Emancipatory Politics at its limits? An introduction

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


Emancipatory politics and the very idea of emancipation have come under pressure. Feminist and post-colonial critiques, the appropriation of emancipatory ideals by right-wing populists and the crises triggered by the transgression of planetary boundaries all expose emancipatory paradoxes and raise questions about the further suitability of emancipation as a regulative ideal guiding any socio-ecological transformation of contemporary consumer societies. With this article, which introduces a Special Issue entitled The Dialectic of Emancipation - Transgressing Boundaries and Boundaries of Transgression, we are working toward a research agenda that acknowledges the current impasse of emancipatory politics and explores its ambivalences and further potentials. Following an outline of the emancipatory paradox and a review of how emancipatory movements have continuously contested – and redrawn – restrictive boundaries, we scan sedimented understandings of the two key terms, emancipation and dialectic, feeding into the concept that we are suggesting as an analytical lens for investigating the current impasse and future prospects of emancipatory politics: the dialectic of emancipation. We preview how the contributors to this Special Issue make use of these terms as they are engaging with this research agenda and conclude by reflecting on the dangers and pitfalls associated with the concept dialectic of emancipation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Theory
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 506014 Comparative politics
  • 504001 General sociology
  • 504 not use (legacy)

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