The concept of alienation has suffered more than most from the vagaries of fashion. Until the 1960s, it played a central role in critical social thought, but since then discussion of it has almost vanished. Jaeggi's aim in this important work is to “resurrect” it as an indispensable tool for social criticism (xx). She argues that it describes pervasive social and moral problems not comprehended by the ideas of justice and rights that have dominated political philosophy since Rawls in the analytic tradition; and it need not rest on an essentialist conception of the self, as has been standardly charged by thinkers since Althusser in the continental tradition.

As Jaeggi shows, the concept can be traced back to Rousseau and Hegel, but after Hegel, two distinct lines of thought develop. On the one hand, Marx (particularly in his early works) sees alienation as a...

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