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Re: Lifeworld 2

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  • matthew_piscioneri
    Ali, thanks for the kind thoughts, even kinder is the insightful comments and very useful quote you provided :-). Habermas s conception of the lifeworld
    Message 1 of 9 , Jan 1, 2004
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      Ali,

      thanks for the kind thoughts, even kinder is the insightful comments
      and very useful quote you provided :-).

      Habermas's conception of the lifeworld strikes me at different times
      as both preposterous and beguiling:

      > There are key and crucial differentiations within the
      > concept of lifeworld that need to be systematically
      > thought out: For example Habermas' differentiation
      > between lifeworld as a philosophical concept and
      > sociological concept. Lifeworld as a background
      > concept and lifeworld as the accomplishment of the
      > actors themselves. Lifeworld as a background
      > conception and lifeworld as what determines the
      > situation at hand (lifeworld as the source of
      > situation definition).

      Yes, and in particular this tension you draw attention to requires
      detailed examination:

      > What intrigues me about Habermas' conception of
      > lifeworld is its portrayal as simultaneously a
      > limiting and enabling condition.

      I remain dissatisfied with Habermas's conception of an individual's
      autonomy against the background resource of the lifeworld. Below you
      write that Habermas *moves beyond* Kant and Hegel. He does so I think
      by trying to synthesize their positions and this synthesis largely
      takes place via his conception of the lifeworld and the *creation* of
      the individual through socialization.

      [I am running late for work at present and will look for some useful
      refs. tonight].

      This quote provides MUCH food for thought:

      > I have never left any room for doubt that the concept
      > of action oriented toward reaching understanding
      > developed in "intermediate Reflections: Social Action,
      > Purposive Activity, and Communication [TCA I and
      > Chapter 2 in OPC] must be supplemented by a
      > complementary concept of the lifeworld as elaborated
      > in "Intermediate Reflections" System and Lifeworld"
      > [TCA II: 113ff]. It would be completely impossible to
      > explain how everyday process of consensus formation
      > repeatedly succeed in overcoming the hurdle posed by
      > the risk of disagreement built into practices of
      > reaching understanding in the form of criticisable
      > validity claims were we not able to take into account
      > the MASSIVE PREUNDERSTANDING of participants in
      > communication; this preunderstanding resides in the
      > self evident features of an intuitively present,
      > prereflexively know form of life that is presupposed
      > as unproblematic - features that have become
      > culturally habitualised for the participants in
      > communication and into which they have been
      > socialised. Subjects acting communicatively, in their
      > superficially autonomous achievements in reaching
      > understanding, are dependent on the resources of a
      > background knowledge of the lifeworld that is not at
      > their disposal. That is important here is the double -
      > philosophical and sociological - point of view in
      > terms of which the lifeworld can be analysed more
      > accurately. [OPC: 208-209, emphasis in original).

      What I would continue to take issue with is the *degree* to which
      consensus formation on anything OTHER than on the semantic level
      saturates everyday discussion (not discourse). In other words, and
      this is a point Habermas accepts elsewhere, most day to day
      communicative interaction proceeds unproblematically. Why? well
      Habermas suggests because of the *massive preunderstanding* provided
      by the lifeworld.

      From a crude sociolinguistic perspective I would suggest that
      everyday communication proceeds relatively unproblematically because
      of the massive and usually unthematized normative (usually power
      laden) strictures that underpin the majority of our communicative
      interactions.

      It is VERY rare I would suggest for everyday communicative
      interaction to meet Habermas's ideal model of non-distorted speech.
      Mostly - and this is one of the main omissions from JH's work IMO -
      everyday communication is competitive, implicature ridden, riddled
      with doublespeak, gender biases, status-conscious etc.

      quickly then...is this the lifeworld Habermas refers to...that needs
      to be protected from the intrusive impact of money and power? So much
      of the underlying theoretical pathos in Habermas's work I think
      originates in his *attachment* to the idea of an egalitarian,
      openminded and tolerant public sphere emergent in the C18th.

      Regards,

      MattP.
    • Tommy Beavitt
      Matthew, Thanks very much for that useful explanation. I am already coming across bits of term definition as I make my way into the book, and these seem to
      Message 2 of 9 , Jan 1, 2004
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        Matthew,

        Thanks very much for that useful explanation. I am already coming
        across bits of term definition as I make my way into the book, and
        these seem to bear out your interpretation. For example, on p.13,
        Habermas writes:

        'The abstract concept of the world is a necessary condition if
        communicatively acting subjects are to reach understanding among
        themselves about what takes place in the world or is to be effected
        in it. Through this communicative practice they assure themselves at
        the same time of their common life-relations, of an intersubjectively
        shared lifeworld. This lifeworld is bounded by the totality of
        interpretations presupposed by the members as background knowledge.
        To elucidate the concept of rationality the phenomenologist must then
        examine the conditions for communicatively achieved consensus; he
        must analyze what Melvin Pollner calls, with reference to Alfred
        Schultz, "mundane reasoning"'.

        Thanks also for the pointers re: commentaries. I will see how I go,
        but so far I am finding TCA very accessible. The translation by
        Thomas McCarthy is excellent, I think. No doubt being on this list
        for the last six months has been useful also.

        I feel very inspired and excited to be embarking on a study of
        Habermas' theory of communicative action.

        Tommy

        >Tommy,
        >
        >You couldn't ask something *easier* could you!
        >
        >> but I am not sure that Habermas
        >> doesn't use the term in a rather more loaded, sociology-specific
        >> sense.
        >
        >The lifeworld is a *technical* term for Habermas. In TCA1 he reveals
        >his debt mainly to Schultz (if my memory serves me correct) and I
        >also think (although others may disagree) that Habermas also owes
        >something to Garfinkel's ethnomethodology in the construction of the
        >lifeworld. As well I consider Habermas retains very general themes
        >from Heidegger's work.
        >
        >Thankfully, Habermas explicates and re-explicates his lifeworld
        >concept over and over again: in _TCA_, but more concisely in _PMT_
        >and _BFN_ and _PDM_, for example.
        >
        >So my advice is twofold: first get a good Habermas commentary (Maeve
        >Cooke or David Rasmussen) second look at these condensed versions of
        >his conception of the lifeworld in _PMT_ for example. If all else
        >fails I am happy to post you relevant material from my thesis :-).
        >
        >In brief, the lifeworld is composed of all the **background**
        >historically sedimented social and cultural assumptions that make
        >possible intersubject communicative interaction. In other words, we
        >can communicate with other members of our social world **because** we
        >draw on the meaning-generating and assuring resources of the
        >background lifeworld.
        >
        >[It's one of Habermas's key transcendental arguments; without the
        >lifeworld, meaningful communication could not take place...
        >meaningful communication takes place, ergo- the lifeworld.]
        >
        >Now, for Habermas. the lifeworld makes communicative action possible,
        >and just as importantly the undertaking of communicative actions
        >**replenish** and reproduce the lifeworld. Why is this important?
        >Because this understanding lies at the basis of Habermas's
        >colonization thesis in _TCA_. The lifeworld in advanced modernity
        >(that is constituted and reproduced on the basis of linguistically-
        >mediated interactions whereby communicative reason guides these
        >social actions) is **deformed** by the increasing intervention of NON-
        > communicatively rational (instead functionally rational) steering
        >media of money and power in processes of social integration.
        >
        >In other words, according to Habermas, money and power **intrude**
        >into essential processes of lifeworld integration and reproduction
        >and **replace** communicatively rational modes of societal
        >integration with functionally rational modes of integration. In this
        >process of **colonization** the social pathologies of modernity ( the
        >object domain of critical social theory) have their origins.
        >
        >Now, according to Habermas, the deformation of the lifeworld (contra
        >Weber, Horkheimer and Adorno) is neither inevitable nor irreversible.
        >Habermas argues the role of critical philosophy is to **redress**
        >this deformation by acting to mediate and translate between the
        >differentiated moments of reason in advanced modernity (technical,
        >aesthetic, moral-legal)presumably by applying communicative reason
        >(and acting as the guardian of reason) so as to **balance** the
        >lopsided and pathology-generating developmental trajectory of social
        >evolution in advanced modernity.
        >
        >So, as you can see, the concept of the lifeworld is crucial to the
        >development of Habermas's critical programme! Yes, as clear as mud! I
        >suggest you consult Cooke or Rasmussen for a clearer explication of
        >Habermas's work.
        >
        >Best Regards,
        >
        >MattP.
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >Yahoo! Groups Links
        >
        >To visit your group on the web, go to:
        > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/habermas/
        >
        >To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
        > habermas-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
        >
        >Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to:
        > http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/


        --
        Join us at Communicationalism, the attempt to find a basis for ethics
        in communication rather than survival
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      • matthew_piscioneri
        Tommy, glad to be of any assistance :-). Actually your post and Ali s reply have got me thinking again after a short period of post-submission apathy. In
        Message 3 of 9 , Jan 2, 2004
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          Tommy,

          glad to be of any assistance :-). Actually your post and Ali's reply
          have got me thinking again after a short period of post-submission
          apathy. In particular, as I think comments on this list and the
          modernization list bear out, I am trying to link critiques of the
          culture industry to aspects of a Durkheimian-leaning sociology.

          Anyway, I wanted to continue the theme I introduced in a previous
          post: Habermas's response to the embedded and often communicatively
          mediated forms of oppression in the lifeworld.

          Habermas's case of the subordinate fetching the beer in TCA2 (Polity
          Press, 1995: 2.121-123) illustrates this I think:

          "An older construction worker who sends a younger and newly arrived
          co-worker to fetch some beer, telling him to hurry it up and be back
          in a few minutes, supposes that the situation is clear to everyone
          involved."

          Habermas appears - shall we say - comfortable with the imposition of
          a hierachical power-laden directive. Without getting TOO P.C this
          type of potentially oppressive workplace tradition is secured by the
          lifeworld:

          " The informal group hierachy of the workers on the construction site
          is the *normative framework* in which one is allowed to tell the
          other to do something."

          How far is the normative assurance provided by this informal group
          hierachy from the "I was only following orders" excuse of Nuremberg?
          I can't quite put my finger on it, but something doesn't appear
          *right* here ;-). Often the lifeworld is the repository of sedimented
          power relations.

          Regards,

          MattP
        • Tommy Beavitt
          Matthew, Well, this is something that I have been puzzling over for the last few months. Allow me to refer to personal experience this time, to clarify your
          Message 4 of 9 , Jan 2, 2004
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            Matthew,

            Well, this is something that I have been puzzling over for the last
            few months. Allow me to refer to personal experience this time, to
            clarify your theme.

            In spite of your recent clarification of the term, "lifeworld", I am
            still tending to view it in terms of WHOSE lifeworld. The term seems
            to imply a personal perspective, even though that personal
            perspective is necessarily defined by others with whom a person is
            communicating. So it is reasonable to talk about Tommy Beavitt's
            lifeworld and Matthew Piscioneri's lifeworld, and to assume that the
            two lifeworlds will be in some ways divergent. It is also valid, I am
            surmising, to talk about the Habermas yahoogroups lifeworld, which is
            the lifeworld that is shared by Tommy Beavitt, Matthew Piscioneri,
            Gary Davis, Ali Rizvi and others, intermediated primarily by the
            email conduit that is the Yahoo! server on the Internet, and
            conditioned by a shared understanding of some common texts.

            With this definition in mind (and please tell me if it is not
            congruent with Habermas' definition) I would advance the thesis that
            one of the critical definitions of an individual human being is that
            he or she is the possessor of an unique lifeworld. That term now
            becomes a descriptor for all the different communicative inputs that
            have contributed to that particular person's personhood.

            We can be talking parents, other family members, teachers, peers,
            lovers, spouses, children, colleagues, etc. as well as various media
            that have agglomerated and depersonalized the communicative input to
            the person's sense of personhood.

            Now a person's sense of personhood or identity will condition that
            person's behaviour but also experience of the society within which he
            or she lives. A person will feel emotion, will reason, argue, believe
            according to the lifeworld which has been instilled. A person will
            ask himself if he is happy, and wonder why not. He may even seek to
            attribute blame to the persons, media or things which have caused his
            state of unhappiness.

            Now there is another thing that all persons possess, which is guided
            by but not defined by, the person's lifeworld, and that is called
            attitude. A person's attitude determines to a large extent how that
            person will feel when he or she has been ordered to go and get the
            beer. It is entirely within that person's determination whether he
            will run willingly to get the beer, whistling a tune, perhaps
            arriving back with some glasses and pouring the beer for his
            colleagues, or whether he will be sullen and grumpy.

            This attitudinal orientation that is within the realm of subjective
            determination applies not only to the hierarchical consequences of
            taking up a position within a work environment but also to attitudes
            within other kinds of intersubjective relationship, eg. marriages. A
            person uses all such relationships to help determine his or her sense
            of identity, some more than others, and then using the fact that such
            relationships exist strikes up an attitude with respect to those
            relationships, further strengthening his or her sense of identity.
            Without any such formally defined structures within his or her life,
            a person will go mad, and this sense of madness is not something that
            is primarily defined from without, eg. by an overzealous mental
            health state function, but from within, as experienced as a state of
            confusion by the person himself.

            When a person places him or her self within a hierarchical structure
            such as a workplace, there is a sense in which the person is seeking
            salvation through the definition of roles contained by the workplace
            environment. Having just started my first ever full-time salaried
            position at the age of 35 I can vouch for the fact that there is a
            tremendous relief in being the responsibility of a boss who can, if
            he chooses, order me to go and get the beer. I certainly wouldn't
            assume the sullen attitude if I received such an order but would
            certainly go the extra mile and also supply glasses. I feel a great
            sense of gratitude at having been placed in this hierarchical
            situation with defined roles, so that my existential anxiety is
            reduced.

            Now I am probably an extreme case of existentialism, which is largely
            why it has taken me this long to get a salaried position. Previously
            I would have derided those who displayed "bad faith" in this way. But
            there are limits to the extent to which a person can exist
            independent of hierarchy and defined roles.

            I have always thought that the Nuremburg quandary was easy to resolve
            from a moral point of view. The war criminals indicted there were
            just like me when they "followed orders". They had joined the SS or
            whatever in order to escape from the feelings of existential anxiety
            that civilian life, especially in Germany in the 1930s, engendered.
            If Himmler had ordered them to go and get the beer not only would
            they have brought glasses, they would have poured it and then
            saluted. This they would have done with an attitude of joyful
            service, grateful for the existential security their defined role
            conferred.

            It is unfashionable to do so but I have always felt that it is a
            bogus, inauthentic reaction to agonize over what drove the Germans
            into Nazism. It never had anything to do with evil, but had
            everything to do with the economic conditions there in the 1930s and
            the attitude taken by the Powers with regard to those economic
            conditions. If there was one thing I would blame it would be the
            naturalist remnants of the Victorian Social Darwinism of the winners
            at Versailles, who felt able to take the line that it was "natural"
            that such and such a situation would be the case as a means to
            evading their responsibility to determine the contexts within which
            social relations find their expression.

            Tommy Beavitt


            >Tommy,
            >
            >glad to be of any assistance :-). Actually your post and Ali's reply
            >have got me thinking again after a short period of post-submission
            >apathy. In particular, as I think comments on this list and the
            >modernization list bear out, I am trying to link critiques of the
            >culture industry to aspects of a Durkheimian-leaning sociology.
            >
            >Anyway, I wanted to continue the theme I introduced in a previous
            >post: Habermas's response to the embedded and often communicatively
            >mediated forms of oppression in the lifeworld.
            >
            >Habermas's case of the subordinate fetching the beer in TCA2 (Polity
            >Press, 1995: 2.121-123) illustrates this I think:
            >
            >"An older construction worker who sends a younger and newly arrived
            >co-worker to fetch some beer, telling him to hurry it up and be back
            >in a few minutes, supposes that the situation is clear to everyone
            >involved."
            >
            >Habermas appears - shall we say - comfortable with the imposition of
            >a hierachical power-laden directive. Without getting TOO P.C this
            >type of potentially oppressive workplace tradition is secured by the
            >lifeworld:
            >
            >" The informal group hierachy of the workers on the construction site
            >is the *normative framework* in which one is allowed to tell the
            >other to do something."
            >
            >How far is the normative assurance provided by this informal group
            >hierachy from the "I was only following orders" excuse of Nuremberg?
            >I can't quite put my finger on it, but something doesn't appear
            >*right* here ;-). Often the lifeworld is the repository of sedimented
            >power relations.
            >
            >Regards,
            >
            >MattP
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >Yahoo! Groups Links
            >
            >To visit your group on the web, go to:
            > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/habermas/
            >
            >To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
            > habermas-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
            >
            >Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to:
            > http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/


            --
            Join us at Communicationalism, the attempt to find a basis for ethics
            in communication rather than survival
            http://groups.yahoo.com/group/communicationalism/
          • matthew_piscioneri
            Tommy, very engaging post...much food for thought. In some ways i am glad the list s discussion is moving slowly at present as it allows a bit of time for
            Message 5 of 9 , Jan 2, 2004
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              Tommy,

              very engaging post...much food for thought. In some ways i am glad
              the list's discussion is moving slowly at present as it allows a bit
              of time for careful consideration before shooting off a reply.

              So if I can deal with one aspect of your post at a time (especially
              as I am flying interstate in two hours time and have to hurry)

              To start, I don't think Habermas's use of the term *lifeworld* works
              in the way you are moving. Having said this I think individual
              perpectives are ineradicable within or beneath the *umbrella* of the
              lifeworld. Individuals in communicative interaction must DRAW on the
              meaning-assuring resources of the lifeworld in order to facilitate
              their communication.

              Having said this I *like* the idea of personal lifeworlds, and this
              raises the issue of what specific attitudes, psychologies and life
              histories (manifest consciously and unconsciously) do participants
              bring to a communicative interaction that may **lie outside* the
              totalizing embrace of the lifeworld. At times Ken has raised a
              Lacanian-type objective to Habermas which I think touches on this.

              Of course this then introduces the themes of individuation through
              socialization which has been a recurrent theme on this list (and
              deservedly so).

              OK. More in a couple of days :-).

              Cheers

              MattP.
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