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Lecture 13

SOC3310 Lecture 13: Chapter 9

Course Code
SOC 3310
Reza Barmaki

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SOC 3310 – Chapter 9 (Pg. 484 – 495) Notes
Jürgen Habermas (1929 –): A Biographical Sketch
-He served in the Hitler Youth, a compulsory organization that trained young boys for military
service and young girls for motherhood
-Viewed the end of WWII as “a liberation, both historical and personal” as he came to realize that
“it was a politically criminal system in which we lived” (interview, cited in Horster 1992:78-79)
-Turned towards the work of Marx and became very interested in work associated with the
Frankfurt School of critical theory
-Served as Theodor Adorno’s assistant from 1956 – 1959 at the Institute for Social Research
-Began a second doctorate (“Habilitation”) after leaving the Institute
-Wrote several highly acclaimed works such as Knowledge and Human Interests (1968) and
Legitimation Crisis (1973)
-Considered one of Europes most important public intellectuals
-Most important works: The Theory of Communicative Action, v. 1: Reason and the
Rationalization of Society (1981) and The Theory of Communicative Action, v. 2: Lifeworld and
System (1981)
Habermas’s Intellectual Influences and Core Ideas
-Work is centrally informed by critical theory and the issues with which its leading figures
grappled, particularly their inquiries into the role of reason in promoting a free and just society
-Draws on the legacy of German Enlightenment thinkers, insights of Kant, Hegel, and Marx
-He fashions a contemporary approach to the emancipatory project of social philosophy
oEnvisions the creation of a social order in which reason and rationality provide the
pathway for establishing economic equality, political democracy, and the liberation of the
individual from systems of domination
-The modern world is characterized by increasing instrumental rationalization, the spread of
methodical procedures and calculable rules into more and more domains of social and personal
-He finds modernity yielding mixed results
oModernity has brought the rule of law, the expansion of political and civil rights, and the
hallowing of democratic principles of government
-The duality embodied in the rationalization of society is what Habermas seeks to address
oRationalization of society: facilitating and restricting the development of human
knowledge, democratic organization, and ultimately liberation
-He draws on phenomenology and reconstructs Marxism to examine the intersubjective and
normative dimensions of social life
oIt’s not the form of economic or material reproduction, but the form of its symbolic
reproduction that poses the greatest threat to freedom and progress in modern society
Economic/Material Reproduction of Society  Relationship between individuals
and their physical environment
Symbolic Reproduction  Processes of socialization, identity formation, and
social integration
Lifeworld and System
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