- Paperback: 196 pages
- Publisher: Beacon Press; 1 edition (August 25, 1975)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0807015210
- ISBN-13: 978-0807015216
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #434,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Legitimation Crisis 1st Edition
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"Shall we sit back and watch our social system crumble on the TV screen? Or can we step out of our private views and interests, figure out what is objectively good for the human species and act on it? More than any other diagnosis of our present crisis, such as Heilbroner's, Barraclough's, or Ehrlich's, Habermas's Legitimation Crisis penetrates its deepest causes and the prospects for change. Habermas is neither an optimist nor a pessimist; he neither appeases nor alarms. He combines comprehensive knowledge, and a rare objectivity, with a commitment to rationality and social democracy." – Jeremy J. Shapiro
"The work is a landmark in critical social analysis." – Times Literary Supplement
From the Back Cover
Through Jurgen Habermas's detailed criticism of positivist epistemology and methodology and his careful, undogmatic articulation of insights drawn from an immense knowledge of the German philosophical and sociological traditions, he made a lasting contribution to he critical reception of Anglo-American empiricism into German thought.
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He wrote in the Preface to this 1973 book, “The application of the Marxian theory of crisis to the altered reality of ‘advanced capitalism’ leads to difficulties. This fact has given rise to interesting attempts to conceive of the old theorems in new ways or, alternatively, to develop new crisis theorems in their place. In the preparatory phase of empirical projects … we have also examined such approaches; the argumentation sketched in Part II of my essay sums up what I have learned from these discussions… referring to in-house working papers is intended … to indicate the unfinished character of the discussions, which have by no means yet led to consensus. In addition, I am concerned that the clarification of very general structures of hypotheses not be confused with empirical results… a theory of social evolution … is today still scarcely at all developed… [but] the close connection between material questions of a theory of contemporary social formation and foundational problems that… can be clarified within the framework of a theory of communicative competence.”
He states, “It is my conjecture that the fundamental mechanism for social evolution in general is to be found in an automatic inability not to learn. Not LEARNING, but NOT-LEARNING is the phenomenon that calls for explanation at the socio-cultural state of development. Therein lies, if you will, the rationality of man. Only against this background does the overpowering irrationality of the history of the species become visible.” (Pg. 15)
He admits, “At the moment I can see no possibility of cogently deciding the question about the chances for a self-transformation of advanced capitalism. But I do not exclude the possibility that economic crises can be permanently averted, although only in such a way that contradictory steering imperatives that assert themselves in the pressure for capital realization would produce a series of other crisis tendencies. The continuing tendency toward disturbance of capitalist growth can be administratively processed and transferred, by stages, through the political and into the socio-cultural system.” (Pg. 40)
He suggests, “The class compromise weakens the organizational capacity of the latently continuing classes. On the other hand, scattered secondary conflicts also become more palpable, because they so not appear as objective systemic crises, but directly provoke questions of legitimation. This explains the functional necessity of making the administrative system, as far as possible, independent of the legitimating system.” (Pg. 69)
He argues, “The patterns of priorities that [John Kenneth] Galbraith analyzed from the point of view of ‘private wealth versus public poverty’ result from a class structure that is, as usual, kept latent. In the final analysis, this class structure is the source of the legitimation deficit.” (Pg. 73) He adds, “As long as the welfare-state program, in conjunction with a widespread, technocratic common consciousness … can maintain a sufficient degree of civil privatism, legitimation needs do not have to culminate in a crisis.” (Pg. 70)
He asserts, “Since all those affected have, in principle, at least the chance to participate in the practical deliberation, the ‘rationality’ of the discursively formed will consists in the fact that the reciprocal behavioral expectations raised to normative status afford validity to a COMMON interest ascertained WITHOUT DECEPTION… The discursively formed will may be called ‘rational’ because the formal properties of discourse and of the deliberative situation sufficiently guarantee that a consensus can arise only through appropriately interpreted, generalizable interests, by which I mean needs that can be communicatively shared.” (Pg. 108)
He observes, “the repoliticization of the biblical inheritance observable in contemporary theological discussion (Pannenberg, Moltmann, Solle, Metz), which goes together with a leveling of this-worldly.other-worldly dichotomy, does not mean atheism in the sense of a liquidation without trace of the idea of God---although the idea of a PERSONAL God would hardly seem to be salvageable with consistency from THIS critical mass of thought. The idea of God is transformed …into the concept of a Logos that determines the community of believers and the real life-context of a self-emancipating society. ‘God’ becomes the name for a communicative structure that forces men, on pain of a loss of their humanity, to go beyond their accidental, empirical nature to encounter one another INDIRECTLY, that is, across an objective something that they themselves are not.” (Pg. 121)
This book will appeal to those studying Habermas’s thought and its development.
The underlying engine of crisis is the economic system. He notes that "In liberal capitalism, crises appear in the form of unresolved economic steering problems" and ". . .crises become endemic because temporarily unresolved steering problems, which the process of economic growth produces at more or less regular intervals, as such endanger social integration." Economic crisis might occur when output declines and its distribution becomes increasingly unequal, so disproportionate that it raises questions about the fairness and viability of the system. In this way, the ideology supporting capitalism would come under question and cease generating loyalty from the people. If government capabilities are questioned too much by citizens, crisis develops, and people come to lose faith in the ideology supporting the system and the system's legitimacy in dividing up the pie so that all gain "fairly."
People will not be actively involved in politics as long as their careers, family lives, and enjoyment of consuming material goods continue. Under such circumstances, they allow the capitalist economy and government to operate with rather little question. By providing an appropriate level of "goodies" to the people, the system renders the masses quiescent and allows the elite to remain in power. When questions arise as to whether the system is generating consumer goods at the proper rate, then the political disengagement may end and a legitimation crisis begins as people begin to doubt the validity of the current system.
Habermas' ideal system would be based on dialogic communication and open discourse. The question here: If the current late capitalist system suffers a legitimation crisis and transformation of the system looms, how will new norms develop? Habermas answers: "Only communication ethics guarantees the generality of admissible norms and the autonomy of acting subjects solely through the discursive redeemability of the validity claims with which norms appear. That is, generality is guaranteed in that the only norms that may claim generality are those on which everyone affected agrees (or would agree) without constraint if they enter into (or were to enter into) a process of discursive will-formation."
Citizens will test the validity claims of the various ideas and norms under debate. In the final analysis, "The validity claim of norms is grounded not in the irrational volitional acts of the contracting parties, but in the rationally motivated recognition of norms, which may be questioned at any time." And what determines which validity claim is best? Habermas contends that the better argument that emerges from a cooperatively engaged in dialogue should rule--if a consensus forms around this one possibility.
This is a powerful work, whether or not one agree with the thesis. Habermas has faith in the ability of people to create the norms that will govern politics and society. Is he too optimistic? That is the key question that readers will have to grapple with.