File spoon-archives/habermas.archive/habermas_2000/habermas.0005, message 21

Date: Mon, 08 May 2000 16:56:05 -0700
Subject: Re: HAB: re: reflexive theory

Dear Gary:

Thanks for you detailed and thoughtful response. I thought the original
question concerned a comparison and not an evaluation. I thought that
Jeremy's question concerned whether there was a similarity or family
resemblance between the concept of reflexivity as one may find it in
Habermas, and the concept of theoretical reflexivity as one may find it in

When I said they are hardly comparable, I did not mean to say that one is
worse and the other better, the one wrong and the other right. I simply
meant that they are up to very different things. That one is
materialistically grounded, Gramscian-Foucualdian, emerging largely from a
phenomenological, ethnographic, anthropological types of work and
theoretical orientations, while the other is grounded in sociological
theory, theory about social theories, Kantianism, Systems theory, and
Weberian rationalization theory. So, you see, they are hardly comparable,
or very hard to compare. They mean very different things when they are
talking about 'reflexivity.' I have not said anything about the one being
correct and the other false. And, then, once we recognize that, we should
proceed to ask why they mean such different things, that is, why did they
come up with such different readings on the idea of "reflexivity." And here
we would have to talk about one being German and the other French; one
coming from the Frankfurt School, the other from French Post-War Marxism,
etc. Comparision that require more time, space and knowledge than I have.

Nonetheless, the question is an important one because it may lead us to
recognize weakness in both positions. Further, Bourdieu is emerging as the
most important social thinker to come out of France in the second half of
the 20th century. A good friend of mine, who lives in Germany, but studied
in France in the 60s said to me: "Bourdieu is becoming what Sartre was
during the sixties." And then he told me to read Bourdieu's __The Weight of
the World__ (which in French is entitled The Misery of the World), and his
__Pascalian Mediations__. And I am doing what my friend recommended. I also
read something else which he did not know about, namely __Acts of
Resistance__ a beautiful series of paper columns and articles on
globalization, neo-liberalism, bureacracy, etc. Just comparing this last
book, which is Bourdieu for beginner, and something comparable by Habermas,
let us say his latest __Die postnationale Konstellation. Politische
Essays__, you can see how different they are.

But Gary's intuitions are fairly accurrate, see Jeffrey Alexander's
devastating critique of Pierre Bourdieu in the book I mentioned __Fin de
Siecle Social Theory__, but I am less sanguine that him on thinking that
Universal Pragmatics will solve all theoretical problems. I stand with
Wittgenstein and Rorty on this one, theory should be like a tool box, you
should reach into and take from it what you need for your task.

Sorry, but have to run.

At 08:40 AM 5/8/00 -0700, you wrote:
>--- Eduardo Mendieta <> wrote:
>> ...I think that Habermas' work is hardly comparable.
>I disagree, based on your quote from Bourdieu and commentary. I've
>not read Bourdieu, but the quotation and commentary by no means show
>that Bourdier is incomparable with Habermas-after-1973 (though
>perhaps incomparable with Habermas-of-early-1960s).
>> Put
>> differently, while Habermas' work is about reflexivity, it can
>> hardly be
>> claimed that it is reflexive in this material, or quasi-Marxist way
>> that
>> Bourdieu suggests.
>Good! Because a material, quasi-Marxist sense of reflexivity is
>regressive, relative to an approach to social evolution and science
>through a discursive theory of communicative action. You would
>>The closest [Habermas] comes to doing something like
>> this, is
>> when he wrote his habilitation on the __Structural Transformation
>> of the
>> Public Sphere__,....
>this would be because Habermas has developed so-called reflexivity
>far beyond a neo-Marxist sense of its historicist dependence on the
>public sphere.
>I would like to comment on the Bourdieu quote, but don't have time at
>this moment. So, I'm hoping you might have some time to elaborate on
>your sense of incomparability, relative to Habermas's sense of
>science after 1970, where reflexivity has the kind of character that
>I outlined earlier.  Thanks.
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>Send instant messages & get email alerts with Yahoo! Messenger.
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Eduardo Mendieta
Assistant Professor
Philosophy Department
University of San Francisco
2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117-1080

Tel: (415) 422-6313
Fax: (415) 422-2346

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