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Between Reason and History

Habermas and the Idea of Progress

David S. Owen

Publication Year: 2002

Between Reason and History examines the role of the idea of progress both in Ju¬rgen Habermas’s critical social theory and in critical social theory in general. The reception to Habermas’s magnum opus, The Theory of Communicative Action, has tended to downplay the theory of social evolution it contains, but there are no in-depth examinations of this aspect of Habermas’s critical theory. This book fills this gap by providing a comprehensive and detailed examination of Habermas’s theory of social evolution, its significance within the wider scope of his critical social theory, and the importance of a theoretical understanding of history for any adequate critical social theory.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

When I began my graduate study in philosophy my interests generally concerned issues of social justice. I worried, however, that critiques of “grand narratives” and of the reification of human nature undermined the possibility of grounding the normative stance of any critique aiming at social justice. In one of my first seminars I encountered ..

Abbreviations

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pp. xi-

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Introduction

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pp. 1-6

Karl Marx famously asserted that “[t]he Philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways, the point is to change it,” and with this practical conception of philosophy he inaugurated what can properly be called critical social theory.1 Marx’s point was not that we should abandon philosophy for political polemics, but that we need to reconceive philosophy in fundamentally social terms. This is because,...

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Chapter 1. The Idea of Progress and Critical Social Theory

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pp. 7-30

In this first chapter I am interested in the significance for critical social theory of the idea of social change that is progressive. The intention is to lay the groundwork for my later examination of Habermas’s theory of social evolution, which I will argue is an integral part of his critical theory. In other words, before going...

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Chapter 2. Habermas’s Conception of Critical Social Theory

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pp. 31-72

In this chapter I will present a comprehensive overview of Habermas’s mature conception of critical social theory. This serves a twofold purpose: first, a general understanding of Habermas’s conception of critical social theory is key for my later inquiry into his theory of social evolution, since the theory of social evolution is an integral part of any adequate critical social theory (or so I will argue). Second, I want to emphasize...

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Chapter 3. The Developmental Theory of Social Evolution

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pp. 73-104

As I have shown in the previous chapter, the theory of social evolution plays a complementary role to the formal-pragmatic analysis of language use in Habermas’s conception of critical theory. It complements the formal-pragmatic aspect by providing an explanation of the historical, or diachronic, development of structures of consciousness. It postulates universal logics of development for these structures, which delimit the horizon of possible determinate historical forms. Thus, we can...

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Chapter 4. The Idea of a Developmental Logic of History

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pp. 105-172

In the previous chapter I analyzed and clarified the main elements of the theory of social evolution. The aim there was to provide a clear and coherent account of the theory as a whole. In this chapter, I will analyze and assess the core concept of the theory of social evolution: the idea of ...

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Chapter 5. Progress and Social Evolution

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pp. 173-187

In the opening chapters of this study I argued that the concept of progress plays an important and necessary function both in the very idea of critical social theory and in Habermas’s particular conception of it. In order to practice a rational social criticism it is unavoidable to presuppose a conception of social change that gives an account of progressive change. That is, if we want to critique existing...

Notes

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pp. 189-205

Bibliography

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pp. 207-212

Index

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pp. 213-220


E-ISBN-13: 9780791488478
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791454091
Print-ISBN-10: 0791454096

Page Count: 220
Publication Year: 2002

Series Title: SUNY series in the Philosophy of the Social Sciences
Series Editor Byline: Lenore Langsdorf