Mr. Propp is probably right that this is not one of Habermas' major works. Those would probably be Knowledge and Human Interest, The Theory of Communicative Action (2 volumes of chewy goodness), Between Facts and Norms, and The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. But I have found for myself that some of Habermas's lesser works are the best openings to his work as a whole.
I would recommend the book under review, Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action and The New Conservatism all as good examples of that quality of his lesser works. MCCA offers good insight into Habermas' methodology as well as his ideas the relationship between his ideas of moral consciousness and communicative action. TNC offers a look at how Habermas applied aspects of his mature theories to the practical politics of Germany in the late 80s and early 90s.
And the book under review gives a view at the work that Habermas was doing as he was transitioning from the theories of the different types of knowledge interests to his theory of communicative action. There are five essays in this books. The last four are from Zur Rekonstruktion des Historischen Materialismus and the first is the essay "What is Universal Pragmatics".
Part of what impresses me about this period of Habermas is his obvious mastery of so many different literatures. He is conversant with the contemporary debates in linguistics, analytical philosophy of language, cognitive psychology, hermenuetics, systems theory, theories of moral development and the entirety of modern Western philosophy.
His overall idea seems to have been to recast historical materialism as a sequence of developmental stages in re the legitimization strategy of society. That developmental sequence would in some ways mirror that of Piaget's and Kohlberg's as well as Habermas' own ideas about communicative action.
So what you have here is one of the great thinkers of our age working his way through a vast amount of social science literature in the struggle to formulate and improve his own theory. A theory which is grand theory in the tradition of Marx, Weber or Parsons and whose constant normative critical impulse is toward articulating standards for our political conversations, justifications and guiding stories. Habermas' standards always are striving to give equal voice to all, to eliminate communicative distortions and aim at the finding of the best possible reasons that we all can agree on.
I don't know about you but I have always found his endeavor, his conversations with (and careful listening to)his critics and his willingness to change and forge ahead again to be exactly what social reflection should be. I am not saying he is right. I am saying that thinking though the issues with him is nonfiction reading at its most educational.
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Communication and the Evolution of Society Paperback – March 31 1979
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- Paperback : 264 pages
- ISBN-10 : 080701513X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0807015131
- Product Dimensions : 13.97 x 1.14 x 21.59 cm
- Item Weight : 336 g
- Publisher : Beacon Press (March 31 1979)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,032,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
From the Back Cover
Some thirty years ago Jurgen Habermas introduced the idea of analyzing contemporary society from a historical and practical stand point while remaining faithful to the canons of empirical science. Although the general features of this idea are still evident in his mature views, his original conception of critical social theory has undergone considerable development.
About the Author
Jürgen Habermas, a professor of philosophy at the University of Frankfurt, is the leading representative of the Frankfurt School tradition of social thought.
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