In recent times, under the influence of postmodernist thought sociology has
largely rejected the idea of social evolution. An exception to this trend
is to be found in the work of Jurgen Habermas. Habermas's account of social
evolution has received some critical attention, but in sociology wider det
ail of the picture is not well known. Habermas wishes to hold to the possib
ility that evolutionary progress can be discerned not only in the sphere of
technical control, but also in the sphere of social and moral development.
The paper presents Habermas's views on social evoluton within the wider co
ntext of his development of critical theory as a 'reconstructive science'.
It suggests that his account has been able to resist many of the standard c
riticisms of evolutionary theory and that a renewal of interest in this are
a could provide a rich vein of new sociological knowledge.