Habermas and Communicative and Instrumental Rationality
The work of Jurgen Habermas has been very influential within European critical sociology (Thompson and Held, 1982; Pedersen, 2008), though his polemical attacks against postmodernism have rendered him less acceptable to critical and cultural studies in the United Kingdom and the United States of America (though see Aboulafia, Bookman and Kemp, 2002). Although his writings range from political science (Habermas, 1991:1996; 2001:2006) to epistemology and ethics (Habermas, 1983: 1990; 1991:1993), the fundamental Habermasian concern is to protect the project of modernity and provide a new critical approach to understanding society (Pedersen, 2008). For Habermas, the critical work of Adorno and Gramsci can be reconciled with liberal ideas about freedom by recognizing the tension between two irreconcilable rationalities: communicative rationality, which stems from human interaction and the free exchange of ideas (for example, the aim and model of the Enlightenment); and instrumental rationality, which is a product of capitalism and the emergence of the modern nation-state.
KeywordsCritical Theory Liberal Democracy Communicative Rationality Instrumental Rationality Frankfurt School
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