The problem of triple contingency in Habermas

Sociological Theory 19 (2):165-186 (2001)
Abstract
From a certain perspective, Habermas's theory of communicative action is a response, in extension of Mead, Schutz, and Parsons, to the risk of dissension posed by double contingency. Starting from double contingency, both The Theory of Communicative Action and Between Facts and Norms are essentially an elaboration of a solution to this problem in terms of a more fully developed theory of communication than had been available to his predecessors. Given the intense concentration and the immense expenditure of energy on the working out of the coordinating accomplishments and structures required by the complex solution envisaged by him, it is unsurprising that Habermas overlooks the next most important problem intermittently raised by the theory of communicative action, namely, the problem of "triple contingency," that is, the contingency that the public brings into the social process. This has far-reaching implications for Habermas's place in the sociological tradition and for the relation of the younger generation to him. Because of his continued search for a solution to a problem posed in the classical phase of sociology and his concomitant failure to develop the new problem that he himself raised in the course of so doing, he can be classified with Parsons as being a neoclassical sociologist. He nevertheless bequeaths a serious problem to contemporary sociology
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