Humans, Materiality and Society: The Contemporary Sociological Relevance of Helmuth Plessner

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Plessner’s Stufen des Organischen (Steps of the Organic) questions both the conditions of possibility as well as the consequences of a self-understanding of life. Originally written against the background of urbanisation, industrialisation and colonisation, the strength of Plessner’s work lies in his combination of an analyticalphilosophical conceptualisation, the introduction of materiality and the body as well as his historical–ethical dimension. As a re-sult of this combination, Plessner’s approach is well suited to contribute to the current inter-national discourse on the relationship of sociality and materiality. This article provides an overview of the reception of Plessner in Germany and embeds his approach into current de-bates, discussing its value with regard to the sociality-materiality relationship. The focus is on three issues: the definition of the boundaries of the social, the relationship between the social and the body as well as the cultural historic-ethical situation. Finally, Plessner’s Steps of the Organic are related to the current issues of ecologisation and digitalisation, allowing us to see what a Plessnerian perspective on the materiality-sociality relationship can do with-in applied social theory.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman Studies
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)123-145
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 15.03.2019

    Research areas

  • Philosophy - Humanism, Philosophical anthropology, society, digitilisation, ecology, technology, materiality