Jurgen Habermas, "Modernity: An Unfinished Project?"
I. General introduction:
1. a student of Theodor Adorno, and a member of the Frankfurt
School of critical theory.
"The occasion of the essay aligns Habermas with Adorno; yet the content of the lecture aligns him with precicely that rationalist tradition in Enlghtenment of which Adorno was enormously sceptical. Here, as in his later work of the 1980s, Habermas sees the possibility of salvaging Enlightenment rationality. The project of modernity done by eighteenth-century philosophers 'consisted of their efforts to develop objective science, universal morality and law, and autonomous art according to their inner logic', their aim being, according to Habermas here, 'the rational organization of everyday social life.' (Thomas Docerty Postmodernism 95)
Modernism "... held the extravagant expectation that the arts and sciences would further not only the control of the forces of nature but also the understanding of self and world, moral progress, justice in social institutions, and even human happiness."
II. Main Idea & Questions for Discussion:
1. How does Habermas defined social modernization and cultural modernity, and their relations to modernity? How does "neoconservatism" misunderstand the relation between cultural modernity and social modernization?
2. Do you agree with Habermas that the modernity project is unfinished,
but not a thing of the past? What is his way of carrying on the project?
Is there any other way for it to be further developed in the postmodern
3. In other words, is 'public sphere' or rational differentiation possible today?
Habermas' questions: 'Is modernity as passe as the postmodernists claim it is?'
<Defining modernity in terms of its
relations to the past and--in aesthetic modern mentality--its changed
sense of time and space.>
1. The 'modern'--change from the old to the new-- is not necessarily a rejection of the past.
The Aesthetic Modern Mentality
2. the failure of avant-garde art
<the mistaken view of neomodernism>
1. Cultural Modernity (oppositional mentatlity) misunderstood and connected with its opposite p. 161; blamed for the consequences of social modernization;
2. the consequences of social modernization: altered attitudes towards work, consumer habits, levels of demand, leisure-time orientation--> the crisis of motivation, lack of social identification, incapacity of obedience, narcissism, withdrawal from competition for status.
<aporias within cultural modernity, or modernity's project>
1. modernity's project:
--optimistic: applying expert cultures to rational organization of living conditions and social relations: "a release of the cognitive potentials thus accumulated from their esoteric high forms and their utlization in praxis" (162)
-- e.g. differentiated reason: Karl Popper (scientific criticism), Paul Lorenzen (artificial language), Adorno (critical content in art).
-- negative consequences: growing distance between these expert culture and the general public. --> the lifeworld impoverished.
--> attempts to 'sublate' the expert cultures.
* Habermas thinks that while the optimism surrounding the Enlightenment project has waned, the problem which motivated the project remains. What problem is that?
<example of autonomy and sublation in art>
-- In the aesthetic domain, there is the judgement of taste, the free
play of the imagination,
-- two conditions for aesthetic autonomy:
<detachment --> lack of reconciliation>
1. Surealism p. 165 'at tempts to eliminate the discrepancy between art and life, fiction and practice, and illusion and reality. . . " Theodor Adorno: surrealism "renounces art, without, however, being able to shake it off"
2. the "double errors" of false sublation:
-- 'When the containers of an autonomously developed cultural sphere are shattered, its contents disintegrate. When meaning is desublimated and form destructured, nothing is left."
-- replaces one form of onesidedness and one abstration with another:
--e.g. to aestheticize politics
3. sublation of philosophy -- -->
--e.g. to replace politics with moral rigorism or to subjugate politics to dogmatic doctrines
Alternatives to the False Sublation of Culture
1. art criticism as a bridge between expert culture and lifeworld-- criticism concerned with life-problems, or used to illuminate a life-historical situation. ". . . revitalises the need-interpretations and normative expectations and alters the way in wihch these moments refere to one another." (167)
2. appropriation of expert culture e.g. Paul Weiss; a group of German workers;
In examples like these, where the expert culture is appropriated from the perspectives of the lifeworld, something of the intention of the doomed Surrealist revolt, and . . .has been preserved.
3. social modernization be guided into other, noncapitalist directions, and if the lifeworld can develop, on its own, institutions that will lie outside the borders of the inherent dynamics of the economic and administrative systems.
Three Conservatisms p. 168
-- "young conservatives" -- "transpose the spontaneous forces of the imagination, the experience of the self, and affectivity onto the sphere of the distant and archaic; set up a dualistic opposition between instrumental reason and a principle accessible only through evocation. . .(e.g. Derrida)
--"old conservatives" -- a return to positions prior to modernity with the use of Aristotle or a renewal of cosmological ethics; e.g. Leo Strauss
-- "new conservatives" -- welcome the development of modern
science as long as it overstep its own sphere only to further technical
progress, capitalistic growth, and rational administration. For the
rest, they advocate a politics of defusing the explosive contents of
Charles Jencks, The Postmodern Reader, pp. 158-169.
The Jurgen Habermas Web Resource http://www.msu.edu/user/robins11/habermas/
Habermas Online http://www.habermasonline.org/
Poster, Mark. "CyberDemocracy: Internet and the Public Sphere." http://www.hnet.uci.edu/mposter/writings/democ.html
Does Internet Create Democracy "http://www.zip.com.au/~athornto//thesis_1996_alinta_thornton.doc"