The dialectic of critique and progress

comparing Peter Wagner and Theodor Adorno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


As long as critique trails in the wake of progress, a more radical game-changing interest in its reconstruction remains blocked. This article will contrast the reforming approach adopted by Peter Wagner with Theodor Adorno's attempt to reconstruct the normative foundations of historical progress. The intention here is to use the radicalism of Adorno's critical recovery of this ideal in order to clarify and strengthen the social democratic utopianism that underlies Wagner's reconstruction of progress. The final section of the article extends the significance of this modelling of the dialectics between critique and progress, using it to guide a brief evaluation of some attempts to reclaim critique from its histories of complicity in repressive, Eurocentric versions of historical progress.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-375
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Theory
Issue number3
Early online date14 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


  • Adorno
  • critique
  • Eurocentrism
  • progress
  • Wagner

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