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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Alienation is a sociological term that has found itself severely out of favor as an analytical concept due to what are perceived as inextricable theoretical shortcomings despite having once enjoyed a time when it was taken to be essential for a robust and critical analysis of society. This dissertation looks to contribute to a revitalization of alienation theory by offering an understanding of alienation that is grounded in the framework of social ontology as forwarded in the works of John Searle. This social ontological account conceives of alienation as a fallout fact that arises when there is a performative contradiction between the enactment of a deontic power and the collective recognition of the status function that made possible that self-same deontic power in the first place. Framing alienation in this way provides the means for resolving those central aporias that have otherwise stymied its more widespread usage, namely, the question of alienation theory’s fundamental unity, the division between objective and subjective approaches, and the term’s normative status. The second half of the project is then dedicated to a critical engagement between the social ontological account and the long and diverse history of alienation theory beginning with its pre-philosophical uses and continuing into its philosophical appropriation in the 19th Century, its golden era in the mid-20th Century, and finally its place in second- and third-wave Critical Theory.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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