Pathologies of the Social: The Past and Present of Social Philosophy
Like all areas of theoretical investigation over the past two hundred years, philosophy has undergone a process of differentiation that has led to the development of a number of subdisciplines and specializations. Although the classic threefold division into theoretical, practical, and aesthetic philosophy continues to determine philosophical curricula and introductory texts even today, new specializations barely fitting the old pattern have long since emerged in philosophical academia. Especially in the field of practical philosophy - originally a discipline comprising only ethics, political philosophy and the philosophy of law - this new development has given rise to a multiplicity of disciplines, and the lines dividing the individual subspecialties are beginning to become increasingly blurred. Indeed, there are few who could say with any great certainty just where the lines are drawn between moral philosophy, political philosophy, the history of philosophy, and cultural philosophy.
In this complex terrain, social philosophy in the German-speaking world has become an increasingly residual discipline. Indeterminate in its relation to neighboring fields of study, it functions by default as an overarching organization for all practically oriented subdisciplines, a normative supplement of empirically oriented sociology, and an interpretive diagnosis of present socio-economic circumstances. 1 Going back to the early days of utilitarianism in the Anglo-Saxon world, on the other hand, an understanding of social philosophy has been developed that is greatly similar to what is considered "political philosophy" in Germany: the study of the normative questions that arise wherever the reproduction of civil society depends on state intervention (the preservation of private property, the punishment of criminals, healthcare, etc.). 2 Although this undertaking has the advantage of clearly defining the task of social philosophy, it inevitably causes the latter a certain loss of identity, for social philosophy no longer consists in an independent object domain or a distinct set of questions, but is reduced instead to a marginal strain of political philosophy.
If we take these two developments together, it isn't difficult to notice that social philosophy currently finds itself in a precarious situation. In the German-speaking world, it is on the verge of degenerating into an awkward discipline while, in the Anglo-Saxon countries, a restriction of its theoretical domain has already rendered it a subdiscipline of political philosophy - so much so that it hardly seems to possess any independent features at all any more. In order to counteract both these dangers, I argue that social philosophy is primarily concerned with determining and discussing processes of social development that can be viewed as misdevelopments ( Fehlentwicklungen ), disorders or "social pathologies."
In what follows I will attempt to specify the claims and tasks inherent in this conception of social philosophy so that its relation to neighboring disciplines will become sufficiently clear. First of all, I will reflect on this discipline's history, in order to lay bare the outlines of the tradition in which it has been assigned the task of diagnosing social misdevelopments. This variety of social-philosophical reflection has its origin - if not in name, then at least in subject matter - in Jean-Jacques Rousseau's critique of civilization. In its analyses, it employs concepts such as "bifurcation" and "alienation" as ethical criteria for determining specific modern processes of development to be pathologies (I). This tradition underwent a significant enrichment with the emergence of sociology, inasmuch as philosophical reflection was hereby compelled to ground its claims on the results of empirical research. Drawing on