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Thomas Kern, Thomas Laux & Insa Pruisken: Critique and Social Change: An Introduction [Abstract]

This introduction of the HSR Special Issue on “Critique and Social Change: Historical, Cultural, and Institutional Perspectives” addresses the question of how critique and social change are interrelated. Conflicts and disputes are considered to be a major source of critique. We distinguish three types of conflicts: (1) Value conflicts result from the ongoing process of rationalization and the differentiation of relatively autonomous “value spheres” (Weber) such as politics, economy, science, law, etc. (2) The growth and expansion of these value spheres, e.g. the growth of capitalism, in turn produce new forms of inequalities and leads to distributional conflicts. (3) As questions of distribution and inclusion are closely linked, critique also originates from identity conflicts, which address the social recognition of individuals and collectivities. In order to understand how critique is related to social change, we suggest that critique can be studied either as a condition for or as an effect from social change. Based on this distinction we provide an overview over the contributions of this volume.

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