What are the main ideas of the book Modernity:  An Unfinished Project?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jurgen Habermas is a big fan of modernity and is the primary scholar to discount the postmodernists (who Habermas believes have become too cynical).  Habermas still believes that a utopia is possible within modernity as "the child of the enlightenment." 

Because modernity has its roots deep within realism and democracy, Habermas believes this utopian idea of modernity is still "an unfinished project."  Obviously, this means it has not been achieved to this day.  Schooled in the Frankfurt School of Social Thought, Habermas was a basic fan of Marx, but believed that Marx's views had to be radically changed in order to make them truly modern and liveable.

In light of this, Habermas creates two important theories:  The Theory of Communicative Action and Theory of Rationalization of System and Life-world.When components of both are able to live together in harmony, a modern utopia can be reached. 

Contemporary problems cannot be solved by system learning to function better. Rather, impulses from the life-world must be able to enter into the self-steering of functional systems. This would constitute important steps towards the creation of mutually enriching life-world and system.

Habermas believes that we don't need to destroy our current economic and administrative systems to do this.  And, yet, this remains only in the future (as modernity has not been achieved as of yet).

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