Social Pathologies: Tradition and Conceptualization

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


This chapter summarises the tradition of the concept of social pathologies, by taking the concept of alienation as the first antecedent, differentiated between the tradition of social alienation (Marx, Hegel, Rousseau) and of personal alienation (Kierkegaard, Sartre, Heidegger). These conceptualisations partially coincide with what is understood as social pathologies especially in Weber’s formulations, the first generation of the Critical Theory in the cases of Adorno and Horkheimer, and the perspectives of Lukács, Habermas and Honneth. After evaluating the different ways of understanding this type of phenomena, I propose a sufficiently comprehensive conceptualization so as to include the contributions of tradition and to integrate an innovative explanation in terms of microfoundations (Elster). Social pathologies are thus conceptualized as: anonymous social processes that impose a kind of practical rationality, especially that of means to ends, on a practical context regulated by another type of practical rationality. This is due to the undermining of the individuals’ practical imagination, which leads to (a) the non-fully conscious modification of the beliefs and preferences that guide their action, which in turn allows for (b) the institutionalization of a semi-conscious regulated practice that takes over the action of the transformed context, and generates, in turn, (c) a logic masking these social processes.


Alienation Microfoundations Anonymity Masking processes 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gustavo Pereira
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of HumanitiesUniversidad de la RepúblicaMontevideoUruguay

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