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HabermasThe Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy$
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Hugh Baxter

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780804769129

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804769129.001.0001

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System, Lifeworld, and Habermas's “Communication Theory of Society”

System, Lifeworld, and Habermas's “Communication Theory of Society”

(p.148) Chapter Four System, Lifeworld, and Habermas's “Communication Theory of Society”
Stanford University Press

In his Theory of Communication Action, Jürgen Habermas talks about a “reconstructive social theory which employs a dual perspective”—the perspective of “system” and “lifeworld.” Habermas's proposed theory “should explain how the reconstructed normative self-understanding of modern legal orders connects with the social reality of highly complex societies.” In developing the “communication theory of society” in which his “discourse theory of law” is to be situated, Habermas departs from his earlier understanding of the relation between system and lifeworld. This chapter explores Habermas's concepts of system and lifeworld as well as his communication theory of society. It considers his “model of the circulation of political power”, which presents the idea of “civil society” as an elaboration of the lifeworld's “private sphere.” It also discusses Habermas's reference to the three “structural components” (culture, society, and personality) and argues that his notion of “system” and “lifeworld” is similar to the post-Parsons “autopoietic” systems theory of Niklas Luhmann. Finally, the chapter rejects the concept of lifeworld as separate social sphere.

Keywords:   Theory of Communication Action, Jürgen Habermas, social theory, system, lifeworld, communication theory of society, discourse theory, Niklas Luhmann, political power, civil society

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