system, community (lifeworld) and the role of "outsider"
- Hello all,
It's been all quiet on this list for some time, so I hope you won't
mind me using it to air a thought that I woke up with this morning.
I'd be really interested in a Habermasian perspective.
It seems to me that when, as individuals, we find ourselves in the
role of "outsider" relative to some entity, we tend to regard that
entity much as Habermas regards System. Indeed, it may seem that the
dehumanising aspect of System forces us all to take the role of
"outsider" from time to time. How else could we retain our
individuality and our sense of possessing free will? We'd otherwise
feel like mere cogs, performing some role, only to be replaced by
another cog when our utility has been exceeded.
But as "outsider" we may gain a perspective on System that allows us
to treat it with some objectivity and also to preserve our (illusion
of) independence with respect to it. We may, as Habermas has done,
treat it critically and find fault with various parts of its workings
— we may even find fault with System as a whole.
Habermas' thought appears to require a second entity, which he calls
Lifeworld, in order to maintain the consistency of the individual
("outsider") in his/her attitude with respect to System. Others may
use the term "Community" to denote that with respect to which an
individual's identity is defined. In the "alternative" movement, the
concept of Community plays a central role in the definition of
attitudes with respect to System. I'd suggest a similar role is played
by the idea of consensus, e.g. peer-review, etc. in the academic
But the role of "outsider" can be played equally with respect to
Community (or Lifeworld) as it can with respect to System. Indeed, I'd
argue that there is no Community, no Lifeworld but there are
communities and life-worlds — just as there is no System, only
systems. It is only possible to argue this position as an outsider,
since it is through the act of stepping outside any particular
community/lifeworld/system that one can convince oneself (if nobody
else) that these entities exist in the plural and not in a totalising
Is this a valid perspective, or does one automatically invalidate
one's perspective by assuming the role of outsider? Has Habermasian
thought covered the idea of the "outsider" (as defined, for example,