Book Review: Critique of Forms of Life, by Rahel Jaeggi

Published date01 February 2021
Date01 February 2021
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Political Theory
2021, Vol. 49(1) 134 –158
© The Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
Book Reviews
Critique of Forms of Life, by Rahel Jaeggi, trans. Ciaran Cronin. Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 2018, xvii + 395 pp.
Reviewed by: Antonio Y. Vázquez-Arroyo, Department of Political Science, Rutgers
University-Newark, Newark, NJ, USA
DOI: 10.1177/0090591720947349
Rahel Jaeggi’s outstanding Critique of Forms of Life constitutes the most
formidable of several recent efforts within Frankfurt School Critical Theory
to revitalize its critical import.1 Author of a commanding monograph uphold-
ing the critical import of a reconstructed concept of “alienation,” Jaeggi
brings considerable intellectual gifts—lively philosophical prose, sociologi-
cal sense, conceptual acuteness—to rework the Hegelian legacy in critical
theory through an intriguing recasting of the notion “forms of life” that sem-
inally touches upon important questions that bear directly on the concerns of
political theorists committed to genuine critique. The work of an original
mind, Critique of Life Forms vindicates an unfeigned critical vocation.
Effortlessly moving across the analytical/continental divide, Jaeggi mobi-
lizes, and originally builds upon, a vast philosophical and theoretical schol-
arship. Philosophically, she ranges from critical theory, G. W. F. Hegel, Karl
Marx, and Raymond Geuss to John Dewey, Hilary Putnam, Charles Taylor,
Alasdair MacIntyre, Wilfrid Sellars, and Robert Brandom to reconceive
Hegel’s notion of “ethical life” (Sittlichkeit) and thus open up a new set of
questions beyond the commonplaces found in mainstream discussions of
this foundational Hegelian notion. Present in Frankfurt School Critical
Theory as early as Horkheimer’s foundational essay, “Traditional and
Critical Theory,” Jaeggi can rightfully claim to be drawing out the critical
import of a central idea of critical theory that had been hitherto either ignored
or undertheorized.
A book of this range and complexity defies easy summary, and reasons
of space preclude doing justice to the richness found in it. Yet without too
much simplification one can identify three key contributions: a coruscating
elucidation of the critical import of “forms of life”; an original account of
947349PTXXXX10.1177/0090591720947349Political TheoryBook Reviews

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT