Analyse und Kritik
Anton Leist *
& Kritik is a new journal for the
sciences in West Germany. In the
following article, Anton Leist, one of its
editors, explains the editorial aims.
I Historical background
During the 1960s the social sciences in
West Germany were, in Kuhn’s phrase, in a
state of ‘crisis’; but in the 1970s they
reverted to the status of ‘normal science’.
The crisis had manifested itself in the socalled ‘Positivism Debate’, which involved
not only methodological issues but also
questions about the practical aims and influences of the social sciences. The ways
out of crisis turned out to be various:
mainstream social science dismissed the
debate as ‘merely philosophical’ and returned to the everyday work of a more objectoriented inquiry. Some groups on the Left
replaced social science with political
action and a section of the Right turned to
philosophy as a means of stabilizing law and
order (the Bund Freiheit der Wissenschaft).
Though the launching of Analyse & Kritik
does not itself form part of thls history,
its pTogramme is still related in at least
one central point to the Positivism Debate.
This point is the conflict between political
enlightenment and scientific rationality,
or, more strictly, the conflict between
political and analytical rationality. By
political rationality we mean the goal of
all efforts, scientific or otherwise, to
discuss, defend, plan and realize a just or
good society; analytical rationality, on the
other hand, is the goal of every attempt at
lucid, logical, theoretically precise and
rigorous thinking. Analytical rationality
is therefore a precondition of political
rationality, and the relation between them
may appear quite trivial. But the crisis of
the social sciences in the 1960s showed that
this relation, however trivial, is not
always easy to secure. Nor is it clear what
constitutes analytical rationality, and
puzzlement about its meaning, extent and
* With thanks to Jonathan R~e for linguistic help
and Axel Honneth and Hans Joas for critical comments.
justification was central to the Positivism
Whereas similar movements in the Englishspeaking countries (the Radical Philosophy
Caucus, the Union for Radical Political
Economy and the former Radical Philosophers’
Newsjournal in the USA, Radical Philosophy
and IdeOlO~y & Consciousness in Britain)
turn awayrom the tradltional contents of
academic philosophy and social science, and
engage with alternative methods and ideas,
such as structuralism, existentialism,
phenomenology, Western marxism, classical
economics etc, the programme of ” Aria lyse &
Kritik is founded on the critical assimilation of analytic philosophy, and is committed to employing analytical methods as one
of its main pillars. The reasons for this
have to do with the rather different
scientific conditions from which our
The most astonishing experience available to a student of social sciences in West
Germany in the late 1960s was the sudden
realisation that quite abstract philosophical distinctions, honoured by tradition,
could lead to controversial political differences. Whereas the contributions of Popper
and Adorno at the beginning of the Positivism Debate were strictly academic lectures
about problems of method, the ensuing discussion was conducted in an increasingly
politicised academic community and in the
context of a general political crisis (the
Vietnam war, economic recession, student
revolt), and developed into a radical controversy about the function of social
science in society. It was not only, or
even mainly, a conflict between Popper’s
falsificationism and ‘dialectics’; it was
much more a confrontation between the
liberal-conservative programme of piecemeal
social engineering and the utopia of a
classless society. One of the main points
of contention was the maxim of the
‘Frankfurt School’ that philosophy cannot
be separated or distinguished from empirical
research, that is, that even the most abstract philosophical reflection is just as
empirical as the most ’empirical’ research,
so that the philosopher is in fact a social
,RItN SCENblefIJCE ?
Several empirical and practical lessons
were learned from this: for instance, that
in spite of their high degree of abstractness, controversies in epistemology and the
theory of science can have quite radical and
extensive implications for a scientist’s
practical work; that fundamental controversies within the social sciences are practical
disrutes about the political aims of social
science and are by no means ‘merely methodo10giLal’; and that one cannot tackle the
problem of the poli tical functions of science
without implicitly or explicitly confronting
the problem of the political aims of society
In short, within the social
sciences, debates of a ‘meta-scientific’
kind are always about the creation of a
better, or an ideal society.
However, the Positivism Debate taught us
another, less gratifying, lesson: that the
reverse argument is logically invalid – it
is not necessarily the case that a philosophical position is correct if it leads to
a preferable political programme.
not fail to recognise that, while the German
representatives of analytic philosophy, the
Critical Rationalists, expressed themselves
in clear language, the dialecticians were
unable to free themselves from the language
of German Idealism.
This is not to say that
German Idealism is in itself unclear, but
that the arguments and paradigms of a philosophical tradition which belongs to a rather
alien social and spiritual context have to
be translated and transformed if they are to
be understandable within present-day philosophical discourse.
The ideas borrowed
from German Idealism should have been
applied much more concretely to the actual
practice of the social sciences: then they
might have achieved some influence on the
practitioners’ work, rather than merely
making their jargon more philosophical.
dialecticians’ impact, so far as their
philosophical message was concerned, therefore came down to a short-lived fashion for
talking ‘dialectically’. Hand in hand with
this went a second shortcoming.
The Critical Rationalists oriented themselves in
terms of the history and practice of the
sciences (or so it seemed until the appearance of Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific
Revolutions), whereas the dialecticians
(especially Adorno, Horkheimer and their
immediate fOllowers) only took a negative
attitude to the sciences, denouncing them
for their technological results and their
And, whilst the
former attempted to guarantee a steady progress of philosophical knowledge by taking
account of experimental methods and by being
open to the possibility of criticism, the
dialecticians tended to veil their central
theses instead of expounding them clearly.
This account is somewhat simplified and
stands in need of further elaboration.
JUrgen Habermas, for example, who became
more and more representative of the dialectical position, does not fit into it very
Habermas went to considerable lengths
to integrate themes from a philosophical,
especially marxist, tradition with the
standards and theories of present-day social
science, whether Freud or Chomsky, Piaget or
Parsons; and he certainly paid attention to
the latest developments in the analytical
Even more so: in some cases, as
for example Austin’s and Searle’s theory of
speech acts, he even initiated a broad
reception and further elaboration of linguistic analysis.
But on the whole Habermas
too remained quite a stranger to the analytical tradition and, though theoretically an
immensely sophisticated scientist, he
shared a certain abstractness of thinking
with the philosopher-dialecticians. His
work contains neither clear-cut conceptual
analyses nor tough empirical studies.
the philosopher-dialecticians, he wanted to
have it both ways.
Wherever, on the other hand, the Critical
Rationalists fell short of the advantages
ascribed to their position, one had to recognise that Critical Rationalism was not
quite representative of analytic philosophy.
Because of the parochial state of German
philosophy, the analytical schools were
almost unknown, with the exception of
certain figures of German origin like
Wittgenstein and Carnap.
One cotlld only
guess, therefore, at the real potential of
analytical rationality represented in the
actual state of inquiry in the Englishspeaking world.
Consequently we were not
able to formulate the Positivism Debate so
as to present a clear choice for any social
science committed to enlightenment.
Developments later in the 1970s confirmed
The position which had been
denounced as ‘positivistic’ gradually revealed itself as more sophisticated than many
of us originally realised.
In general, the
dialecticians had refused to recognise
Popper’s critique of Logical Positivism, or
had even confined their attention to Logical
But as the analytical literature became better known during the 1970s,
such over-simplifications became impossible.
Politically motivated hostility towards the
analytical position tended to be replaced by
There were at least
three ways in which the attribution of a
positivistic conception of science to the
analytical position turned out to be oversimplified:
(1) It had been assumed that the philosophy
of science, especially in its Carnapian
version, was rigidly normative, logical, and
The debate between
Kuhn, Lakatos and Feyerabend on the history
of science altered this conception.
Germany, especially in the works of W.
StegmUller, a new, ‘dynamic’ philosophy of
science was developed.
(2) The naive identification of analytic
philosophy with Logical Positivism in the
field of ethics was eroded by the increasing
influence of Rawls’s theory of justice.
Although handicapped by the traditional
German ignorance about utilitarianism,
Rawls’s ‘normativistic turn’ connected up
with interest in the justification of norms
and the legitimation of institutions, represented in West German social science by
Habermas, Apel and the ‘Erlangen School’.
(3) The prejudice that analytic philosophy
was a defence of syntactic reductionism, an
attempt to reduce scientific and natural
languages to the bare logical bones of a
formal calculus, was eventually dispelled by
the elaboration of linguistic pragmatics and
speech-act theory – both of these topics
being extensively discussed during the
‘linguistic boom’ of the early 1970s.
addition, as we became acquainted with the
actual state of American and English sociology of science, we became increasingly convinced that it had already produced a more
realistic model of science than that projected in the rather abstract sketches of
Surprisingly enough, the increasing understanding of the analytical tradition did not
lead to a new and less crude formulation of
the problems raised in the Positivism Debate.
One might have expected that the original
desire to give structure and content to the
idea of a critical social science would take
a new and more serious form.
to bring this about were quite rare. Academic sociology tried to solve the problem in a
bureaucratic manner by appointing an official
group for the comparison of different theoryparadigms, thus trying to concentrate on the
more down-to-earth question, whether in
sociology one needs five different theories
on the same topic and if not, which one is
the best. More fruitful approaches came
from several scientists working in the
Frankfurt school tradition, who either gradually opened their interests to the state of
the art in other countries, whether French
structuralism, Italian marxism or Cambridge
economics from England and the USA, or who
concretised the formerly abstract principles
of a marxist philosophy in politically
oriented empirical research, for example
within industrial sociology (from the socalled ‘Kern-Schuhmann study’ to the present
Part of the former work can be found
in a series of volumes published by Suhrkamp
under the title ‘Gesellschaft’.
The picture of a flowering discussion,
however, which might be suggested by the subti tIe of this series,” Contributions to
Marxian Theory’, is misleading. On the whole
theoretical work amongst marxists in the
1970s became stagnant.
In a decade when
more and more studies in and about marxist
theory flowed in from the English-speaking
countries (the first attempt at a history of
the Frankfurt school, for example, was
written by an American, Martin Jay), there
was no longer any extensive discussion
amongst marxists in West Germany, still less
a productive one. The increasing political
pressure on the Left damaged the theoretical
core of marxism. On the one hand, a kind of
marxism grew up, for which any criticism of
Marx was to be denounced as revisionism,
while on the other hand marxism came to be
used increasingly merely to sketch a general
picture of the world’s state: marxist jargon
was preferred to the theoretical, and
therefore abstract and academic, elaboration
of these terms.
In these circumstances, marxism in West
Germany was capable of little more than
textual exegesis, or of constructing closed
systems of dogmas – as, for example, in the
many volumes produced by the group ‘Projekt
Klassenanalyse’ (Pro gramme for Class
Analysis). Given this mentality, there have,
with the rare exceptions already noted, been
hardly any attempts by marxists to deal with
thoughts alien to marxism. Amongst many
marxists and politically commit~ed social
scientists, crude and dismissive attitudes
towards analytlc philosophy have persisted,
and analytical thought has r~mained an object
merely of a critique of ideology.
Meanwhile, those philosophers and social
scientists who did adopt the analytical mode
of thinking were only too ready to follow
their Anglo-American precursors in a wellworn attitude of dismissal towards marxism.
They now defined their identity in terms of
a commitment to clarity and precision, and
because marxism is deficient in these respects they concluded that it could not have
any scientific content. The result was that
those who really became acquainted with the
Anglo-American tradition did not develop but
merely reproduced it – thuugh perhaps with
more German thoroughness. There was hardly
any attempt to relate it to the social
sciences, or to traditional philosophy
(philosophers like o. H~ffe, H. Schn~delbach,
and E. Tugendhat being noteworthy exceptions)
nor was there any interest in the conflict
between political and analytical rationality.
II Theoretical Programme
Our conclusion from this short history is
that the problem of the conflict between
political and analytical rationality, which
was raised during the Positivism Debate, has
not been solved but only shelved.
this conflict the core of our project, we are
not, of course, proposing to return to the
But we do believe that
the debate demonstrated the need for a critical social science which would resolve the
contradiction between the two types of
rationality, even if it could not satisfy
that need. A fundamental part of the programme of Analyse & Kritik is our conviction
that rationality cannot be divided into an
analytical part and a political part, and
that enlightenment in the realm of pure
thought is impossible.
I have already described political rationality in terms of the attempt to bring about
a better and more just society, and analytical rationality in terms of the ideal of
lucid, self-reflective and empirically provable thinking. These are, of course,
allusions rather than definitions.
scientific programme should not be confined
from the outset by over-rigid definitions.
Only by carrying out such a programme can we
approach a more definite answer to the question of what political and analytical rationality may be. For the present, these terms
must be regarded as mere symbols for the
creation of a just society by rational argument – which of course is not meant to imply
that rational argument alone can bring about
a just society.
In referring to these
symbols, our programme is not committing
itself to specific versions of political or
analytical rationality, and is therefore not
excluding the most various schools of
Why, then, does Analyse & Kritikwish to
bring the marxist and the analytical traditions into closer contact? And may it not
be objected that the commitment to clear
thinking can only be extremely trivial,
since every science will claim to be clear
and precise, and that no scientist would
ever deliberately flout this norm?
can the requirement of clarity be expected
to give a new direction to critical social
We speak of a ‘critical’ social science
(rather than ‘marxist’ or ‘analytical’) in
order to make clear that the marxist and the
analytical traditions are not to be treated
as complete representatives of political and
And consequently we
do not believe that a critical social
science can be created by merging these
Rather we should
encourage a restructuring and critical reassessment of these traditions by means of
new types of argument.
The marxist and the
analytical traditions have in their own ways
genuinely radicalised political and analytical rationality, so it seems reasonable to
take them as starting points for the project,
As far as analytical rationality is concerned, this implies that, despite a general
commitment to clarity and empirical soundness implicit in the institution of science
itself, there have been quite different
degrees of effort to achieve clarity within
the social sciences (and much more so in
philosophy), and that the analytical tradition alone has given this effort top priori ty.
‘Analytical tradi tion’ can here, as
elsewhere, be understood as including various uses of analytical tools within social
science, and analytic philosophy should be
thought of as an important part of what is
meant by the ‘analytical tradition’.
basic ingredients of analytical rationality
can only be understandability and empirical
truth – analytic philosophy tried to devise
standards for the first, while the empirically minded social scientist tried to enlarge our knowledge concerning the second.
Their concrete results may sometimes have
been ill-founded and provisional.
have given a much more workable shape to
The distinction between an ideal and a
concrete form of rationality points to the
need of a corrective.
Our programme suggests
that in the case of analytical and political
rationality each is a corrective of the
Let me point out what is meant by
this, first in relation to the analytical
Despite, for example, the tendency of most analytic philosophers to define
their method as iconceptual analysis’,
thereby claiming that their work is purely
logical and socially and historically
neutral, analytic philosophy is obviously
not such a pure embodiment of analytical
The reliance on the ‘is/ought’
distinction, the separation between ‘context
of discovery’ and ‘context of justification’,
the teleological model of action and the
contract model in ethics and political
theory show its links with the legitimating
models of social thought typical of capitalist societies.
Analytic philosophy is
deeply embedded in specific social and
political traditions whose thought-determining force has yet to be analysed.
no analytical rationality without political
Nor is marxism a pure embodiment of
The label ‘marxism’
attaches to various social scientific
theories, sharing a small set of principles
and appealing to the same classics.
theories and principles depend on 19thcentury social conditions much more profoundly that conservative marxists are willing to
The lack of any ethical or political
theory, for example, within marxism is a
serious defect at the present time, because
the dissolution of bourgeois theories of
natural right by means of ideology-critiques
no longer carries conviction.
heritage within marxism has to be justified
as relevant to present tasks, and not just
taken for granted.
And since critical
social science deals with social and political matters which are practically relevant
for masses of people, it ought to be formulated as comprehensibly as possible.
obligation to elaborate a clear theoretical
language is basically a matter of openness
to intersubjective understanding.
no political rationality without analyTICaT
The project of Analyse & Kritik takes off
from those traditions which represent rationality in its most radical form, but is not
restricted to them.
We too want to call in
question the results and standards of established science, and to mount radical critiques of a philosophy which is turning
towards Aristotelianism again,’of an economics which is formally elegant but utterly
unrealistic, and of a sociology which is
pluralistically open but programmatically
We must also try to make AngloAmerican work more widely available in
Germany, especially in order to provide
examples of combined clarity, empirical
fruitfulness, and political relevance.
hope to keep our readers informed about work
done by Anglo-American authors who share our
And we try to encourage
extensive discussion between authors in the
two traditions and in different countries.
For this reason, the journal is bilingual.
Articles and discussion-notes written by
English-speaking authors will be published
in the original, and articles in German will
be accompanied by abstracts in English.
are convinced that only non-authoritarian,
open, controversial and many-sided discussion will help to remove the weight of ortho
doxy, and help us achieve good results on
the way to a critical social science.
by collective effort can the ideological
structures of our thinking be identified and
We invite our English
speaking colleagues and comrades to participate as much as possible in this task.
Analyse & Kritik. Journal for the Social Sciences.
Edited by Michael Baurmann, Anton Leist and
Department of Sociology, University of Frankfurt,
Senckenberganlage 17-19, 6 Frankfurt/M, FRG
Westdeutscher Verlag, Faulbrunner Str. 13, Postfach
5829, 62 Wiesbaden 1, FRG