File spoon-archives/habermas.archive/habermas_2000/habermas.0005, message 52

Subject: HAB: RE: Erik/Vic thread
Date: Mon, 22 May 2000 20:22:51 -0400

> Suggestions of the system/life-world distinction already existed in THE 
> OF THE SOCIAL SCIENCES [1967], where it is anticipated in Habermas's
> interplay of functionalist and interpretive sociology (and especially 
> respective domains)--see the MIT 1988, 173-174.  Still, Vic's point is 
> taken: the distinction is not so clearly articulated as "system" vs.
> "life-world" until later.

This may seem like a minor point, but I do think it interesting to note 
that in Legitimation Crisis Habermas refers to the lifeworld as a type of 
*system*, viz. as a social system. I draw attention to this only because 
Habermas's view in Legitimation Crisis is extremely Parsonian, a point that 
is generally underappreciated in the literature. Sociologists will 
recognize the general architectonic of LC as Parsons's AGIL schema. 
Habermas accepts Parsons's view that the A and G subsystems (economic and 
administrative) are integrated through the "steering media" of money and 
power respectively, but he denies that the I and L subsystems can be 
integrated through the media of "influence" and "commitment" (as Parsons 
believed). Rather, Habermas argues that the I and L "subsystems" are 
integrated through natural language, and that natural language is 
"holistic," and therefore does not permit functional differentiation. Thus 
there are no separate I and L subsystems, just one general sociocultural 
system -- the lifeworld. The lifeworld also resists functional adaptation 
to the other systems, which is what creates the potential for legitimation 

Clearly some distant ancestor of the system/lifeworld distinction is 
present throughout Habermas's early work (like the "labour and interaction 
in Hegel's Jena period" article, etc.) And the whole gist of H's critique 
of Marx in KHI revolves around the latter having confused the two. But the 
full-blown system/lifeworld distinction is a much later development. And 
while Habermas's system/lifeworld stuff clearly maps onto his earlier 
distinction, it is important to see that the conception of the lifeworld 
that he develops comes almost entirely out of his reading of Parsons. Even 
the mature conception of the lifeworld, as involving three dimensions -- 
culture, personality, and society -- is lifted straight from Parsons's *The 
Social System*. His use of the term "lifeworld," along with his nod to 
Schutz and Luckmann, seems to me just misleading in this regard -- a case 
of Habermas's syncretism gone too far.

Best regards,

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