File spoon-archives/habermas.archive/habermas_2000/habermas.0005, message 6

Date: 3 May 2000 09:40:03 -0700
Subject: HAB: undergraduate inquiry


I am an undergraduate student and I am working on a political theory paper.  Because my majors are Religion and Visual Arts, some (a lot) of the readings for the political theory course I am in are new to me, especially Habermas.  

Below is where I am at with the paper so far and ANY advice/comment/criticisms/suggestions people on this list could provide me with would be greatly appreciated.  I have included some questions I have within the text.

Thanks in advance.


Tentative Working Title:
Selected Early and Late Works by Foucault
Seen though Habermas Communicative Action

Habermas theory of communicative action seeks to preserve the lifeworld.  As such it uses illocutionary speech acts which do not conceal intentions because there is nothing to hide.  Because the speaker is reinforcing the extant cultural norms, illocutionary speech is the logical choice for his/her communicative acts.  In my paper, I am interested in exploring how Habermas model, the theory of communicative action, relates to Foucaults progression of thought from his early to later work.  Foucault, even during his short career, makes a major shift in his basic assumptions.  In "Two Lectures" he asserts again and again that his recent (1970s) course of study is founded on the belief that knowledge always involves power.  Truth claims have power effects for Foucault.  In Habermas terms, no discourse could be illocutionary.  But Foucault is creating knowledge, so what about his own speech acts?  Are they perlocutionary?  And if so, to what ends does he write?  On the other hand, in his later works (here mostly interviews), close to the end of his life, he makes illusions to a shift in his assumptions, that truth claims now exist for him.  If Foucault is making them, does this mean that they be made without privilege?  In Habermas terms, would this shift indicate newly held sympathies with Habermas communicative action?  It will be instructive for me to gain a more complete understanding of Habermas and Foucaults thought to place them into dialogue in this way.  Because I am interested in examining Foucaults assumptions, my investigations will focus, not on his major works, but on the articles and interviews where he addresses these issues specifically.  I do not yet have answers to the questions I am posing and I am not certain that I will arrive at any definitive resolutions.  It is my intention to explore these ideas by staying as close to the texts as possible.  By doing this I hope to look into the question that could be posed in response to the shift in Foucaults basis for discourse, "Is illocutionary speech [or writing] possible?" or "Must we have a will to truth in order to live better?"  These are distinct questions, but what would be presupposed by a positive response to either?


-illocution/perlocution distinction & what is at issue for him as a way of framing the discussion of Foucault
-reference points to trace Foucaults shift
	Communicative action according to Habermas uses all human ways of thinking, and language. This combination allows human beings to genuinely understand and ultimately agree with one another.  Thus they are able to make plans for common action.  "Reaching an understanding functions as a mechanism for coordinating actions only through the participants in interaction coming to agreement concerning the claimed validity of their utterances, that is, through intersubjectively recognizing the validity claims they reciprocally raise." (Seidman, 153)  This coming together and agreeing in communicative action, Habermas believes, is the ideal mode of change.  This does not mean that one speaker does not exert influence on another, but that influence is one in which both speakers are open to possible truths and hence the understanding that they reach is commonly held.  
	Individual goals are only viable when they are oriented towards reaching an understanding.  Strategic methods for personal success and the egocentrism inherent in them are antithetical to Habermas theory.  Regarding these goals or aims of the speaker, an act falls under one of two broadly understood categories, illocution and perlocution.  Illocutionary speech is "self-identifying", that is "His communicative intent does not go beyond wanting the hearer to understand the manifest content of the speech act."(160)  The content of a perlocutionary act is veiled because the intention is not what is spoken.  For Habermas, illocution is essential because it is the basis for any positive transformative effect.  It is the point at which agents coordinate their individual actions in order to service the larger mutually understood aim. 
	The structure of the lifeworld (and there are multiple lifeworlds) is a test/ a sounding board for any speech act.  Hence each situation has a movable horizon in the complexity of the "lifeworld context of relevance".  The significance of it to communicative action is that "the lifeworld to which participants in communication belong is always present, but only in such a way that it forms the background for an actual scene." (169)  As a background actors cannot be outside of the lifeworld; it is where mutual understanding can occur.  Here reality is socially constructed and agreed upon.  Any utterance must adhere culturally to the preexisting lifeworld.  But this does not mean that the lifeworld is static: "The reproduction of the lifeworld consists of essentially in a continuation and renewal of tradition, which moves between the extremes of a mere reduplication of and a break with tradition."(175)
	What is at issue for Habermas is a the search for a way for individuals to be socialized to act communicatively as a better mode of structural change than revolution. 
Works for this section
On Society and Politics  Chapters 7 & 8
Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action
Theory of Communicative Action

Secondary Sources on Habermas-
White, Steven K.  Recent Work of Jurgen Habermas
White, Steven K., ed.  Cambridge Companion to Habermas

	In Habermas communicative civil processes, he states that he is accepting "three fictions."  (Why bother with all of this if it is based on fictions?)  "We are presupposing (a) the autonomy of actors, (b) the independence of culture, (c) the transparency of communication."(184)  These assumptions of autonomy and transparency would be antithetical to the early Foucaultian works.  Is it possible for illocutionary acts to exist for the early Foucault?  Under no circumstances would that be possible.  Discussion of "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History" (1971) here because it chronologically(in the pieces for this work), it comes first.  (Do you think that in discussing Foucaults writings chronologically I am positing some illusory basis that the progression of time necessarily designates some theoretical progress?)   
	Foucaults "Two Lectures" were given in January of 1976.  It is where he outlines his theoretical structure for the work he has been doing.  Of his research activities, he states, "What it really does is to entertain the claims to attention to local, discontinuous, disqualified, illegitimate knowledges against the claims of a unitary body of theory which would filter hierarchise and order them in the name of some true knowledge or some arbitrary idea of what constitutes a science and its objects.  Genealogies are therefore not a positivistic returns to a more careful or exact form of science.  They are precisely anti-sciences." (83)  As such, Foucaults genealogy is opposed to science because it centralizes power, creates truths which are seemingly incontestable once impressed by the institution of scientific discourse and consequently accepted by the society.  Genealogy is not a history which is based on assumptions of autonomy, in fact it highlights and is therefore opposed to the power relations in discourse.  In raising up certain discourses as sciences, we cannot avoid diminishing all others.  In the glorified seat of science, discourses are untouchable.  Foucault strives to remove their crown and place them in the realm of contestability.  
	Deconstructing the power of scientific knowledge has been approached in two ways according to Foucault (not elaborated yet).  He tries to demonstrate how the truth claim effects that power produces that get sent into a possibly endless cycle of validation.  But in "Two Lectures", he states that he is on the way towards formulating a different kind of question: "What type of power is susceptible of producing discourses of truths that in a society such as ours are endowed with such potent effects?" (93)  It is the mechanisms of power and the effects of truth that he is exploring.  What does debunking the structures that have been legitimized and endowed with legal significance constructively do?  For Foucault, the project seeks to expose systems of domination and subjugation within society.  In doing so he is looking towards "the possibility of a new form of right, one which would indeed be anti-disciplinarian, but at the same time liberated from the principle of sovereignty." (108)

Questions to be addressed
Is Foucaults speech illocutionary? Does he search of a way for society to act under mutually understood and accepted precepts in order to promote change?  Is he stepping outside of the horizon of the lifeworld?  In contesting the lifeworld instead of preserving it he hoping to produce structural change?  The mechanism of understanding produced on the basis of communicative action allow coordinated action for change according to Habermas.  Would Foucault percieve this as a subjugating mechanism?  Although reality in Habermas construction is socially constructed, does the fact that it is also AGREED UPON make it outside the realm of Foucaultian critique?

Works for this section
The Foucault Reader  "Nietzsche, Genealogy and History" & "Truth and Power"
Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews & Other Writings 1972-1977  "Two Lectures"


Works for this section
The Foucault Reader -- "Politics and Ethics: An Interview"
The Foucault Reader  "Polemics, Politics, and Problemizations: An Interview with Michel Foucault"
The Foucault Reader  "What is Enlightenment?"


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