Jürgen Habermas

Jürgen Habermas

Jürgen Habermas

Jürgen Habermas


A lucid and authoritative introduction to the work of Habermas. His sometimes difficult and inaccessible work is rendered accessible by Michael Pusey for the student reader.


The contribution made by Habermas to the development of modern sociology is both an extension of ‘Critical Theory’, and a significant alternative to it. Whilst this may seem at first sight a contradictory statement, it does express the somewhat complicated nature of Habermas’s role in contemporary social theory.

It is important here to note that Habermas has made a contribution in a field which is in effect much wider than that of professional sociology—for it encompasses social philosophy, the theory of knowledge and communication, marxism and, of course, sociological theory.

At one extreme, we find Habermas represented as the inheritor of a long and notable intellectual tradition—that established by the Frankfurt School (for a fuller account of Habermas’s role in relation to this tradition, see The Frankfurt School, by Tom Bottomore, also in the ‘Key Sociologists’ series).

Habermas’s connections to the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School’s principal protagonists—especially Horkheimer and Adorno—are, however, rather tenuous. Habermas certainly developed concerns of central interest to his predecessors—the critique of positivism, an emphasis on features of bourgeois ideology as expressed through philosophies of science—but his interests have taken him in an important sense away from marxism, and towards social science.

Whereas Adorno and Horkheimer maintained a somewhat haughty separation between their Critical Theory and the theories and work of professional sociology and the other social sciences, Habermas has been keener to engage with the central theoretical paradigms of modern social science. Thus, for an understanding of Habermas’s approach to the rationalization process, to communicative action and to ideology and legitimation, we must look not just at Marx, but at Weber, at Freud, and at . . .

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