axel Honneth takes up a new route and extracts today’s significant criteria of social justice from the normative requirements that have evolved from within western, liberal-democratic societies. Together, these constitute what he calls »democratic morality«: a system that is not only anchored in the law but also in institutionally established norms of action that possess a moral legitimacy.

To account for this wide-ranging undertaking, Honneth first establishes that all crucial spheres of action in western societies share one characteristic: In each case, they require the realization of a particular aspect of individual freedom.

In the spirit of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right and under the auspices of recognition theory, the central chapter illustrates how in specific social areas – personal relationships, market-induced economic activity and in the public forum of politics – the principles of individual freedom are generated that form the guiding principles of justice. The aim of this book is highly ambitious: to re-establish the theory of justice as social analysis.


»[Axel Honneth’s] social critique is not content with pointing out that things are not as they should be. He is not out to provoke our indignation, but rather to make us more informed: show us what’s going wrong and why.« NZZ

»Honneth’s great merit lies not only the way he reminds us of the rational in the political. More than that, his book reminds us of a meaning of the word freedom that we are on the verge of losing.« FR

»Honneth’s book is an impressive work that attempts to spell out what freedom has meant in the various areas of society, and on that basis what it should mean to us today. [...] At the very least, his differentiation of three types of freedom offers a highly provocative key to the normative reconstruction of the history of freedom in modernity.« Deutschland Radio

»In his new book The Right to Freedom, Honneth bases his entire systematic framework on Hegel. […] In an impressively detailed reconstruction of the complete social history of the 19th and 20th century, Honneth attempts to demonstrate how the advances and retreats in the realisation of forms of freedom are clearly identifiable. […] And Honneth’s stunt, apparently taken from the Prussian political philosopher’s foundations of modern social criticism, is successfully pulled off.« Ludwig Siep, Die Zeit

»The Frankfurt professor of Philosophy and director of the legendary Institute for Social Research (and therefore the immediate heir to Horkheimer, Adorno and Habermas) has just published his magnum opus […]. Honneth has not written a jaunty essay but rather a fundamental philosophical study that spells out the great terms once more: freedom and justice.« Falter

»Honneth’s book is an invitation to debate. And, after centuries of the neo-liberal adulteration of freedom all the way to anti-social attitudes, this is long overdue. […] A plea for a new culture of freedom. […] His book is reminiscent of a meaning of freedom that has almost slipped beyond our reach.« FR

Other publications

Anerkennung/Recognition (2018)

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English world rights (Cambridge UP), Spanish world rights (Akal), Chinese simplex rights (Shanghai People's Publishing House), France (Gallimard), Italy (Feltrinelli), Korea (Nanam), Japan (Hosei UP), Croatia (Mizantrop)

Die Idee des Sozialismus/The Idea of Socialism (2015)

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English world rights (Polity), Spanish world rights (Katz), Catalan world rights (Diputacío de València), Chinese simplex rights (ViHorae), Brazil (Martins Fontes), Portugal (Edicoes 70), Arabic world rights (Librairie Orientale), France (Gallimard), Italy (Feltrinelli), Denmark (Reitzels), Finland (Gaudeamus), Japan (Hosei UP), Slovakia (Veda), Serbia (Akademska Knjiga), Slovenia (Krtina), Turkey (Iletisim), Greece (Polis), Iran (Qoqnoos)

Das Ich im Wir/The I in We (2010)

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English world rights (Polity), Spanish world rights (Katz), Chinese simplex rights (Yilin), France (Gallimard), Japan (Hosei UP), Turkey (Ithaki)

Pathologien der Vernunft/Pathology of Reason (2007)

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English world rights (Columbia UP), Spanish world rights (Katz), France (Gallimard), Italy (Pensa Multimedia), Japan (Hosei UP), Czech Republic (Filosofia)

Verdinglichung/Reification (2005)

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English world rights (Tanner Foundation), Spanish world rights (Katz), Brazilian Portuguese rights (Saraiva), Italy (Mimesis/Meltemi), Korea (Nanam), Japan (Hosei UP), Hungary (Veszprémi UP), Macedonia (Az-Buki)

Unsichtbarkeit/Invisibility (2003)

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Japan (Hosei UP)

Umverteilung oder Anerkennung?/Redistribution or Recognition (2003)

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Spainish world rights (Morata), Italy (Meltemi), Korea (April Books), Japan (Hosei UP), Poland (DSWE), Czech Republic (Filosofia), Romania (Tact)

Das Andere der Gerechtigkeit/Disrespect (2000)

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English world rights (Polity), Chinese simplex rights (Century Publishing), France (La Découverte), Denmark (Reitzels), Sweden (Daidalos), Korea (Nanam), Japan (Hosei UP)

Kampf um Anerkennung/The Struggle for Recognition (1992)

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English world rights (Polity), Spanish world rights (Critica), Chinese simplex rights (Shanghai People's Puublishing House), Brazil (Editora 34), Arabic world rights (Librairie Orientale), France (du Cerf), Italy (Il Saggiatore), Denmark (Reitzels), Norway (Pax), Korea (April Books), Japan (Hosei UP), Poland (Nomos), Serbia (Albatros), Turkey (Ithaki), Iran (Nashr e Now)

Die zerrissene Welt des Sozialen/The Fragmented World of the Social (1990)

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English world rights (SUNY Press), Chinese simplex rights (Social Science Academic Press), Japan (Miraisha)

Kritik der Macht/Critique of Power (1988)

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USA (MIT), Spanish world rights (Antonio Machado), Chinese simplex rights (SPPH), Italy (Dedalo), Japan (Hosei UP), Ukraine (Ahill), Iran (Nashr e Now)