Legitimation crisis in contemporary technoscientific capitalism
Review article, 2022

In the summer of 1992, the English translation of Ulrich Beck’s Risikogesellshaft (Risk Society) is published. In their introduction to the book, Scott Lash and Brian Wynne discuss the extraordinary influence of the book in the German-speaking world, and the obvious point of comparison is the towering figure of Jürgen Habermas. Lash and Wynne note that in terms of book sales, Beck’s monograph is still trailing Habermas’ Strukturwandel der Offentlichkeit (The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere), yet conclude by stating that ‘Habermas's benchmark theses […] were published thirty years ago.’ Since critical theory no longer operates ‘in that heyday of the Keynesian welfare state’ it ‘can no longer proceed on those terms’ (Lash and Wynne Citation1992, p. 8).

This critique also includes Habermas’ somewhat lesser known 1973 Legitimationsprobleme im Spätkapitalismus (Legitimation Crisis), which is the subject of this essay. In what follows, we will suggest that this work is worth revisiting in the context of recent work in economic sociology and STS. In particular, we argue that the discussion on technoscientific capitalism – ‘the increasing co-production of capitalism and technoscience’ (Birch Citation2017, p. 440) – may benefit from such a re-reading.


Karl Palmås

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Science, Technology and Society

Nicholas Surber

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Science, Technology and Society

Journal of Cultural Economy

1753-0350 (ISSN) 1753-0369 (eISSN)

Vol. 15 3 373-379

Mistra Environmental Nanosafety Phase II

The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (Mistra) (2013/48), 2019-04-01 -- 2023-03-31.

Subject Categories

History of Ideas


Social Anthropology


Areas of Advance

Nanoscience and Nanotechnology



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