Habermas' project (Clarification)
- [MP wrote]
> He, and others, weren't interrupted by theirhe
> critique, neither were the blooming post-war social movements and
> second generation bourgeois emancipatory movements (feminism).
> H&A's critique and JH's claims of normative deficiency he cannot
> go on to claim them - as he does - in the _TCA_ as somehow an
> expression of communicative reason, perhaps as the avenging force
> writes of in his reply in the Held & Thompson anthology.These sentences were badly linked. I can see why you thought in your
reply that I was suggesting Habermas claims H &A as an expression of
IN FACT, I was pointing to *the second generation bourgeois
liberation movements and the other social protest movements* that had
emerged post-WW2 as further evidence that the aporetic interruption
JH sees as being caused by H & A's critique DIDN'T extend beyond the
immanent discourses of the FS tradition. Given this, to make sense of
JH's reconstructive program it seems necessary to place his
reconstructive objectives and therefore his primary audience *in the
first place* within the situated context of the FS. After that, there
is the broader context of the FDR intellectual debates.
Which isn't to say that JH didn't also developed his theory of
communicative action to make a metatheoretical contribution to the
social sciences re- a newer paradigm of communicative
rationality/action versus purposive rationality/strategic action.
- --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "matthew_piscioneri"
>Indeed, it is often the opposite. And it is quite possible (contrary
> Granted. Neither is *change* automatically *progress*.
to what many used to think) that technical progress, aesthetic
progress and normative progress will inevitably correlate. They
don't. The results can are very bloody, the system can be
extraordinarily unstable, but they don't correlate.
> In my neighbourhood, our little provincial University of Tasmaniais
> considering axing physics, advanced mathematics and philosophy. Canup
> you have a university without physics or philosophy? What you end
> with is a vocational tertiary boot camp for grunts.Vis-a-vis John Dawkins' (Minister of Tertiary Ed, Australia, mid
80s), "universities must become more responsive to the needs of
business and industry". Classic Habermas dysfunctionality - the
system has greater needs than the production of knowledge itself!
BTW, if you're at Uni of Tasmania, say 'hello' to Peter Boyce for me.
He knows who I am.
> It is an old argument in a way - occupational objectivesWell, it's not a case of "versus" the humanities. After all,
> (functionalist reason?) versus the humanities (communicative
advertising is occupational art and scientists can practise without
occupational orientations. What it is whether or not a society
provides functional support for free research.
> Sure the humanities is often the repository of criticisms ofis
> the existing social orders but what isn't understood is that this
> in part their operational function within the set up of advancedOh stop it. No system likes internal critics ;-)
> capitalist democratic societies.
> Yes but...Habermas sets up his _TCA_ era program as a response to
> roll back of the project of modernity. Part of which was free andAnd interesting (although often overlooked) axiomatic to the needs of
> equal access to education and health care etc.
a free market economy.
> These political budgetary constraints are I think ideologicallyof
> driven. Where do *we* spend our money? On our constituency, of
> course. Education and healthcare have to be above the constraints
> ideology.I cannot even begin to fathom when considered popular opinion had
some influence on the budgetry outcomes of public expenditure...
There's the seeds of a disenfranchised ersatz democracy!
> How's that for one vision of the future of humankind.Ah, the cyberpunks have been saying that for years (minus the good
bits). Look outside. They were right. It is Chiba City and the sky
does look like a television tuned to a dead channel.
(well, actually if I look outside it's a smashed up fourth world half-
> Ahh, well, now the EASY part of the question to answer. What shouldbe
> be done in substantive terms? Well,if the weather stays fine I'll
> going fishing.Private freedom isn't particularly useful... but damn it's a good
Thanks for the friendly and thoughtful reply.
Yes. What happened to the ALP was symptomatic of the ideological
rollback that we have all witnessed as adults.
> Vis-a-vis John Dawkins' (Minister of Tertiary Ed, Australia, mid------------
> 80s), "universities must become more responsive to the needs of
> business and industry". Classic Habermas dysfunctionality - the
> system has greater needs than the production of knowledge itself!
Yes I agree.
> What it is whether or not a society------------
> provides functional support for free research.
This is the thread I found most provocative:
> > Yes but...Habermas sets up his _TCA_ era program as a response toof
> > roll back of the project of modernity. Part of which was free and
> > equal access to education and health care etc.
> And interesting (although often overlooked) axiomatic to the needs
> a free market economy.To put in Foucauldian terms; does this represent a positive process
of de-subjection? Part of the problem for socialists is that this de-
subjection appears to be exclusive. The poor get excluded. Gee where
have I heard that before?
Where are you? Are you having fun?
> (well, actually if I look outside it's a smashed up fourth worldhalf-
> island nation)should
> > Ahh, well, now the EASY part of the question to answer. What
> > be done in substantive terms? Well,if the weather stays fine I'llIt is certainly connected to the good life I think :-). What's the
> > going fishing.
> Private freedom isn't particularly useful... but damn it's a good
good life? A little bit of personal freedom.
- --- In habermas@..., "matthew_piscioneri"
> Lev,Indeed. The popularity of economic rationalism by the late 1980s was
> Thanks for the friendly and thoughtful reply.
> Yes. What happened to the ALP was symptomatic of the ideological
> rollback that we have all witnessed as adults.
endemic. Of course, one only has to look at the global economic data,
to see the results. It ain't pretty. Those in their twenties and
thirties now are the first post-war generation who are poorer than
> > Vis-a-vis John Dawkins' (Minister of Tertiary Ed, Australia, midIt's an interesting question that doesn't really fit into Habermas'
> > 80s), "universities must become more responsive to the needs of
> > business and industry". Classic Habermas dysfunctionality - the
> > system has greater needs than the production of knowledge itself!
> Yes I agree.
> > What it is whether or not a society
> > provides functional support for free research.
> This is the thread I found most provocative:
schema. What we're referring to here is the system engaging in
activities foreign to its own references - but which it must do so,
because of its dependence on the lifeworld.
>I don't know what you mean by this Foucault term of de-subjection.
> To put in Foucauldian terms; does this represent a positive process
> of de-subjection? Part of the problem for socialists is that this de-
> subjection appears to be exclusive. The poor get excluded. Gee where
> have I heard that before?
>East Timor. It's not really fun, but hey, I volunteered.
> Where are you? Are you having fun?
>On that we can all concur.
> > (well, actually if I look outside it's a smashed up fourth world
> > island nation)
> > > Ahh, well, now the EASY part of the question to answer. What
> > > be done in substantive terms? Well,if the weather stays fine I'll
> > be
> > > going fishing.
> > Private freedom isn't particularly useful... but damn it's a good
> > escape.
> It is certainly connected to the good life I think :-). What's the
> good life? A little bit of personal freedom.
Whoa, East Timor! Good luck :-).
> I don't know what you mean by this Foucault term of de-subjection.Sorry for the imprecision. My point was that if modernity for
Foucault generated bio-power/social control/capitalist subjection;
then the rollback of modernity as theorized by Habermas can be read
as a process of *de*-subjection. The niggling point is that only the
poor appear to be getting de-subjected, which isn't surprising. Were
they ever subjected? Yes, when the satanic mills required healthy,
slightly educated proles to turn the grindstones of industry. It's
ironic how the marxist metanarrative of capital, labour and
exploitation resurfaces just 20 years after Foucault's untimely
- --- In email@example.com, "matthew_piscioneri"
> Lev,Been here since September last year.. Interesting experience, believe me.
> Whoa, East Timor! Good luck :-).
> > I don't know what you mean by this Foucault term of de-subjection.OK, understand that. Foucault is a tricky one, because although he
> Sorry for the imprecision. My point was that if modernity for
> Foucault generated bio-power/social control/capitalist subjection;
> then the rollback of modernity as theorized by Habermas can be read
> as a process of *de*-subjection. The niggling point is that only the
> poor appear to be getting de-subjected, which isn't surprising. Were
> they ever subjected? Yes, when the satanic mills required healthy,
> slightly educated proles to turn the grindstones of industry. It's
> ironic how the marxist metanarrative of capital, labour and
> exploitation resurfaces just 20 years after Foucault's untimely
perceives (correctly) as the subject being situated within a discourse
of biological, social constraints etc he doesn't pay sufficient
attention to the emancipation of the subject from biological facts and
social norms (e.g,. medical technology, civil rights) - a real
pessimist who sees the effects of power everywhere, but not of
emancipation (which is why he ended up supporting completely
reactionary acts like the Aytollah's "revolution" for its "spirit").
Haberas, a far more sober intellectual, is much more concerned with
'desubjection'. One on side (the last part of Legitimation Crisis,
iirc) he recognizes the problems invoked by the (real or imagined)
complexities of advanced capitalism and the functionalist system
"painting the lifeworld into a corner" (Luhmann). This of course
concerns him a great deal - the individual spirit is suppressed and we
become cog-like individuals in the social system. The other
alternative, is possibly worse - that is reactionary, where the
individual becomes subsumed into to religion or the nation-state.
In both cases it represents the "end of the individual". Something
that Herr Habermas is very uncomfortable with.
- Just as it happens [:-)]I am writing on Habermas & the individual at
> Haberas, a far more sober intellectual, is much more concerned withwe
> 'desubjection'. One on side (the last part of Legitimation Crisis,
> iirc) he recognizes the problems invoked by the (real or imagined)
> complexities of advanced capitalism and the functionalist system
> "painting the lifeworld into a corner" (Luhmann). This of course
> concerns him a great deal - the individual spirit is suppressed and
> become cog-like individuals in the social system. The otherIf I may, I would like to copy a chunk of first draft stuff for you
> alternative, is possibly worse - that is reactionary, where the
> individual becomes subsumed into to religion or the nation-state.
> In both cases it represents the "end of the individual". Something
> that Herr Habermas is very uncomfortable with.
opinion. At the very least it might distract you for a precious
moment from whatever you are doing in East Timor.
*Language Oriented to Success versus Language Oriented to
Given the centrality of this distinction between action oriented to
success and action oriented to understanding to Habermas's theory of
communicative action it is not surprising that this aspect of his
work has sparked substantial debate. On the one hand, David
Rasmussen (1990) argues that implicit in this distinction Habermas
locates an internal connection between participation in communicative
action and a "positive" and non-defeatist emancipatory potential
which can resist Horkheimer's and Adorno's totalizing critique of
reason. This implicit connecting of communicative reason with a
potential for the realization of an admittedly "weak" and certainly
non-utopian conception of emancipation is insulated in principle
against dialectical inversion on the basis of the open ended futurity
revealed in the positive dialectics embedded in Habermas's theory of
discourse. By this I mean Habermas's theory of discourse denies the
possibility of final closure in processes of social discourse. For
even the achievement of a consensus does not exclude the possibility
that in the future the validity claims upon which the agreement is
reached may not be challenged.
This is a reading of Habermas's work for which I have some
sympathy. On the individual level, this potential to participate
freely in and to contribute equally to personal and social forms of
dialogical intercourse indicates a minimal conception, at least, of a
practical and theoretical state of emancipation. Habermas, however,
is quite explicit as to the criteria that demarcate the limits of
such emancipatory expectations:
"A critique of this sort can indeed be based on the procedural
concept of communicative rationality if it can be shown that the
decentration of world understanding and the rationalization of the
lifeworld are necessary conditions for an emancipated society. It is
only the confusion of a highly developed infrastructure of possible
forms of life with the concrete historical totality of a successful
form of life that is utopian." (1995: 1.74)
Cooke (1997) correctly moderates Rasmussen's claims mindful of the
criteria Habermas sets for his theory of communicative rationality
arguing that `the ideas of undamaged subjectivity and
intersubjectivity' do not `describe the concrete shape of exemplary
forms of life or paradigmatic individual life histories.' The
utopian content of Habermas's theory of communicative rationality
contents itself with outlining the procedural framework beneath
which `legitimate norms and normative orders' might be constructed,
and subjectivities that are `autonomous and individuated'
established. Habermas's theory does not specify what these normative
orders would look like, or what specific behaviours would form the
content of the emancipated personality.
I will not pursue further at this stage issues to do with Habermas's
conception of emancipation in this or later works. Instead I want to
identify a first set of problems with Habermas's distinction between
action orientated to success and action orientated to understanding.
This distinction is crucial for the development of the second phase
of Habermas's reconstructive project. For this phase of his project
only makes internal sense if he can sustainably argue for the
priority of communicative language use governed by communicative
rationality over strategic language use governed by purposive
rationality. As the following discussion shows, I do not consider
Habermas satisfactorily makes his case.
Cooke argues strongly that Habermas's excursion into the philosophy
of language can `show no more than the conceptual priority of the
communicative mode of language use.' Cooke's point is well taken.
The conceptual priority of language oriented towards understanding
does not indicate what Cooke terms the `functional primacy' of the
communicative mode of language. In other words, whilst the
communicative mode of language oriented to reaching understanding can
be feasibly reckoned as conceptually prior to language oriented to
success, this does not entail that this mode of language dominates
(or indeed more importantly dominated) everyday usage. In fact, as
Cooke points out, Habermas has acknowledged the tenuous credibility
of his thesis that modern social integration depended upon
the "shaky" foundation of social actions oriented towards the
achievement of agreement or consensus.
The line of argument Habermas draws from the philosophy of language
for his thesis that communicative actions are naturally prior to
strategic actions in the original constitution of the modern social
order is controversial yet not unfeasible, as Cooke is prepared to
admit. His starting point is what he describes as:
"the pretheoretical knowledge of competent speakers, who can
themselves distinguish situations in which they are causally exerting
an influence upon others from those in which they are coming to an
understanding with them, and who know when their attempts have
failed." (1995: 1.286)
These processes of seeking to reach an understanding, Habermas
argues, aim at reaching an agreement; that is a `rationally motivated
assent [Zustimmung] to the content of an utterance.' Furthermore,
the rational conditions of this process of seeking to reach an
understanding preclude the employment of force or manipulation, for
example. Rather: `A communicatively achieved agreement has a rational
basis: it cannot be imposed by either party.'
What Habermas is striving to define is the unique class of
linguistically mediated social interactions he terms communicative
actions. Central to this definition is the notion of "reaching an
understanding". In Habermas's theoretical lexicon, the process of
reaching an understanding [Verständigung] `means, at the minimum,
that at least two speaking and acting subjects understand a
linguistic expression in the same way.' His next and more
controversial premise in this argument is that `Reaching
understanding is the inherent telos of language.' His objective is
to argue that the use of language oriented to reaching understanding
is prior to the use of language oriented to reaching success. In
"the use of language with an orientation to reaching understanding is
the original mode of language use, upon which indirect understanding,
giving something to understand or letting something be understood,
and the instrumental use of language in general, are parasitic."
Habermas develops his thesis by arguing that in order to grasp the
meaning of a speech act social actors engaged in linguistic
communication must take a position on the validity claims raised by
that speech act: `We understand a speech act when we know what makes
it acceptable.' This is a strong thesis and one that has attracted
its fair share of criticism. Cooke argues that Habermas's claim here
is designed to make room for a concept of "truth" that is `context-
transcendent,' and satisfies truth-conditional semantic theory
from `Frege to Davidson.'
Be this as it may, out of this thesis Habermas derives the conclusion
that language oriented to success is secondary or `parasitic' on
language oriented to reaching understanding. Initially Habermas
makes a clear distinction between the use of language exclusive to
the coordination of communicative actions:
"Thus I count as communicative action those linguistically mediated
interactions in which all participants pursue illocutionary aims, and
only illocutionary aims, with their mediating acts of communication."
This type of social action, according to Habermas, stands in contrast
to strategic actions. These actions are coordinated on the basis of
the perlocutionary effects also attainable through linguistically
mediated communication. In other words, strategic actions are
coordinated via a language use that is designed to compel, threaten,
cajole, deceive or manipulate a dialogical partner into undertaking a
course of action:
"On the other hand, I regard as linguistically mediated strategic
action those interactions in least at which one of the participants
wants his speech acts to produce perlocutionary effects on his
opposite number." (1995: 1.295)
It is clear from what Habermas writes in the TCA that in general he
considers the perlocutionary effects of language to be in a sense
dysfunctional or at least an aberration of "natural" language usage.
At one stage Habermas states:
"Perlocutionary acts constitute a subclass of teleological actions
which must be carried out by means of speech acts, under the
condition that the actor does not declare or admit to his aims as
such." (1995: 1.292)
Shortly after he notes:
"Perlocutionary acts are an indication of the integration of speech
acts into contexts of strategic interaction. They belong to the
intended consequences or results of a teleological action which an
actor undertakes with the intention of influencing a hearer in a
certain way by means of illocutionary successes." (1995: 1.293)
Although, keeping in mind Chapter Three's discussion of the requisite
perlocutionary speech acts of the social critic and/or emancipator,
Habermas is subtle enough not to dichotomize the distinction between
illocutionary and perlocutionary speech acts into a simplistic
good/bad or emancipatory/counter-emancipatory binary. He
writes: `Here we must take into consideration that not only do
illocutions appear in strategic-action contexts, but perlocutions
appear in contexts of communicative action as well.'
However, the main point Habermas argues for is his conclusion that
for a social actor to achieve perlocutionary effects in the
coordination of a concealed strategic action the deceitful or
manipulative partner in dialogue must first have mastered the use of
illocutionary effects achieved in the use of language oriented to
reaching understanding. On this basis, he asserts, language oriented
to reaching understanding is prior to or more natural than language
oriented to success:
"Naturally, speech acts can serve this nonillocutionary aim of
influencing hearers only if they are suited to achieve illocutionary
aims. If the hearer failed to understand what the speaker was saying,
a strategically acting speaker would not be able to bring the hearer,
by means of communicative acts, to behave in the desired way. To this
extent, what we initially designated as "the use of language with an
orientation to consequences" is not an original use of language but
the subsumption of speech acts that serve illocutionary aims under
conditions of action oriented to success." (1995: 1.293)
In agreement with Cooke, this is Habermas's primary argument that
language oriented to reaching understanding, is the original use of
language. Ergo, the type of social actions that language oriented to
reaching understanding coordinates (communicative actions) must come
prior to strategic actions.
This reading is a strong interpretation of the development of
Habermas's argument in Volume One of the TCA. At the end of the
section in which he details his programme of formal pragmatics,
Habermas is more circumspect about the relevance of this programme to
his overall theory construction than I have suggested:
"In the present context, the main advantage of a formal pragmatics is
that it highlights, in the pure types of linguistically mediated
interaction, precisely those aspects under which social actions
embody different sorts of knowledge. The theory of communicative
action can make good the weaknesses we found in Weber's action
theory, inasmuch as it does not remain fixated on purposive
rationality as the only aspect under which action can be criticized
and improved." (1995: 1.332)
My contention, and I suggest this is Habermas's implicit strategy at
least, is that on the basis of his formal pragmatics he asserts the
theoretical priority of communicative actions over strategic actions
in the formation and consolidation of the modern social order. He
does come close to articulating this position in the first few
sentences of the following chapter. In summary of his discussion of
Weber's theory of modernity and the newer theoretical potentials
afforded by his theory of communicative action, Habermas writes:
""Meaning" as a primitive term of communication theory had to remain
inaccessible to a neo-Kantian [Weber] reared in the tradition of the
philosophy of consciousness. The same holds for a concept of societal
rationalization drawn up from the perspective of action oriented to
reaching understanding and referring to the lifeworld as the common
background knowledge presupposed in real action. The rationalization
of society would then no longer mean a diffusion of purposive-
rational action and a transformation of domains of communicative
action into subsystems of purposive-rational action. The point of
reference becomes instead the potential for rationality found in the
validity basis of speech." (1995: 339)
This point of reference, I am suggesting, is properly understood as
the type of social action original to the modern social order. It is
an interpretation that I think Cooke is also sympathetic to:
"Habermas argues that communicative action is the primary mechanism
of social integration (in modern societies) and that strategic action
is merely a secondary one. His attempt to prove that the use of
language oriented toward understanding is the original mode of
language use, and that other modes of language use are parasitic on
it, appears to be an important part of this argument." (1997: 22)
In Volume Two of the TCA Habermas develops his thesis on the primacy
of communicative actions over strategic actions in the integration of
the modern social order via the reconstruction of the anthropological
studies of George Mead and Emile Durkheim's sociologies of morality
and religion. I will defer my discussion of this development in the
construction of Habermas's theory of communicative action for the
time being. At this stage I want to examine what I am describing as
the problem of asymmetry in the theoretical distinction Habermas's
makes between communicative actions and strategic actions.
4.4.1 The Problem of Asymmetry: Communicative and Strategic Actions
The problems Habermas's program of formal pragmatics encounters in
supporting his thesis that communicative actions are the primary
mechanism of integration in the modern social order also I think
return us to the issue of the relation between theory and practice
and the missing motivational component in Habermas's later work.
Importantly, broaching these issues from the angle of the distinction
Habermas makes between language oriented to success and language
oriented to reaching understanding clarifies in a helpful way for
Habermas I think the issues previously raised.
The main questions I took Heller (1983) as posing can be formulated
as follows. First, on the basis of Habermas's critical communication
theoretic, why should a social actor engage in a process of seeking
to reach an understanding? Second, and again on the basis of
Habermas's theory, why should a social actor engage in praxis to
implement or maintain the procedural framework Habermas's theory of
communicative action argues for?
In Knowledge and Human Interests, Habermas's now disavowed strategy
was to argue that the species' constitutive interest in self-
reflection coincides with an interest in emancipation. In the mature
formulation of his theory of communicative rationality there is no
internal connection posited between human competence for speech, the
rational orientation to exercise this competence and a motive for
Habermas's difficulties are manifold. On the one hand he announces a
paradigm change from the philosophy of consciousness to the
philosophy of language, and the rhetoric insistence with which he
announces this claim is central to his objective of redefining the
tradition of Critical Theory. On the other hand, his theory of
communicative rationality not only presumes a theory of cognitive
rationality, but also, as I argued in Chapter Three, requires such a
theory if he is to address Heller's critical query over the missing
motivational factor in his work. Otherwise, and notwithstanding
themes developed in his later discourse ethics, Habermas is at the
risk of sacrificing all notions of individual autonomy. For, without
acknowledging some degree of autonomous rational orientation on the
part of individual social actors, the reproduction of the lifeworld
via communicative actions becomes an automatic social reflex
dependent upon the precarious distribution of the potential for the
comprehensive socialization of individuals. This interpretation leads
to a bleak picture of the social world in which individual social
actors are reduced to conduits of the lifeworld in a manner that
suggests the residual influence of Heidegger in Habermas's work.
This tension also emerges out of the distinction Habermas makes
between language oriented to reaching understanding and language
oriented to success. For implicit in this distinction is the capacity
for choice exercised by those social actors who participate in
linguistically mediated communication oriented to success in contrast
to those social actors who participate in linguistically mediated
communication oriented to reaching understanding.
This is the asymmetrical tension I detect in this crucial aspect of
Habermas's theory construction. It appears that Habermas is willing
to grant a greater degree of individual autonomy to those social
actors who pursue success-oriented language than he is to those
social actors who participate in processes of seeking to reach an
understanding. An immediate dissonant note is struck given that
notions of individual or subjective autonomy are usually associated
more with processes of enlightenment and emancipation. Again what
this suggests is Habermas's unyielding rejection of any form of
subjectivist reason. Yet in his rejection of both Kant and Nietzsche,
Habermas appears comfortable with allowing a more Hegelian strain to
take precedence in his understanding of the relationship between
individual autonomy and processes of enlightenment and emancipation.
In a manner distinctly reminiscent of Friedrich Hegel's merging of
the aspiration for individual freedom within the concrete embodiment
of the World Historical Spirit in the German State, Habermas makes
processes of enlightenment and emancipation interdependent on the
meaning-generating resources of the modern lifeworld. This submerged
Hegelian strand in Habermas's critical philosophy is more obvious in
BFN and I will defer further discussion of this perspective until
The important point to take from this part of the discussion is that
Habermas deliberately appears to separate autonomy and freedom. It is
a radical step to take and yet Habermas's precursors here are not
only Hegel but Karl Marx as well. The counterpoint to my critique of
Habermas's revision of the individualistic basis of emancipation is
surely Marx's conception of individual freedom achieved through class
or communal solidarity. Understood from this genealogical perspective
Habermas's emphasis upon an intersubjectively constituted framework
of emancipation becomes more palatable.
The tension in Habermas's theory construction on this point then
becomes, as Dews (1999) also draws attention to, how to cohere the
dynamic interpenetration between subjectivity and intersubjectivity
in Habermas's theory. For despite the emphasis Habermas places
throughout his theory of communicative action on intersubjectivity
there remains an ineradicable subjective component in his depiction
of how processes of seeking to reach an understanding are transacted:
"Social actions can be distinguished according to whether the
participants adopt either a success-oriented attitude or one oriented
to reaching understanding. And, under suitable conditions, these
attitudes should be identifiable on the basis of the intuitive
knowledge of the participants themselves." (1995: 1.286)
This psychologistic emphasis on the centrality of the subjective
cognitive attitudes of dialogical participants also appears in
Habermas's earlier detailing of what constitutes a communicative
"It is the actors themselves who seek consensus and measure it
against truth, rightness, and sincerity, that is, against the "fit"
or "misfit" between the speech act, on the one hand, and the three
worlds to which the actor takes up relations with his utterance, on
the other." (1995: 1.100)
Habermas appears to be committed to a theory of subjective cognitive
rationality. Otherwise it is difficult to explain why certain social
actors turn towards a language use oriented to success and others
employ a use of language oriented to reaching success. Agnes Heller
identifies the issue under examination with pinpoint precision:
"Readiness for emancipation is explained by the transcendental
theorem: we are rational beings, consequently we do not choose
rationality as a value. In his efforts to eliminate decisionism, he
identifies a conditional assertion with a statement. The conditional
assertion is this: if we choose at all, we cannot choose anything but
rationality. The statement is this: we do not choose rationality,
because we are rational being. Habermas only establishes the first
(conditional) assertion, not the second one, but in fact he
substitutes the second for the first. I think, however, that these
two are theoretically and practically different statements and that
the first does not prove the second. We can choose the priority of
instrumental or strategic rationality over communicative rationality,
and we may not choose at all but simply follow drives, emotions or
habits. Acceptance of this possibility would not mean relapsing into
the trap of decisionism, because it does not assert that there is a
choice between rationality and irrationality. What it does state is
that communicative rationality is a choice, a value-choice." (1983:
Once again the obstinate problem for Habermas remains, as Heller
already indicates, on what normative basis does a social actor turn
either towards language oriented to reaching understanding or
language oriented towards success:
"The question of whether, and, if so, how, distortion of
communication is motivated cannot be answered by Habermas; nor can he
answer the question what would motivate us to get rid of the
distortion. The assumption that consensus can be achieved in a
process of enlightenment is in fact no answer: the will to achieve
consensus is the problem in question." (1983: 25)
So Lev, if you are still awake, I am not *entirely* convinced that
Habermas is defending the individual. There seems to be a greater
sympathy in his work for the socialized individual.