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Reaction, Justice, and Progress: Social Order in the Phronetic Social Science

Priority areas of development: sociology
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

Goal of research

To develop the new conceptual framework of sociological knowledge within the renaissance of the notion of phronesis and phronetic social sciences — the ones focused on the constituting of practical mind, everyday, and political prudence. The tasks of the researchs include: historical reconstruction of the “phronesis” notion that has great importance for the 20th century philosophy, specifically for the self-identification of Martin Heidegger and Hannah Arendt who suggested their versions of the alternative sociological projects; reconsideration of the theoretical and political genealogy of the corpus of ideas and conceptual frameworks, which is usually labeled as sociological classics; experimental application of the approach under consideration to the philosophical and political notions of justice.


Method of historical analysis of philosophical, legal and sociological texts, generalization of the relevant empirical studies, and construction of theoretical framework.

Research outcomes

1) The notion phronesishas been reconstructed in the historical and theoretical contexts. The notion can be already found in the writings of Greek tragedians and etymologically it goes back to Homer. However, it became a topic of philosophical speculations only in Plato’s and Aristotle’s body of work. For Plato it is essentially the same as the notion of sophy(wisdom) or theoretical science. For Aristotle phronesis for the first time ever became an independent ability of thinking. It is Aristotle’s framework that was followed further. Cicero translated the notion φρόνησις as prudentia and as such it was integrated in the latin tradition of stoicism, and later on — in the Christian theology. In the 20th century the notion of phronesisregained its unexpected and novel relevance. Almost at the same time it was in the center of attention of language scholars (Werner Jaeger) and philosophers (Martin Heidegger). Such thinkers as Hans-Georg Gadamer, Paul Ricœur and Jurgen Habermas turned to the discussion of the notion. It is a sort of a key to the system of thought of Hannah Arendt.

2) The history of sociology was partially reconstructed within the perspective of the emergence of phronetic social sciences. Many well-known concepts and approaches were represented anew. For the first time ever the entire science of sociology, as a project and as an idea (not just  separate branches of sociology) has been questioned. A volume Elementary Sociology: Introduction to the History of Scienceand several papers were prepared on the grounds of the study.

3) Theoretical work with the notions of reaction, conservatism and modernity has been carried out. Their dynamic and instable nature and their interrelationship were shown.

4) The elements of discourse on justice were reconstructed with regards to the aims of the project. It was carried out within historical philosophical, legal and sociological aspects. The foundations for the experimental studies of the contemporary discourse on justice have been laid out.

5) The connection of progressive and conservative ideas of modernity has been shown. For long time the rationality of modernity was considered as the only alternate to political and cultural reaction and also was a source and justification of progressive view on history that lied beneath the sociological theory, and now it serves as an operational notion which is common for the work of even conservative authors.

Therefore the project brought clear and mostly expected results. Original writings, conference presentations and seminar talks, student supervision showed that such reconceptualization of sociological work is legitimate and it has good perspectives. However, this year also showed that more common and traditional forms of work such as translations, providing comments to the texts and production of special issues etc. are still on top of the priorities in the work of the Centre for Fundamental Sociology.


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