Harbermas' Theory on Social Labor and Communicative Action Essays

3277 Words 14 Pages
Harbermas' Theory on Social Labor and Communicative Action

ABSTRACT: In contemporary philosophy and social theory, Harbermas's theory of communicative action stands indisputably for a modernity enlightened about itself and its potential. Yet, however much he professes his commitment to universalist ideals of inclusiveness and equality, his influential theory is also marked by disquieting statements on matters of gender. I argue that the problem of gender in Habermas's theory can be traced to his attempt to rework the Marxian tradition of historical materialism. I do so by (a) discussing Habermas's proposal for reconstructing this tradition, and (b) examining the system/lifeworld distinction on which the theory of communicative action
…show more content…
Why, for example, does he include feminism in the list of heterogeneous and "particularistic" social movements, environmental groups, anti-nuclear protests, tax revolts, and so on, that have sporadically made themselves felt in Western societies in the latter part of the twentieth century? How can he suggest that feminism belongs to the grand "universalistic" tradition of bourgeois-socialist liberation movements and still maintain that feminism is a "new" social movement reflecting late twentieth-century particularistic aspirations? Why does he continue to develop a moral theory that denies moral status to issues of gender, despite concerns raised by feminist theorists? Why does he view his class-based model of the public sphere of modernity, which he worked out some three decades ago, as basically correct, despite the evidence for the differential basis of women's exclusion from the public sphere? Several feminists working in critical theory have expressed reservations about the applicability of Habermas's theory. Some view his concepts as too abstract and limiting. Others suspect that his theory may be androcentric in its very conception. At the very least, his theory requires substantial changes, if it is to be able to reflect the aims and expectations of contemporary women.

In this paper I argue that the
Open Document