The Becoming of Spirit. A Controversy on Social Change in Contemporary Critical Theory

Di Agustín Lucas Prestifilippo

In: Critique: Hegel and Contemporary Critical Theory LII , No. 1 ( 2023 )

Sezione Saggi / Articles


Our crisis produces shattering effects both at the level of subjectivity and at the level of social objectivity. This can be seen in the recent manifestations of a consciousness to which history becomes myth and the perception of time assumes the form of a cyclical repetition of what is always the same. But this is also apparent in the flagrant exhaustion of the social totality of normative resources to imagine an alternative future. For both reasons, Hegel’s philosophy has become a propitious field for thinking about the problems of the present. Thus his writings have addressed both issues not only from a subtle and differentiated theory, but also by rooting the logic of its concepts in the life of its historical experience. The naturalization of what has come to be and the draining of the utopian resources of the capitalist order require us to rethink carefully the problem of social change and the place of criticism in the historical processes of radical transformation. In this paper I propose to systematically examine some of the strategies by which Contemporary Critical Theory has been reading the Hegelian theorem of a «becoming of Spirit» in order to respond to the demands of the current time. The hypothesis I will develop asserts that these diverse ways of returning to Hegel express antagonistic perspectives on the problem of history and on the tasks of a critique that defines itself as committed to the struggles for social transformation.