© 2019

Imposed Rationality and Besieged Imagination

Practical Life and Social Pathologies


Part of the Philosophy and Politics - Critical Explorations book series (PPCE, volume 9)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xv
  2. Part I

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-5
    2. Gustavo Pereira
      Pages 7-32
    3. Gustavo Pereira
      Pages 33-55
    4. Gustavo Pereira
      Pages 57-68
  3. Rationality Bursting Its Banks

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 77-77
    2. Gustavo Pereira
      Pages 105-162
    3. Gustavo Pereira
      Pages 163-185
  4. Back Matter
    Pages 187-190

About this book


Social pathologies are social processes that hinder how individuals exercise their autonomy and freedom. In this book, Gustavo Pereira offers an account of such phenomena by defining them as a cognitive failure that affects the practical imagination, thus negatively interfering with our practical life. This failure of the imagination is the consequence of the imposition of a type of practical rationality on a practical context alien to it, caused by a non‑conscious transformation of the individuals’ set of beliefs and values. The research undertaken provides an innovative explanation in terms of microfoundations based on the mechanism of “availability heuristic”, by which the diminished exercise of the imagination turns the intuitively available or prevailing rationality into the one that regulates behaviour in inappropriate contexts. Additionally, this incorrect regulation results in a progressive distortion of the shared sense of the affected practical contexts, which becomes institutionalized.

Consumerism, bureaucratism, moralism, juridification, some forms of corruption and the particular Latin American case of “malinchism” can be interpreted as social pathologies insofar as they imply such distortion. This way of conceptualizing social pathologies integrates the traditional sociological macro‑explanation manifested through the negative consequences of the processes of social rationalization with a micro‑explanation articulated around the findings of cognitive psychology such as availability heuristic.

Understanding social pathologies as a cognitive failure allows us to identify the introduction of normative friction as the main way to counteract their effects. One of the potential effects of normative friction, as a specific form of cognitive dissonance, is the intense exercise of the imagination, thus operating as a condition of possibility for the exercise of autonomy and reflection. Democratic ethical life, understood as a shared democratic culture, as well as social institutions and narratives, are the privileged social spaces and means to trigger reflective processes that can counteract social pathologies through a reflective reappropriation of the meaning of the shared practical context.

An extraordinary contribution by a Critical Theorist to the return of the concept of imagination today. It takes up the challenge once taken by Kant to think about imagination as the pivotal activity not only of knowledge and experience, but above all, for action. The author claims that imagination makes criticism possible (pathologies) and it allows us to envision alternative views into the path for social transformation. Without imagination nothing is possible.

María Pía Lara, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Iztapalapa, Mexico


Social structures and relationships Concept of practical imagination Relationship between practical rationality and imagination Kant in moral imagination Hume in moral imagination Plato’s government of the wise Marx’s classless society Universal suffrage and the universal basic income Practical rationality and imagination Articulating element of practical life is reflection Intrapersonal relationships established in practical life Interpersonal relationships established in practical life Imagination, autonomy and reflection as normative criteria Social pathologies as a blockage to the imagination Counteracting social pathologies Normative friction and anonymous injustice Civil society, institutions and democratic ethical life Superficial and deep reflection

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of HumanitiesUniversidad de la RepúblicaMontevideoUruguay

About the authors

Gustavo Pereira is Professor of Ethics and Political Philosophy and Director of the Department of Philosophy of Praxis at the Faculty of Humanities, Universidad de la República (Uruguay). He has founded and is co-director of the interdisciplinary research group “Ethics, Justice and Economy” at the same University. His research has been mainly focused on social justice and theory of democracy, and more recently on social philosophy, in particular social pathologies, alienation and the cognitive microfoundations of those social phenomena. Some of his books are Medios, capacidades y justicia distributiva (UNAM, 2004), Las voces de la igualdad (Proteus, 2010) and Elements of a Critical Theory of Justice (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2013).

Bibliographic information