The Tasks of Critical Theory
In the last section of his book, Habermas revisits the work of Weber and Marx, pointing out their main weaknesses and, in these weaknesses, finding verification for his own departures from their thinking in his theory of communicative action. Finally, Habermas turns to the future tasks of critical theory. Primarily its role is to uncover paradoxical situations in which systems steered by media such as money (economic systems) and power (government bureaucracies) turn around and threaten the values or even the communicative infrastructure of the lifeworld. He sees these paradoxes covered over by mass consumption and client-bureaucrat relations that tend to create pacification in the sphere of social labor and neutralization in political decision making. Most profoundly, Habermas breaks away from the philosophy of history on which the earlier critical theories he examined relied but which he claims is no longer tenable. Instead, he argues a critical theory of society has to be open to self-criticism.
Habermas’s The Theory of Communicative Action and his other works generated much discussion and debate among practitioners of various disciplines. The breadth of his knowledge of classical and contemporary thinkers, the variety of issues he addresses, and his own willingness to rethink his theories in the light of criticism have often helped scholars refine their thinking and see their disciplines in a new light. Despite the praise showered on his...
(The entire section is 335 words.)
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