Friday, August 5, 2011

Habermas on Materialism

Right from my earliest publications I understood "materialism" in the Marxist sense, as a theoretical approach which does not simply affirm the dependence of the superstructure on the base, the lifeworld on the imperatives of the accumulation process, as an ontological constant, so to speak, but which simultaneously denounces this dependence as the latent function of a particular, historically transitory social formation. The transition from a production to a communication paradigm, which I advocate, does of course mean that the critical theory of society must no longer rely on the normative contents of the expressivist model of alienation and the reappropriation of essential powers. The young Marx borrowed this model from the production aesthetics of Kant, Schiller and Hegel. The paradigm-shift from purposive activity to communicative action does not mean, however, that I am willing or bound to abandon the material reproduction of the lifeworld as the privileged point of reference for analysis. I continue to explain the selective model of capitalist modernization, and the corresponding pathologies of a one-sidedly rationalized lifeworld, in terms of a capitalist accumulation process which is largely disconnected from orientations toward use-value.
-Jürgen Habermas (1984 interview with Peter Dews and Perry Anderson for New Left Review)

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