Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.
 

Self-intro and entry point: communicative vs purposive rationality

Expand Messages
  • olivierurbain
    Dear Gary Davis and Habermas List Members, My name is Olivier Urbain and I just joined this list, nice to meet you all. Not only am I new to the list, but I am
    Message 1 of 3 , Oct 23, 2008
      Dear Gary Davis and Habermas List Members,

      My name is Olivier Urbain and I just joined this list, nice to meet
      you all. Not only am I new to the list, but I am also new to Habermas
      and to philosophy in general. With the little I know, I have become a
      great admirer of Habermas and would like to ask you what you think
      about the following passage. The contrast between purposive and
      communicative rationality is my point of entry into the
      sophisticated work of the German philosopher.

      From what I understand, there is a real danger, according to
      Habermas, of a colonization of the public sphere by the
      administrative system. To use simple terms, one could say that he
      developed his communicative action theory in order to protect society
      against dehumanization, to protect the public sphere against the
      inhumane struggle for power that can characterize the administrative
      sphere.

      I hope to learn a lot from our discussions, and I would like to know
      what each of you think about the following passage: how important is
      it to you personally? How relevant is it to an understanding of
      today's world?

      [Many different occasions for discontent and protest arise wherever a
      one-sided process of modernization, guided by criteria of economic
      and administrative rationality, invades domains of life which are
      centred on the task of cultural transmission, social integration,
      socialization and education, domains orientated towards quite
      different criteria, namely towards those of communicative
      rationality] (Habermas 1980: 365).

      References

      Habermas, Jurgen (1980) gModernity: An Unfinished Project,h in
      Craig Calhoun et al., eds, (2007) Contemporary Sociological Theory
      (second edition). London: Blackwell.


      --------------------
      from Gary: I'll wait awhile to respond, knowing that subscribers who have posted less in recent years can be helpful.


      .
    • Gary E. Davis
      Hi, Oliver,   It s always nice to hear of new readers who want to dwell with Habermas work.   Let me reply strictly in terms of your posting, albeit in my
      Message 2 of 3 , Oct 24, 2008
        Hi, Oliver,
         
        It's always nice to hear of new readers who want to dwell with Habermas' work.
         
        Let me reply strictly in terms of your posting, albeit in my own way (which, I would argue, keeps fidelity to Habermas' interests).
         
        The quote that you provide begs the question (by being taken out of context) of what *are* the "criteria...of communicative rationality" toward which domains of life are oriented?
         
        How is it that "cultural transmission, social integration, socialization and education" have altogether a singularity as "the task" on which the domains of life are centered?
         
        Do all the domains of life get a singularity "of life" *by* way of that centering? Would it be fair to say that the purpose of life is to actualize the task?
         
        Would it follow that communicative rationality serves the purpose of life, such that purposive life is facilitated by communicative rationality, thereby being the prevailing value: advancing humane life?
         
        Such advancing of the task deserves protection, but for the sake of advancing humane life.
         
        So, it might appear that Habermas developed his communicative action theory to serve the advancing of life, which includes the protective interest against dehumanization, but for greater humanization. He didn't develop the theory primarily to protect, rather to facilitate. An emancipatory interest serves an interest in enlightenment, which, in turn, serves the general human interest in flourishing.
         
        Obviously, this doesn't imply that we can do without economic and administrative rationality. Rather: Such rationality should be brought to serve advancing of the domains of life, through, first, humanization (education) for human development; and, serving that, re-humanization (repair, redress, remedy, corrections, therapies, emancipation) for the sake of humanization, rather than domains of life serving systemic rationality for *its* (a system's) own sake.
         
        Gary
         

        --- On Thu, 10/23/08, olivierurbain <urbain.olivier@...> wrote:

        From: olivierurbain <urbain.olivier@...>
        Subject: [Habermas] Self-intro and entry point: communicative vs purposive rationality
        To: habermas@yahoogroups.com
        Date: Thursday, October 23, 2008, 6:38 PM






        Dear Gary Davis and Habermas List Members,

        My name is Olivier Urbain and I just joined this list, nice to meet
        you all. Not only am I new to the list, but I am also new to Habermas
        and to philosophy in general. With the little I know, I have become a
        great admirer of Habermas and would like to ask you what you think
        about the following passage. The contrast between purposive and
        communicative rationality is my point of entry into the
        sophisticated work of the German philosopher.

        From what I understand, there is a real danger, according to
        Habermas, of a colonization of the public sphere by the
        administrative system. To use simple terms, one could say that he
        developed his communicative action theory in order to protect society
        against dehumanization, to protect the public sphere against the
        inhumane struggle for power that can characterize the administrative
        sphere.

        I hope to learn a lot from our discussions, and I would like to know
        what each of you think about the following passage: how important is
        it to you personally? How relevant is it to an understanding of
        today's world?

        [Many different occasions for discontent and protest arise wherever a
        one-sided process of modernization, guided by criteria of economic
        and administrative rationality, invades domains of life which are
        centred on the task of cultural transmission, social integration,
        socialization and education, domains orientated towards quite
        different criteria, namely towards those of communicative
        rationality] (Habermas 1980: 365).

        References

        Habermas, Jurgen (1980) �gModernity: An Unfinished Project,�h in
        Craig Calhoun et al., eds, (2007) Contemporary Sociological Theory
        (second edition). London: Blackwell.

        ------------ --------
        from Gary: I'll wait awhile to respond, knowing that subscribers who have posted less in recent years can be helpful.

        .














        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Stephen Evans
        Oliver, Well, you have to be careful in using terms such as the public sphere and the administrative system , as though lifeworld and system were really
        Message 3 of 3 , Oct 25, 2008
          Oliver,
          Well, you have to be careful in using terms such as "the public sphere"
          and "the administrative system", as though lifeworld and system were
          really fully distinct social spaces. JH's idea is rather that any and every
          human society/community/institution is always both at once; almost that
          these are two different ways of understanding the same thing. Speaking
          simplistically, the lifeworld is community understood as integrated and
          maintained by conscious action oriented towards mutual understanding,
          i.e. communicative action, against in a largly unconscious background of
          culture, custom etc. (think family). System is community understood as
          a dynamic structure that integrates and maintains itself through
          essentially impersonal forces (think market). Even the most primitive
          human community in the jungle, where lifeworld is dominant is also a
          system, with unthinking patterns of behaviour reinforcing each other
          and sustaining themselves quite independently of anyone's intentions or
          even, really, awareness. I said "unthinking patterns of behaviour", but a
          behaviour may very well be intentional and communicative
          hense "lifeworld", and at the same time have systemic functions in
          maintaining patterns that are unrelated to its meaning in the lifeworld.
          E.g. kinship and marriage customs drive exchange patterns (create and
          regulate a market) among villages, and those exchange patterns, in turn
          reinforce the kinship and marriage customs.

          An important point: system cannot function without lifeworld, since it is
          through the lifeworld that people are socialized to engage the
          behaviours that drive the system. E.g., money is the medium through
          which the market (system), functions, but money can only act as that
          medium if people value it, and people only learn to value money through
          socialization in the lifeworld. This is massively evident where
          communities with subsistence and barter economies are brought into
          monetary economies. It can take several generations for a people to
          develop a culture of monetary behaviour appropriate for the global
          capitalist economy. (Development, often, not only destroys local culture,
          but also sends the majority population into destitution because they
          have no idea how to handle money or really what it is. In my village it's
          still largely a magical device as much as an abstract medium of
          exchange).

          JH's idea is that modernization has tended to separate system features
          from lifeworld features, so that system more and more nearly takes on
          a life of its own. That in itself is not a bad thing as the lifeworld then
          becomes freed of some of the more mechanical tasks of survival. The
          problem comes when system turns back on the lifeworld, as it were,
          and begins to incorporate it into the system, reshaping it as system
          (think: family functioning as a market). That is what he means
          by "colonization of the lifeworld" (he seems to have gotten away from
          that metaphor lately). /One/ way in which that can happen is through
          administrative rationality. As societies become large and complex, and
          they can do so only with through system, they require management,
          administration. But administration can only take place in terms of
          system, so that, for example, a family pays taxes, draws income, sends
          its children to school, applies for aid by system criteria. I.e. to
          participate in the wider society it must behave as a functioning unit in
          the system (and non-participation is not an option) with the individuals
          more and more acting as functioning units in the system of the family.
          But since system cannot function without lifeworld, this process, carried
          to extreems, is self-destructive (I suspect that the current financial crisis
          could be analysed in these terms--system gone wild without the cultural
          complex of regulation, trust and responsibility). I don't recall that JH
          ever said this, but it seems clear that even an administrative agency (or
          corporation etc.) cannot function without lifeworld elements within
          itself: i.e. the agency has a rudimentary culture, the members have to
          communicate and achieve mutual understanding on goals and how to
          achieve them, new members have to be socialized etc.

          I want to clarify too, that communicative (oriented toward mutual
          understanding) and purposive (oriented towards goals) action (whether
          or not rational in JH's sense) are not mutually exclusive and both are
          integral to the lifeworld. Yet, communicative is /prior/ in that there must
          be a modicum of mutual understanding for goals to be pursued at all.
          The variety of purposive action that is called strategic or instrumental,
          since it is willing to deceive to achieve goals, thus to thwart
          communication, /is/ in conflict with communicative action and with the
          maintenence of the lifeworld--and yet "parasitic" upon it, since
          deception depends on understanding the lie, and on the communicative
          assumption that it is not a lie.

          Part of what JH achieved with all this, was to give real content to the
          concept of dehumanization, and identifying the dynamics of
          dehumanization in a way that suggests strategies of countering it
          (promoting communitive rationality, strengthing the lifeworld, while
          maintaining the system). Also in identifying communicative action as a
          fundamental element of humanity, he believed that he had identified a
          universal ethical basis in which to ground social critique, thus escaping
          the cultural and ethical relativism that threatened (and threatens)
          critiques from the left with self-invalidation.

          Sorry to be so long winded. One could go on and on.
          --Stephen A. Evans, Bangkok

          Sources: JH: Legitimation Crisis, Theory of Communicative Action
          Also recommended background reading: Tonnes: Community and
          Society (sort of an early precursor to JH)

          --- In habermas@yahoogroups.com, "olivierurbain" <urbain.olivier@...>
          wrote:
          >
          > Dear Gary Davis and Habermas List Members,
          >
          > My name is Olivier Urbain and I just joined this list, nice to meet
          > you all. Not only am I new to the list, but I am also new to Habermas
          > and to philosophy in general. With the little I know, I have become a
          > great admirer of Habermas and would like to ask you what you think
          > about the following passage. The contrast between purposive and
          > communicative rationality is my point of entry into the
          > sophisticated work of the German philosopher.
          >
          > From what I understand, there is a real danger, according to
          > Habermas, of a colonization of the public sphere by the
          > administrative system. To use simple terms, one could say that he
          > developed his communicative action theory in order to protect society
          > against dehumanization, to protect the public sphere against the
          > inhumane struggle for power that can characterize the administrative
          > sphere.
          >
          > I hope to learn a lot from our discussions, and I would like to know
          > what each of you think about the following passage: how important is
          > it to you personally? How relevant is it to an understanding of
          > today's world?
          >
          > [Many different occasions for discontent and protest arise wherever a
          > one-sided process of modernization, guided by criteria of economic
          > and administrative rationality, invades domains of life which are
          > centred on the task of cultural transmission, social integration,
          > socialization and education, domains orientated towards quite
          > different criteria, namely towards those of communicative
          > rationality] (Habermas 1980: 365).
          >
          > References
          >
          > Habermas, Jurgen (1980) gModernity: An Unfinished Project,h in
          > Craig Calhoun et al., eds, (2007) Contemporary Sociological Theory
          > (second edition). London: Blackwell.
          >
          >
          > --------------------
          > from Gary: I'll wait awhile to respond, knowing that subscribers who
          have posted less in recent years can be helpful.
          >
          >
          > .
          >
        Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.