Juergen Habermas and the Colonization of the Lifeworld

Dissertation, Duke University (1991)

James Craig Hanks
Texas State University
The relationship between being and consciousness has been characterised as one of alienation , reification , instrumentalization , and 'one dimensionalization' . More recently Jurgen Habermas has described the 'colonization of the lifeworld'. Each of these theorists argues that social and political philosophy has two primary tasks. First, a political philosophy should construct a model of how we might best structure our social and political situation so as to maximize freedom and self-determination. Second, a political philosophy should provide an analysis of presently existing conditions. The gap between the model and the actually existing reality provides the space for social and political criticism, as well as social and political struggle. In his account of 'the colonization of the lifeworld', Habermas attempts to explain the relation between being and consciousness in terms of his theory of communicative action and to locate possible points of social and political crisis in advanced capitalist society. ;In this dissertation I trace theories of the relationship between being and consciousness from Marx through Lukacs and the Frankfurt School to Habermas' recent work The Theory of Communicative Action. I argue that in terms of his stated goal of providing a critical social theory with practical intent Habermas has been only partially successful. I present an account of Habermas' theory and claim it is potentially more politically efficacious than post-structuralist theories, though only if his theory is attentive to the concerns of those same post-structuralist theories. After arguing that at a certain level of abstraction Habermas is right in his account of our present situation, I conclude that he falls short of his goal in so far as his theory fails to take adequate account of many actually existing struggles for political self-determination, and many hypotheses for alternative social organization which do not agree with his assumptions about validity and consensus
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