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The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume 1: Reason and the Rationalization of Society Paperback – March 1, 1985


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The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume 1: Reason and the Rationalization of Society + The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume 2: Lifeworld and System: A Critique of Functionalist Reason + The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society (Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought)
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A substantial study that displays all the rigour and systemicity, the vision and the originality, which have justly earned Habermas the reputation of being the foremost social and political thinker in Germany today ... The Theory of Communicative Action represents a major contribution to contemporary social theory. Not only does it provide a compelling critique of some of the main perspectives in twentieth-century philosophy and social science, but it also presents a systematic synthesis of the many themes that have preoccupied Habermas for thirty years." – Times Literary Supplement

"One of the broadest, most comprehensive, elaborately and intensely theoretical works in social theory. Social theory and philosophy may never be the same again" – Philosophy and Social Criticism

About the Author

Jürgen Habermas (born June 18, 1929) is a German sociologist and philosopher in the tradition of critical theory and pragmatism.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 465 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (March 1, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807015075
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807015070
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #214,796 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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130 of 135 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 13, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I would like remind readers that this book is the first volume of the two that constitute "The Theory of Communicative Action" (the second volume has as subtitle "Lifeworld and System - A Critique of Functionalist Reason"). The first volume was published in English in 1984, while the second volume appeared in 1987. The two volumes are not independent books and should be read as a single book.

Habermas can be linked to the group of German philosophers and social theorists associated with the Institute of Social Research, founded in 1924 at the University of Frankfurt. Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, the two most distinguished members of the "Frankfurt School" (as the Institute was nicknamed), developed a social analysis that departed from orthodox Marxism and was known as "critical theory". According to critical theory, the ailments of modern capitalist society were due to its encompassing rationalization, resulting in a complete alienation of the working class. Following Weber's pessimistic diagnostic, Horkheimer and Adorno considered that Enlightenment's dream of a society guided by reason had degenerated into an "iron cage": human beings were condemned to live without freedom, following rules devoid of meaning. "Instrumental reason", that is, the manipulative, self-interested, technical use of reason in administration, economics, and science, had become so encompassing that there was no hope for escaping from it.

Habermas, who arrived at the Institute of Social Research in the early 1950's, concluded that Horkheimer's and Adorno's analysis of contemporary society hit a dead end. Critical theory, which was supposed to guide individuals in their struggle for emancipation, turned contemplative, pessimistic.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Tom on August 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
This review is in response to the negative review posted here by Justin Evans. This is also more of a defense and appreciation of Habermas' work in general.

I've read a lot of Hegel, and I do not think Habermas misreads Hegel. It is a profoundly insightful critique of Hegel to say that while he recognized the dialectical construction of History he wrongly insisted on making its comprehension the possession of a monological absolute subject. I don't think there is any better way to explain the persistent conflict that irrupts in a room of Hegelians (I've seen it many times) than that there is a fundamentally problematic monomania in Hegelian philosophy (reflective of most previous Western philosophy as well).

Don't misunderstand what Habermas means by "universal". It would be a mistake to take his critique of relativism vis-a-vis universalism as a search for some kind of Platonic purity apart from the situated individual. Habermas only uses the term "universal" in conjunction with "pragmatics", referring to the easily reasonable claim that any use of language (thus meaning) in any time or place, implies communicative action between language users.

A better comprehension of Habermas' approach here is aided by a critical reading of Heidegger's phenomenological analysis of Dasein. Despite Heidegger's own clearly frustrated desire for a monological meaning of being, his committed phenomenology reveals Dasein's essential being-with-an-other. When Heidegger discloses the inauthenticity-of-understanding-as-they-understand as the very condition for first developing one's own authenticity, it is better understood in Habermas' less morally pejorative terms of moving from being a conventional language user to becoming a post-conventional language user.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Steven H Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on January 2, 2015
Format: Paperback
Jürgen Habermas (born 1929) is a German philosopher and sociologist who is one of the leading figures of the Frankfurt School. The companion volume to this book is The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume 2: Lifeworld and System: A Critique of Functionalist Reason, but Habermas wrote many other books, such as The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, Truth and Justification, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, etc.

He wrote in the Preface to this 1981 book, "More than a decade ago... I held out the prospect of a theory of communicative action... The theory of communicative action is not a metatheory but the beginning of a social theory concerned to validate its own critical standards. I do not conceive of my analysis of the general structures of action oriented to reaching understanding as a continuation of the theory of knowledge with other means... the theory of communicative action is intended to make possible the conceptualization of the social-life concept that it tailored to the paradoxes of modernity." (Pg.
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The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume 1: Reason and the Rationalization of Society
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