This theory of communicative action pdf is about a work by Jürgen Habermas. The Theory of Communicative Action, German edition. Habermas creates the two level concept of society and lays out the critical theory for modernity. Theory of Communicative Action, Vol.
The theory of communicative action is a critical project which reconstructs a concept of reason which is not grounded in instrumental or objectivistic terms, but rather in an emancipatory communicative act. These linguistic structures of communication can be used to establish a normative understanding of society. This conception of society is used “to make possible a conceptualization of the social-life context that is tailored to the paradoxes of modernity. Habermas chose to move away from contextual and historical analysis of social knowledge toward what would become the theory of communicative action.
Weber, Durkheim, Parsons, Mead, etc. Habermas was able to expand his theory to a large understanding of society. This leads him to look for the basis of a new theory of communicative action in the tradition of sociology. Weber’s theory of action is based on a solitary acting subject and does not encompass the coordinating actions that are inherent to a social body. This danger arises not simply from the creation of separate institutional entities but through the specialisation of cognitive, normative, and aesthetic knowledge that in turn permeates and fragments everyday consciousness.
This disunity of reason implies that culture moves from a traditional base in a consensual collective endeavour to forms which are rationalised by commodification and led by individuals with interests which are separated from the purposes of the population as a whole. An antagonism arises between these two principles of societal integration—language, which is oriented to understanding and collective well being, and “media”, which are systems of success-oriented action. Lukács thought that reification, although it runs deep, is constrained by the potential of rational argument to be self-reflexive and transcend its occupational use by oppressive agencies. Mead also stressed the social character of perception: our first encounters are social. It then coordinates action towards social integration and solidarity. Finally, communicative action is the process through which people form their identities.
Following Weber again, an increasing complexity arises from the structural and institutional differentiation of the lifeworld, which follows the closed logic of the systemic rationalisation of our communications. After this process the lifeworld “is no longer needed for the coordination of action”. Lifeworld communications lose their purpose becoming irrelevant for the coordination of central life processes. This has the effect of ripping the heart out of social discourse, allowing complex differentiation to occur but at the cost of social pathologies. In the end, systemic mechanisms suppress forms of social integration even in those areas where a consensus dependent co-ordination of action cannot be replaced, that is, where the symbolic reproduction of the lifeworld is at stake.
Habermas argues that Horkheimer and Adorno, like Weber before them, confused system rationality with action rationality. This prevented them from dissecting the effects of the intrusion of steering media into a differentiated lifeworld, and the rationalisation of action orientations that follows. They could then only identify spontaneous communicative actions within areas of apparently ‘non-rational’ action, art and love on the one hand or the charisma of the leader on the other, as having any value. Traditional forms of life are dismantled.
Social roles are sufficiently differentiated. There are adequate rewards of leisure and money for the alienated labour. Hopes and dreams become individuated by state canalization of welfare and culture. These processes are institutionalised by developing global systems of jurisprudence. He here indicates the limits of an entirely juridified concept of legitimation and practically calls for more anarchistic ‘will formation’ by autonomous networks and groups. Rationality is redefined as thinking that is ready to submit to criticism and systematic examination as an ongoing process.
A broader definition is that rationality is a disposition expressed in behaviour for which good reasons can be given. With this key definition he shifts the emphasis in our concept of rationality from the individual to the social. This shift is fundamental to the Theory of Communicative Action. It is based on an assumption that language is implicitly social and inherently rational. Argument of some kind is central to the process of achieving a rational result. Contested validity claims are thematised and attempts are then made to vindicate or criticise them in a systematic and rigorous way.
This may seem to favour verbal language, but allowance is also given for ‘practical discourses’ in which claims to normative rightness are made thematic and pragmatically tested. Non-verbal forms of cultural expression could often fall into this category. The processes by which different validity claims are brought to a satisfactory resolution. The relations to the world that people take to forward validity claims for the expressions they deem important.
Habermas then discusses three further types of discourse that can be used to achieve valid results in addition to verbal argument: these are the Aesthetic, the Therapeutic and the Explicative. Because these are not followed through in the Theory of Communicative Action the impression is given that these are secondary forms of discourse. Habermas considers the mediation of the critic, the curator or the promoter as essential to bring people to the revelatory aesthetic experience. This mediation is often locked into economic interests either directly or through state agency. When Habermas considers the question of context he does refer to culture.
Every process of understanding takes place against the background of a culturally ingrained preunderstanding The interpretative task consists in incorporating the others interpretation of the situation into one’s own this does not mean that interpretation must lead in every case to a stable and unambiguously differentiated assignment. Speech acts are embedded in contexts that are also changed by them. The relationship is dynamic and occurs in both directions. To see context as a fixed background or preunderstanding is to push it out of the sphere of communicative action. Such self-deceptions typically arise from developmental experiences, which have left certain rigidities of behaviour or biases of value judgement.