André Gorz and contemporary Frankfurt School Critical Theory: Alienation, eco-socialism and post-productivism

Neal Harris, Javier Zamora Garcia


We argue that Gorz’s work offers a nuanced engagement with alienation that is instructive for contemporary social theory. In keeping with Gorz’s broader politics, we contend that the utility of his framing of alienation derives from his insistence that progressive critique must challenge the ideal of productivism. We start the paper by presenting a sympathetic reconstruction of Gorz’s understanding of alienation. Next, we explicitly detail the strengths his approach carries for furthering sociological research today. We then reinforce this point by arguing that Gorz’s work offers particularly valuable theoretical resources for contemporary Frankfurt School Critical Theory, in which the study of alienation has been somehow hampered by the ascent of ‘recognition theory’. While not sharing all the methodological commitments of first-generation Critical Theorists, Gorz was well versed in Frankfurt School scholarship and is therefore an apposite interlocutor to engage ‘third-generation’ Critical Theory. Gorz’s insights are thus shown to be important for furthering contemporary social theory, and in particular, for helping to combat the unsustainable productivism of neoliberal capitalism.

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