Oppressive Forms of Life

Stahl, Titus
Journal article
in Critical Horizons, 2024



Rahel Jaeggi argues that forms of life ought to be the main reference point for a critical theory of society because the internal normative structure of life forms allows for immanent critique. In this article, I extend her model by systematically considering the possibility of oppressive forms of life. Oppressive forms of life are clusters of practices in which subordinated groups are systematically excluded or disabled from participating in the social processes of interpretation through which the values and purposes of those very practices are determined. The possibility of oppressive forms of life poses a challenge to the method of immanent critique because it seems that any such critique must rely on immanent norms that are at least partly constituted by interpretations and that can therefore be distorted by oppression. I argue that Jaeggi’s model of immanent critique can be extended to respond to that challenge, either by recovering a constitutive form of freedom within all forms of life or by consciously adopting a partisan stance in favour of oppressed and marginalised self-understandings.


Date of Publication