Habermas and the Pit

This might be the first of an occasional series of mini summaries of the work of influential thinkers.

First:  Jurgen Habermas
Good on:
Concept of legitimation crisis.
Recognition that there are distinct knowledge paradigms – corresponding to different human interests that correspond to science, humanities and emancipation (in the first version)
Sociological analysis of modern societies that integrates concepts of system, market and life-world.
Identification of problem of colonization of the life-world as a result of encroachment of the steering mechanisms of economy and social organisation.
Defence of ethical universals in the face of post-modern nihilism.

Problems of his work:
Unconvincing attempt to root ethics in the structure of human communication.
Over-emphasis on discursive resolution of conflicts – insufficient recognition of the extreme disadvantage and exclusion of much of  humanity from any such deliberative possibility.
Eurocentric.

About the title:
In the 1960s there was a ground-breaking t.v. series called Quatermass and the Pit about a space capsule discovered in the London clay ….. I like my catchy title and maybe the pit in Jurgen’s case is the colonial partner of the Enlightenment (the underside of modernity) that is absent in his writing.

Habermas and me:
I did a MSc in management in the 1990s.  I read a lot of Habermas in one of my attempts to find a robust philosophical and ethical standpoint from which to interrogate a reality confronting me – in this case the relationship between organisations and those who have to rely on them.  It wasn’t very succesful but it did lead me to critical systems theory and especially Werner Ulrich’s work on boundary judgements.

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