File spoon-archives/habermas.archive/habermas_2000/habermas.0007, message 39

Date: Mon, 31 Jul 2000 12:48:47 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: HAB: Re: The practical import of our work


Your posting is a welcome reminder, but I don't believe that Best's
comment applies to this list.

Most of the activity of this list, it seems to me, is involved either
with learning to understand what Habermas' work basically means and
implies, which necessarily precedes issues of applicability; or
subscribers are helping each other locate texts or quotes. All this
is part of an educational practice, which deserves to be respected by
those, like Best perhaps, who may wish to enforce a constrained sense
of practice.

In short, discourse *is* practice for a university communication
community. The real question of practice, relative to this, is: What
is the practical import of academic work within society? Since most
university work happens to be aimed toward vocational training
outside the university, it's easy to see that efforts to expand
interdisciplinarity within the university curriculum and academic
fellowship is emmanently practical.

Steven Best writes:

> "In the case of Habermas, despite his numerous political essays,
> we see a clear example of how the concern for providing
> foundations for critique has overtaken the initial goal of theory,
> which was to engage in social critique and political analysis....  

This sense of theory is activitist, which is one dimension of
theoretical activity--applied theory-informed discourse; but, to be
more historically and philosophically accurate, the initial goal of
theory was / is epistemic understanding. It's more appropriate of
Habermas to say that the foundations for critique result from
*pursuing* the intial goal of theory, since the foundations for
critique must be knowledge-constitutive interests (and the
emancipatory interest is based in developmental-practical interests
of making a good life in a fair world, etc.). So, Steven Best seems a
bit wrong-headed.

> All too often, Habermas's political 'addressee' is not the new
> social movements or citizens, but rather fellow academics.  

True, but so what? Fellow academics is a big fellowship within the
production system of knowledge industries, and social movements in
knowledge-intensive society live complexly between facts and norms.
Though an academic lifeworld is not a mundane lifeworld, all
academics also live in the mundane lifeworld, and a complex society
can benefit tangibly and importantly from an interdisciplinarity of
its teachers.

Best continues:

> The Habermas industry has engendered a new form of scholasticism 
> that rivals medieval Aristotelianism in its arid, obtuse jargon."

I've heard this kind of self-betraying rhetoric for many years. It
simply means that the reader can't relate to Habermas' work. Besides,
since Habermas tends to take the Kantian side in the
communitarian-universalist dispute, it should be pleasing to
communitarians that Habermas can be mistaken for an Aristotelian. 

You write,
> ....I would like it if as we do our work, each of us would ask >
ourselves what connection this has to practical political issues.

I, for one, if I may be so bold, have been doing this--asking myself
"what..."--- a very long time, such that I see practical political
issues everywhere I look in Habermas' work. That others may not yet
see practice everywhere is itself a practical, hermeneutical issue
that can only be addressed in specific communicative scenes, realtive
to specific texts and specific problems, which of course good
teaching pursues.

Speaking of streetlights, did ya hear the one about the drunken
activist that went looking in the night for solidarity under the
street light?....

Best regards,


Do You Yahoo!?
Kick off your party with Yahoo! Invites.

     --- from list ---


Driftline Main Page


Display software: ArchTracker © Malgosia Askanas, 2000-2005