The readings for this section are Turner, pp. 140-142 and 526-30 and Habermas (1991), pp. 196-203.
Jürgen Habermas was born in Dusseldorf, Germany in 1929 and studied at universities in Gottingen, Zurich, and Bonn. He became assistant to Theodor Adorno at the Institute for Social Research in 1959 and later was a professor at Heidelberg and Frankfurt, retiring as a professor in 1994. His writings are a contemporary approach to critical theory and these writings are supradisciplinary in that they combine philosophy and sociology with other forms of social theory. While his books and articles are generally regarded as difficult to read, being an a certain Germanic intellectual tradition, Farganis notes that Habermas may be the most important German social theorist since Max Weber. His analysis builds on the ideas of earlier social theorists and philosophers such as Kant, Hegel, Marx, Weber, and the earlier critical theorists, and also uses some of the American theorists such as Mead. His most important work may be The Theory of Communicative Action (1981), where he presents the theories of “the theory of communicative rationality and the theory of societal rationalization” (Braaten, p. 2).
The central concern of Habermas is similar to that of the earlier critical theorists – with modernity, rationality, autonomy, freedom, and human happiness, and how these are connected as societies change. He develops a comprehensive social theory with an analysis of the individual and interaction, social institutions and structures, and forces of change and development in societies. This provides a link between agency and structure, combining these within an overall theory of historical change and evolution.
Like earlier critical theorists, Habermas combines ideas from the emancipatory side of Marx with the more constraining forces of rationalization from Weber. However, unlike Horkheimer and Adorno (HA), he considers these forces to be possible and to operate in modern society. While the forces of rationality, instrumental reason, and the administered society may appear to be most powerful, Habermas considers it possible for democracy to maintain itself and develop in new forms. As Calhoun shows, discussion, debate, and communication in the public sphere provide a way to develop and extend democratic aspects of society. These can lead toward social progress, addressing the problems of modern society, and can create the possibility of greater reason, justice, and human freedom. As a result, the analysis of Habermas leads in a direction that has more positive than that of Horkheimer, Adorno, and Marcuse, with increased public discourse and new social movements possibly providing a way out of the trap of modern forms of rationalization and administration, and leading toward a better society.
b. Early Work of Habermas
Calhoun (pp. 526-30) notes that Habermas began by attempting to develop critical theory, but making it more politically connected and significant. This early work may have been more in line with early critical theory than with the pessimistic and one-dimensional vision that HA and Marcuse had developed by the 1950s and 1960s. In this work, Habermas connects theory and practice with the aim of (i) developing a critical social science, and (ii) providing a critique of actual historical institutions with a view to examining political aspects. This early work was concerned with ideology and consciousness, with an analysis of how human consciousness became false consciousness, and with “the development of a broader sense of political practice as the constitution of ways of living together that enabled the full realization of human potential” (Calhoun, p. 516).
In terms of critical social science, Habermas argued that “his task was to locate the relationship among the knowledge-forming interests that led to theoretical production, the historical conditions within which the theory was set, and the epistemic content of the theory” (Calhoun, p. 527). In particular, he used the approach of Freud and Marx, and compared critical theory to psychoanalysis – helping society develop a more critical approach. This was necessary because “human capacities were repressed without recognition and could be liberated with movement towards fuller and free communication” (Calhoun, p. 527). This form of analysis extended earlier critical theory by arguing that social science and ideology were one-sided, constraining and limiting the creative potential of humans. This could be viewed as an extension of earlier critical theory approaches, and using ideas from Marx, Freud, HA, and Marcuse. At the same time, the latter quote notes the importance of communication, a major theme of the later work of Habermas.
The second part of his early work, Habermas developed an historical critique of the institutions of bourgeois, liberal and nominally democractic society. He argued that the public sphere had traditionally been one of relatively free and open debate – although among elites, these were well informed and each sector of society entered such debate. Calhoun argues that for Habermas this “offered a model of public communication which could potentially realize the rational guidance of society” (Calhoun, p. 527). The public sphere of civil society, with coffeehouses, meetings, books, and the press, provided a forum within which real debate could occur so that rational-critical discourse could take place. Habermas argues that this is the form of debate and discussion that occurred in the early stages of modernity.
In the twentieth century, the situation changed, according to Habermas. While democracy was extended to include more parts of the population, the new public was not always prepared for such debate, the mass media distorted and debased the forms of discussion, and discourse generally degenerated. In addition, the boundary between the state and civil society collapsed, with the development of a larger state, intervening in areas of society such as the economic and social welfare. Experts, representatives of interest groups, and bureaucrats took over and developed the discourse in line with the adminstered society that was emerging.
While there may have been considerable truth in this argument, it was generally elitist and idealized a traditional form of society and social discoures that prevented most people from participation. Women were certainly ignored in these earlier debates and many other parts of society were unrepresented. While Habermas decided to change course in his analysis, this early analysis demonstrates his concern with discussion and debate as an underlying aspect of democracy and creativity.
c. Communicative Action
By the 1980s, the analysis of Habermas moved beyond that of earlier critical theory, while maintaining some of the same aims as critical theory – to be critical of social theory and the modern world, attempting to point toward human freedom and emancipation. Habermas developed a theory of communicative action, and this has made a major contribution to contemporary social theory. While communication was an important part of George Herbert Mead’s approach, Habermas moves communicative action to a more central position in his theory of social action. The basic idea of this approach is that “it is through the action of communicating … that society actually operates and evolves; this process is encompassed and structured by the actors’ lifeworlds” (Wallace and Wolf, p. 175). That is, Habermas looks on communication among people, interaction through communication, and the results of this as ways in which the social world operates. Wallace and Wolf quote Habermas arguing that communicative action:
is not only a process of reaching understanding; … actors are at the same time taking part in interactions through which they develop, confirm, and renew their memberships in social groups and their own identities. Communicative actions are not only processes of interpretation in which cultural knowledge is “tested against the world”; they are at the same time processes of social integration and of socialization. (Wallace and Wolf, p.175, from Habermas, Theory of Communicative Action).
Whether or not the theory of communicative action ultimately provides the key to developing an overall understanding of the social world is not clear. But there is no doubt that the approach Habermas has developed has led social theorists to pay more attention to language and communication. In some ways this is reminiscent of Mead and symbolic interactionists, although Habermas develops this is a different direction. There are several aspects to this approach, and some of its features are discussed in this section.
i. Distorted Communication. On pages 140-142 of The Blackwell Companion, Anthony Elliott discusses how Habermas considers distorted communication to have developed as part of psychological repression, social power, and ideological domination. In this analysis, Habermas uses some of the ideas of Marx, Freud, and Marcuse.
“The development of social organization and productive economic forces has required a certain amount of psychological repression” (Elliott, p. 141) but in the current era there is a possibility of transforming or overcoming this. “Habermas argues for the possibility of emancipation through the recovery of the repressed unconscious” (Elliott, p. 141) with the less conscious or unconscious being recoverable and made conscious through speech. This is not limited to individual or personal speech and the individual unconscious, but to the public sphere and public discussion. He links “the overcoming of social repression to transformations in structures of public communication” (Elliott, p. 141).
Like Marcuse and earlier critical theorists, Habermas agrees that modernity and the forces of the administered society have dominated society and social relations and even the inner self, limiting imagination and options for people. Even “desire and passion are increasingly structured by the social system itself” (Elliott, p. 141). Habermas refers to this process as excommunication, that is, repressive forces take communication away from the individual, social processes, and public life. Certain forms of communication are excluded or prohibited, thus intersubjective relations are privatized and deformed. In order to overcome this “Habermas argues that emancipation entails the elimination of unconscious distortions of communication in order to secure the self-reflective movement toward political autonomy” (Elliott, p. 142).
While the study of the psyche and repression, the conscious and the unconscious, and language and linguistics is beyond the scope of this course, these arguments of Habermas make a certain amount of sociological sense at the level of interaction of individuals and at the institutional and structural level. In line with Mead, Simmel, and symbolic interaction approaches, communication is key to interaction, and if overpowering social forces such limit the range and forms of interpersonal communication, this limits social interaction. Since the mind and self develop socially, this excommunication limits the development of the social self or turns it in certain directions. The reading from Giddens, “Dilemmas of the Self” provides various examples of the forms and consequences of this. Calhoun, in Chapter 15, deals with the distorting and limiting effects that modernity places on public discussion – the narrow range of debate on public issues, the constraints that the system places on public discussion. As a result, this appears to be a useful way to interpret some of the psychoanalytic analyses of social life.
ii. Language and Work. Ritzer (p. 292) notes that Habermas developed a critique of Marxian analysis in the early 1970s, noting that Marx identified human creativity with work and labour. While Habermas does not entirely reject this, he argues that this analysis of Marx was one-sided and misleading. Habermas argues that human creativity, or the essence of humanity or species-being is two-fold: work or labour on the one hand, and social action on the other.
For Marx, an analysis of work and labour formed the basis for production, exploitation, social class, and the forces of history. Humans were limited by nature, the forces of production, and the relations of production, and these resulted in alienation and limits on human creativity. At the same time, Marx looked on work and labour as potentially freeing humanity from nature. As the productive forces developed, the working class would create the possibility of a freer and more just society.
Habermas argues that this captures only one aspect of human potential and creativity. Perhaps more basic is human social interaction, communication, and language, so that these rather than work and labour, language and speech may form the basis for human creativity. For Habermas, it is communication and communicative action that allow social interaction to take place. Just as work and labour were limited and distorted for Marx, so communication and social interaction became distorted by modernity for Habermas. The institutions and social structures that develop in modernity constrain communicative action and thus limit social interaction. By analogy to Marx, Habermas argues that these limits can be overcome, not just by ending private property, alienation, and exploitation, but by ending the distortions of communication. Ritzer argues that “whereas for Marx the goal was a communist society in which undistorted work (species-being) would exist or the first time, for Habermas the political goal is a society of undistorted communication (communicative action)” whereby there would be the “elimination of barriers to free communication” (Ritzer, p. 293).
This comparison shows that Habermas has attempted to develop an overall social theory that in some ways is similar to that of Marx, but takes language and communication as the underlying concepts on which the theory is to be built.
iii. Reason and Action. Closely connected to the analysis of work and language are the arguments of Habermas concerning reason, action, and knowledge. Weber identified various types of rationality, and earlier critical theorists argued that for the most part, modern rationality was associated with instrumental forms of reason and purposive-rational action. That is, the modern era was associated with great development of purposive, instrumental forms of reason and action, whereby the administered society developed more efficient means of meeting specific ends. Critical reason and value-rational aspects of reason generally were downgraded or eliminated, according to earlier critical theorists.
Habermas develops much the same idea, by distinguishing instrumental reason or purposive-rational action from communicative action or communicative forms of reason. The emphasis on instrumental reason has led to a great development of productive forces, technology, bureaucracy, and administration, with theories of these being well developed by Marx, Weber, and their followers. However, this is not the only form that rationality can take, so that earlier critiques of rationality, even by critical theorists, were often partial. Ritzer notes that Habermas seeks a rational society, but one with rationalization of communicative action, that is, communication free from domination, so that it can be open and free communication (Ritzer, p. 294). Ideology and legitimation of existing systems, perhaps from instrumental reason, interfere with this and limit the development of communicative action. As a result, the pursuit of rationality in this more inclusive sense would lead to “the removal of the barriers that distort communication, but more generally it means a communication system in which ideas are openly presented and defended against criticism” (Ritzer, p. 294).
Calhoun notes much the same argument suggesting that the universal pragmatics of Habermas starts with a “primordial split between communicative and instrumental reason, and even within communication between speech oriented to understanding itself and speech oriented to practical effects” (Calhoun, p. 529). While the development of instrumental reason led to alienation and social disasters (concentration camps, wars, ecological destruction), a further development of communicative action could lead to development of a better society. In this sense, Habermas is committed to modernity and the project of the Enlightenment, thus distinguishing him from earlier critical theorists and postmodernists. That is, for Habermas there is still potential in modernity, by developing communication and discourse in the public sphere.
Habermas thus develops a somewhat different version of rationality than what Weber, Marx, or earlier critical theorists developed. Since communicative action is the action associated with social interaction, Habermas is able to integrate some of the ideas from the symbolic interaction perspective into this social theory. That is, he sees the forms of social interaction as another type of rationality.
iv. Ideal Speech. Habermas grounds his arguments in the concept of ideal speech and the ideal speech situation – “a situation in which everyone would have an equal chance to argue and question, without those who are more powerful, confident, or prestigious having and unequal say. True positions would prevail under these circumstances because they are more rational” (Wallace and Wolf, p. 178). The ideal speech situation is one in which the participants are oriented toward developing a mutual understanding, and not just to achieving some specific purposive result through the interaction. As a result, his model would seem to argue against rational choice theory and even take a different direction than the more purposive models of Weber and Parsons. Habermas notes:
the goal of coming to an understanding is to bring about an agreement that terminates in the intersubjective mutuality of reciprocal understanding, shared knowledge, mutual trust, and accord with one another. Agreement is based on recognition of the corresponding validity claims of comprehensibility, truth, truthfulness, and rightness. (Wallace and Wolf, p. 178, from Habermas “What is Universal Pragmatics?”)
This ideal speech situation is thus oriented toward developing an understanding, and when agreement is reached, this is the knowledge and truth of the situation.
Several principles of the ideal speech situation are as follows (adapted from Ritzer, p. 295). See also Calhoun, p. 529.
· Mutual understanding. What the speaker says is understandable and comprehensible by others. Same language, structures that are understandable, topics and claims that make sense to others involved in conversation.
· Truthful. The speaker provides reliable knowledge in the sense that the propositions stated by the speaker are true. When specific facts and statements concerning the natural or social world are made, the speaker provides statements that he or she understands to be correct. That is, there is not deliberate misrepresentation by the speaker.
· Sincere expression. The speaker is sincere or reliable in the sense that the speaker is truthful and believable. When opinions, attitudes, views, and interpretations are being provided, the speaker generally attempts to be sincere and not deliberately mislead.
· Right to speak. The speaker has the right and it is proper for the speaker to speak. Individuals who have a statement to make should be allowed to do so, and their view should be listened to and seriously considered.
· Social order. Speech acts take a position with respect to normative or legitimate social order. This may be connected to the first point, that the speech acts relate in some way to the social order of which one is part.
These are five validity claims that Habermas argues must be associated with conversation and communication in order to develop and maintain communication and develop common understandings. For social interaction through communication to occur, each of these validity claims or conditions must be met. If one of them breaks down or is violated, then that distorts or limits the interactive process, and prevents consensus from emerging. This could be at the individual level, where one or more parties to a conversation do not abide by these, or where there is an unequal power situation. At the level of institutions and structures, many of these conditions may be violated. Social organization developed on the basis of these ideal speech assumptions is likely to be associated with a number of positive features – openness, fairness, democracy, and consensus. Note the relevance of these conditions for public discourse. It is often minority groups, women, and the disadvantaged or powerless who are left out in discussion. The conditions of Habermas would require their inclusion in discussion and debate.
Habermas argues that communicatively competent individuals are committed to reaching understanding and a consensus. “The theory of communicative competence holds that there is at least one end (mutuality) to which we are committed in virtue of being capable of communication and that this end is prior to personal ends” (Braaten, p. 64). That is, while we each may have personal ends in mind, an encounter through communication is in some senses prior to this theoretically, in that we are committed to the communicative principles first. Habermas develops this view partly from Mead and partly by analyzing the structure of speech and communication.
At one level, the conditions associated with ideal speech can be considered utopian. That is, if each of these conditions is met, there could be true discussion or discourse among those involved. There would not be power imbalances and this would provide a way of developing consensus. At the same time, the ideal speech situation can be regarded as an ideal type of the Weberian sort, and it is a useful analytical tool for considering how social interaction at the individual, small group, and societal level takes place. Further, these conditions can be regarded as the basic set of assumptions and concepts for the communicative action theory of Habermas, perhaps in with the same sort of role that the commodity and exchange plays in Marxian theory or the unit act in Parsonian theory. That is, from this basic concept of ideal speech, Habermas is able to build a comprehensive theory of social interaction, life-world, system, and public discourse. These latter ideas are examined in the following notes.
d. System and Life-World
Habermas has developed an elaborate theoretical social system, perhaps with Parsons as a model. While much of this is complex, one part of this approach is that of system and life-world, and colonization of the life-world by the system. This is analogous to the dominance of commodity exchange of Marx or to Weber’s rationalization, but provides a new way of integrating agency and structure. Ritzer notes that
the system is the domain of formal rationality, while the life-world is the site of substantive rationality. The colonization of the life-world, therefore, involves a restatement of the Weberian thesis that in the modern world, formal rationality is triumphing over substantive rationality and coming to dominate areas that were formally defined by substantive rationality. (Ritzer, p. 549).
The life-world is the area of communicative action, where active subjects are, and where social interaction and communication take place. This site is where daily activities occur, in families, in peer groups, and in informal discussions and meeting places. Here “speaker and hearer meet, where they reciprocally raise claims that their utterances fit the world … and where they can criticize and confirm those validity claims, settle their disagreements, and arrive at agreements” (Habermas, quoted in Ritzer, p. 549). It is practical and substantive rationality – organized to meet practical ends and being related to values that characterizes the actions of people in the lifeworld. In this sphere, it is important for communication to be free and open, and rationality here means listening and debating, so that “understanding, or a rational method of achieving consensus, is based ultimately on the authority of the better argument” (Ritzer, p. 550).
The system is the set of institutions that exist that are based not so much on the viewpoint and experiences of acting subjects, but on the perspective of others. These involve the growth of institutions and structures, economy and exchange, and formal rationality. These are the realm of power, whereby some are able to develop means of exercising power over others and dominating them. Educational institutions, workplaces, and political institutions are part of the system.
Initially, in traditional societies, life-world and system may be identical
in which the taken-for-granted lifeworld is highly encompassing. People mix only with others who share the same lifeworld, so they are always able to communicate with each other and have no reason to become self-conscious about the structure of shared experience. (Wallace and Wolf, p. 175).
This is similar to Simmel’s traditional society or Durkheim’s society with mechanical solidarity. For Habermas, two developments take place over time. First, the various parts of the life-world become more differentiated, so that the culture, social, and personality patterns and relationships become separated. Ritzer notes that “engaging in communicative action and achieving understanding in each of these themes leads to the reproduction of the life-world through the reinforcement of culture, the integration of society, and the formation of personality” (Ritzer, p. 550). This aspect of Habermas is very much like the theory of Parsons, with Habermas using much the same systems as does Parsons.
Second, the system, or these systems increasingly become detached from the life-world as the cultural and social structures become more distant from people. These structural patterns increasingly come to dominate people and in the language of Habermas “they exercise more steering capacity over the life-world” (Ritzer, p. 550). Instead of consensus achieved through substantively rational communication and discussion, these structures develop a formal rationality which may not be based on common understandings. This one-sided rationality develops a logic of its own and the systems become increasingly separated from the life-world of people. Note the similarities here to Weber’s view of rationalization, Durkheim’s anomie, or Marx’s alienation.
The result of this is that the system colonizes the life-world. While both life-world and system are essential parts of society, the detachment of the two is associated with domination of the system over the life-world. Language and communication is required to maintain social interaction, and this becomes the primary basis on which consensus is reached in modern societies. The difficulty is that it becomes difficult to carry this on in a complex and highly differentiated society. As a result, economic and political systems emerge which provide a means of communication, but through exchange and money in the case of the economy, and power in the case of politics. The requirements associated with such systems tend to be those of formal rationality, and these come to determine the dynamics of the system. The result is a deforming of the life-world as the system increasingly colonizes more and more aspects of the life-world. “Communication becomes increasingly rigidified, impoverished, and fragmented, and the life-world itself seems poised on the brink of dissolution"”(Ritzer, p. 553).
The solution to these problems is to end the colonization and the detachment of the two. This is where communication, consensus, and social movements can play a role.
e. Public Sphere
i. Public and Private (Calhoun, pp. 530-531)
Integration of private and public spheres in traditional societies, where the lifeworld and system more or less identical.
Separation of public and private with development of modernity corresponds to separation of lifeworld and system.
Public = collective concerns and activities of state
Private = affairs not so subject to state but more concerned with personal
Colonization of lifeworld could be viewed as invasion of private by the public.
Social self-organization through greater participation in rational-critical discourse
ii. Exclusion and Inclusivity (Calhoun, p. 531)
Women and non-property holders excluded.
Issues involve not just who is excluded and who included, but the form of discourse that results. How are diverse identities included and how might the form of discourse change as more are included. This is especially relevant today when issues of multiculturalism and gender inclusiveness are considered. This might lead to questioning Habermas approach of a single public discourse.
Several publics or a sphere of publics. Discourse across lines of difference. Multiple intersections among heterogeneous publics.
But this creates problems as well, because nationalism and identity imply boundaries, where some are excluded. This also ties the individual to the group as “personally embodied.”
Habermas – “disinterested rational-critical public discourse” (middle, p. 532). That is, this is not bringing particular material or other interests and not negotiating as interest groups. That is, Habermas downplays specific interests and disregards status in favour of being willing to work mutually toward a rational-critical understanding. This means settling arguments on the basis of the merits of the argument, rather than the identities of the actors. This is similar to liberal arguments and ignores some of the points noted earlier by Habermas, that differences can be relegated to the private sector.
Calhoun notes that Habermas assumes a “private, pre-political life that enables and encourages citizens to rise above private identities and concerns” (middle, p. 534).
iii. Multiplicity of Publics.
Not a single public, and common membership not prior to other memberships.
People are part of different public arenas and address multiple centres of power.
Public discourse must involve discourse in multiple arenas.
Power means exercising of debate in only one public. Must have it in all.
eg. many seemingly private issues brought into public arena.
Habermas – does not deal adequately with identity formation or culture as public activity
f. Notes on “Discourse Ethics”
All references in this section are to “Morality and Ethical Life: Does Hegel’s Critique of Kant Apply to Discourse Ethics?” pp. 195-215 in Habermas, 1991.
For Habermas, discourse ethics is study and analysis of the possibility of “grounding moral norms in communication” (p. 195). Habermas identifies ideal speech and communicative action as key to developing discourse and understanding, so that these may be important for developing agreed upon norms. This is especially the case in modern society since the authority associated with traditional norms has disappeared and communicative action becomes the only basis on which common agreement can be reached, at least if coercion and power are to be avoided. In this article, Habermas approaches these from a philosophical point of view, but uses some ideas from sociology and develops some sociologically relevant implications.
i. Valid Norms. Pages 196 and 197 are primarily philosophic, but the principle of moral augmentation on the middle of p. 197 states the principle that Habermas develops: “Only those norms may claim to be valid that could meet with the consent of all affected in their role as participants in a practical discourse.” In society there are various norms – for example, in our society there are norms against theft, for mobility rights, and for rights to vote. While these are generally regarded as valid in our society, they might not be in other societies, or the consequences for violation of these might be treated quite differently. The criterion Habermas uses to consider whether these are valid in any society or group is based on what all those affected by such norms would say if they were involved in a practical discourse, that is a discourse where everyone could participate and where the result would be decided by force of discussion and argument. If all consented, following such discussion, then this would be a valid norm.
ii. Universal. But the norm might not be universal, because those in other cultures or societies might not consent to this norm. Here Habermas notes that there is a danger or fallacy in applying any norm to other groups or societies. This is because the norm might reflect the prejudices of a powerful group like upper class males who themselves are agreed on the norm, but others might not.
iii. Practical Discourse. Habermas notes how his criterion or procedure differs from some other approaches. He notes that Rawls uses the criterion of contract. More relevant for this course is a comparison with Mead who uses an approach that Habermas terms “ideal role taking.” From Mead he draws out the criterion that the individual put himself or herself in the position of others who would be affected by an action, and on this basis determine whether the action is appropriate. This is from Mead’s view of action involving consideration of the possible responses of others, and adjusting one’s behaviour accordingly.
For Habermas, the principle is rather that of argumentation, discussion, and discourse, where “all concerned take part, freely and equally, in a cooperative search for truth, where noting coerces anyone except the force of a better argument” (p. 198). While Habermas notes that this is a demanding condition, it is a reasonable one, and one we often attempt to use in practice. There may be some problematic assumptions built into this, but perhaps no more so than the other criteria.
iv. Procedure or Substance. The issue Habermas addresses on p. 199 is that norms and morality are substantive, that is, they claim that certain types of actions are acceptable or not, and the same with certain values. These are matters of substance, not procedural rules, so how can moral intuitions develop from the procedural processes of communication? Here Habermas develops an approach to society, socialization, and social organization. People are socialized as individuals into a certain lifeworld – the society in which each individual is raised. This society continues and is reproduced as individuals communicate with each other – the communicative actions of the members of society. This is reminiscent of Mead’s view of the connection between self and society.
Social interaction means use of language and this is the means by which people become individuals. This has certain parallels to Simmel, who notes the need for people to develop a certain individuality within the modern, urban setting. Also note that the webs of relationships and the growth of the autonomous individual are connected, connecting the two sides of modernity noted by Simmel. At the same time, this language is the way that the shared social world exists and is reproduced. Habermas integrates agency and structure, arguing that the individual and the collectivity are integrated through the use of language and communication, and each is necessary to the other. Like Mead, Habermas argues that personal identity cannot be formed without interpersonal relations, so that society and the individual are intimately connected.
v. Insecurity, Fragility, and Mutual Consideration. Because the individual is so social and must participate in language and interpersonal communication in order to develop an identity, there is considerable insecurity of the individual. Recall Goffman’s argument that the self is given by society, but it can just as easily be taken away by society. Habermas argues that this means that there must be mutual consideration among participants in society and in social interaction. This mutual consideration maintains the integrity of the individual and preserves the social ties which simultaneously create interaction and identity. Again note the similarity to Goffman’s analysis of procedures that exist in social interaction, where there are procedures to save face, maintain face, and assist others in doing so.
vi. Morality. Habermas argues that morality assists in dealing with this problem. That is, individuals learn moral values of society through socialization, and these moral values simultaneously protect the individual and society. On the one side, they provide justice by “postulating equal respect for the dignity of each individual.” At the same time, moralities are associated with principles of solidarity, thus protecting “the web of intersubjective relations of mutual recognition by which these individuals survive as members of a community.” The norms noted above would appear to do each of these. Property rights and norms against theft promote both the individual and society. The same occurs with mobility rights or rights to vote.
vii. Communicative Action. On p. 202, Habermas connects this to communicative action and his principles of ideal speech, whereby the relations of symmetry and reciprocity are presupposed. That is, people are sincere and truthful and respect the right of others to speak. While those principles can be considered to be procedures for communication, built into them are the principles of justice and solidarity.
· communication as a basis for society and social interaction
· integrates agency and structure through language and communicative action
· equality, symmetry, reciprocity assumptions ideal and utopian, yet useful
· system and lifeworld – repeat of earlier theorists
· incorporates north american pragmatic concepts with European theoretical systems
· too difficult to read but useful ideas
· political program to achieve a better society
· little attention to gender, minorities, etc. but these could be integrated as Calhoun does
Braaten, Jane. 1991. Habermas’s Critical Theory of Society. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Farganis, James. 1996. Readings in Social Theory: The Classic Tradition to Post-Modernism. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Habermas, Jürgen. 1991. Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.
Ritzer, George. 1996. Sociological Theory, fourth edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Wallace, Ruth A. and Alison Wolf. 1999. Contemporary Sociological Theory: Expanding the Classical Tradition, fourth edition. Upper Saddle River, N. J.: Prentice Hall.
Last edited April 4, 2003
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