Beyond instrumental rationality. For a critical theory of freedom

  • Jana Katharina Funk University of Bamberg
Keywords: critical theory, human freedom, Max Weber, Max Horkheimer, rationalization, modernity, instrumental rationality, value rationality, critique of capitalism.


This article will provide an illustration of Max Weber’s theory of rationalization with a specific impetus on its interdependency with the development of capitalism. Following Horkheimer, I shall critically draw on Weber to outline a theory of human freedom, showing that rationalization not only implies economic and social liberation but entails a totalizing tendency that invades all spheres of socio-political life including people’s mental infrastructure. This mental colonization can be framed as a process of substituting value rationality with instrumental rationality. I will claim that this substitution can be understood as an impediment for human freedom. Following contemporary theories of action (Anscombe, Foot), I will show the centrality of value orientation for understanding human freedom. Therefore, I propose a critical theory of freedom that centers value rational action as realization of freedom and can be understood as emancipative.

= 321 veces | PDF
= 154 veces| HTML
= 4 veces|


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Jana Katharina Funk, University of Bamberg

is a doctoral student at the University of Bamberg, Germany. She studied Philosophy, Political Science and Asian Studies in Berlin, New Delhi and Bamberg. During her investigation, she was a visiting scholar at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina and at De Paul University, Chicago. She is interested in questions of global justice, liberal theory, moral theory and feminist studies. 



Anscombe, G. E. M. (1958). Modern Moral Philosophy. Philosophy, 33(124), 1-19.

Anscombe, G.E.M. (1981). Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Mind (Collected Philosophical Papers, Vol. 2.). Oxford University Press.

Anscombe, G.E.M. (1981). Ethics, Religion and Politics (Collected Philosophical Papers, Vol. 3). Oxford University Press.

Bonefeld, W. (2020). Capital Par Excellence: On Money as an obscure thing. Estudios de Filosofía, 62, 33-56.

Del Aguila Marchena, L. (2020). Crítica marxiana de la igualdad en la ciudadanía moderna. Estudios de Filosofía 62, 11-32.

Foot, P. (2001). Natural Goodness. Oxford University Press.

Gewirth, A. (1978). Reason and Morality. University of Chicago Press.

Habermas, J. (1981). Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns. Band 1. Handlungsrationalität und gesellschaftliche Rationalisierung. Suhrkamp.

Habermas, J. (1982). Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns. Band 2. Zur Kritik der funktionalistischen Vernunft. Suhrkamp.

Horkheimer, M. (1937). Zur Anthropologie des bürgerlichen Zeitalters. Sieben Aufsätze von Max

Horkheimer aus der Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung. Kohlhammer.

Horkheimer, M. (1972). Critical Theory. Selected Essays (Matthew J. O’Connell, Trans.). Continuum Publishing.

Horkheimer, M. (2004). Eclipse of reason. Continuum.

Horkheimer, M. (2007). Zur Kritik der instrumentellen Vernunft. Übersetzt von Alfred Schmidt. Fischer Taschenbuch.

Horkheimer, M. (2012). Critique of instrumental reason (J. O’Conell and others, Trans). Verso.

Illies, C. (2003). The Grounds of Ethical Judgement. New transcendental arguments in Moral Philosophy. Oxford University Press.

Kant, I. (1974). Kritik der reinen Vernunft (Band 3 und 4). Suhrkamp (KrV).

Kant, I. (1974). Kritik der Urteilskraft (Band 10). Suhrkamp (KdU).

Kant, I. (1977). Metaphysik der Sitten (Band 8). Suhrkamp (MS).

Kant, I. (1999). Critique of Pure Reason. In P. Guyer, & A. W. Wood (Eds. & Trans), The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant in Translation. Cambridge University Press.

Kant, I. (2000). Kritik der praktischen Vernunft. Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten (Band 7). Suhrkamp (KpV).

Kant, I. (2002). Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals (Allen W. Wood, Ed. & Trans). Yale University Press.

Löwith, K. (2003). Max Weber and Karl Marx (T. Bottomore & W. Outhwaite, Eds. & Introduction). Taylor & Francis e-Library.

Randall, C. (1980). Weber’s Last Theory of Capitalism: A Systematization. American Sociological Review 45(6), 925-942.

Weber, M. (1923). Wirtschaftsgeschichte. Duncker und Humblot.

Weber, M. (1950). General Economic History (Frank H. Knight, Trans). Illinois.

Weber, M. (1972). Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. Grundriss der verstehenden Soziologie. Mohr und Siebeck.

Weber, M. (1978). Economy and Society. An outline for interpretative Sociology (G. Roth & C. Wittich, Eds. & Trans). University of California Press.

Weber, M. (2005). The protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. (T. Parsons, Trans.). Routledge.

Weber, M. (2006). Die protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus. Beck.

How to Cite
FunkJ. K. (2021). Beyond instrumental rationality. For a critical theory of freedom. Estudios De Filosofía, (63), 91-108.
Original or Research articles