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The invisible woman : a feminist critique of Habermas's theory of communicative action Travers, Ann 1990

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T H E I N V I S I B L E W O M A N : ™ ™ ™ ^ C R I T I Q U E O F H A B E R M A S ' S T H E O R Y O F C O M M U N I C A T I V E A C T I O N by A n n Travers Honours B . A . , Simon Fraser Universi ty, 1987 A T H E S I S S U B M I T T E D I N P A R T I A L F U L F I L L M E N T O F T H P R E Q U I R E M E N T S F O R T H E D E G R E E O F " M A S T E R O F A R T S in T H E F A C U L T Y O F G R A D U A T E S T U D I E S (Department of Sociology) We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard: T H E U N I V E R S I T Y O F B R I T I S H C O L U M B I A August 31, 1990 © A n n Travers, August 1990 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date CHf. foi j e<0 . DE-6 (2/88) ABSTRACT ^  -Feminist theory is a vast area of discourse and, while the differences between the many tendencies are extremely interesting, it is beyond the scope of this thesis to engage in such an inquiry. I have chosen to conduct a crit ique of Habermas's theory of communicative action from a perspective informed for the most part by postmodern/poststructural feminism. I hope that my reasons for working wi th in such a framework w i l l become evident in the fol lowing chapters but, in my view, a postmodern/poststructural feminist perspective sharpens the crit ique of Habermas's theory precisely because it stands in such contrast to it. Fo r the purposes of this thesis, my crit ique w i l l focus upon Habermas's most recent work - The Theory of Communicative A c t i o n , Vo lume I: Reason and the Rat iona l iza t ion of Society (1984), and Vo lume II: The Cr i t ique of Functionalis t Reason (1987). Other works by Habermas w i l l not be specifically addressed although references w i l l be made to them as necessary to clarify his positions on various issues. i i i TABLE OF CONTENTS ' A ^ t ^ f C t i Chapter One: Introduction 1 Chapter Two: Habermas's Approach to the 9 Problem of Rat ional i ty Chapter Three: Habermas's Concept ion Relat ions 33 Between System and Li fewor ld , Publ ic and Private Spheres Chapter Four : New Socia l Movements—Agents of 54 Change in Habermas's Theory of Communicat ive A c t i o n Chapter F ive : Conclus ion 85 Appendix A 95 References 96 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS First of a l l , I feel extremely lucky to have worked with such a fine committee; Dawn Curr ie , Derek Gregory, and Roy Turner provided me with the support, guidance, and constructive cr i t ic ism necessary not only for the complet ion of this thesis but for the enjoyment of the process as we l l . I am very grateful for their time and effort. I would also l ike to thank G i l l i a n Creese, Dawn Farough, N e i l Guppy, M a r t i n Meissner, Blanca and Rica rdo Mura tor io , Toby Smith and Char l ie for their encouragement and suggestions, and Doug A o k i , Jennifer E l l i s and David Robi ta i l l e for computer support. F ina l ly , I would l ike to express my appreciation to my partner, F iona Gr i f f in , for her constant support and encouragement. 1 CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION In the last two decades, there has been an increasing interest in dialogue between feminism and cr i t ica l theory (see, for example Feminism and Foucault . edited by D iamond and Quinby, 1988; Feminism A s Cr i t ique . edited by Benhabib and Corne l l , 1987). This thesis is located within this set of debates. D iamond and Quinby ask themselves, in the introduction to their volume, if their project is "yet another attempt to authorize feminism by marrying it into respectability?" (1988:ix) L i k e them, I answer that question with the assertion that I take the respectability of feminism as a given. A n d I believe, as they do, that not only w i l l feminism gain strength from such interaction, but so too w i l l c r i t ica l social theory benefit from an encounter wi th a body of thought which is capable of identifying and surpassing androcentric bias. Furthermore, I insist that feminist theory is cri t ical social theory and that non-feminist cr i t ical social theory is inevitably incomplete. Whi le cr i t ical social theory in general and specifically feminist cr i t ica l theory start from different points on the compass, ult imately they occupy similar discursive spaces. Jurgen Habermas, in the development of his theory of communicative action, is no exception. H i s importance in contemporary social theory - and across the whole spectrum of the social sciences - and the scope of his work necessitate feminist theoretical attention. Habermas is perhaps the most influential social theorist alive today. H e is certainly "the most prol i f ic contemporary cr i t ica l theorist" (Turner, 1987: 186). A s M i c h a e l Pusey (1987) remarks: Scarcely anyone would now challenge what other people have said many times about Habermas, namely that he is one of the most important figures in German intel lectual life today and 2 perhaps is the most important sociologist since Max Weber. (Pusey, 1987: 9) His importance extends beyond Germany and beyond Europe . Habermas's own intentions, in combination with what Giddens (1985: 124) terms the encylopaedic scope of his work, are so grand as to guarantee him an important place in the international intel lectual landscape. Giddens characterizes Habermas as "the most important latter-day descendent of...the 'Frankfurt School ' of social theory" and further states that "although no doubt he would not say so, he is trying to be a Marx for our times" (Giddens, 1985: 123,124). Feminis t theorists can neither afford to ignore Habermas nor to deny h im the opportunity to address feminist cr i t ic ism. Habermas's work is ideal for feminist cr i t ic ism because the issues he addresses are crucial ones. H e is indeed an exemplary theorist of the contemporary era. H e attempts to resolve many of the problems, albeit from a different perspective, that occupy feminist theorists. These include the issues of rationality, the relations and boundaries between the public and private spheres, the appropriateness of different strategies for the achievement of social change, and the nature of the desired change itself. Ul t imately , Habermas addresses the di lemma of the modern era, what McCar thy characterizes as the pervasive "sense of having exhausted our cultural , social , and po l i t i ca l resources" (1984: v) . The most developed formulat ion of Habermas's theory of communicative action is contained in two volumes by the same name which is his "latest attempt to lay out the outlines of a cr i t ical theory of society" (Pusey, 1987: 9): The Theory of Communicative Action has three interrelated concerns: (1) to develop a concept of rationali ty that is no longer tied to, and l imi ted by, the subjectivistic and individual is t ic premises of modern philosophy and social theory; (2) to construct a two-level concept of society that integrates the l i feworld and system paradigms; and, finally, (3) to sketch out, against this background, a cr i t ica l theory of modernity which analyzes and accounts for its pathologies in a way that suggests a redirect ion rather than an abandonment of the project of enlightenment. (McCar thy, 1984: vi) Accord ing to Habermas, relations of force and coercion distort human interaction - socially, pol i t ical ly and economically - in modern, Western society. This is a consequence of the adoption of a dehumanizing and anti-social form of rationality based solely on purposive action. We are dominated, theoretically and actually, by a quantitative, materially oriented paradigm. The solution for both this theoretical and societal dead-end is, for Habermas, a shift to a qualitative, socially oriented paradigm. Habermas would argue that the pursuit of social (and hence rational) ends in themselves w i l l result in the resolution of material grievances. Ma te r i a l grievances are not to be resolved, in other words, by debates about distr ibution. Cal ls for a paradigm shift have echoed from the fringes of social movements for decades without really being heard. Currently, the more substantive segments of movements challenging the status quo share Habermas's insistence on the need for a qualitative transformation of the wor ld order (Boggs, 1986). Habermas's theory of communicative action is revolutionary in that it attempts to both characterize and provide a program for new conflicts which go beyond tradi t ional types of class conflict focused on relations of production and the welfare state: Such conflicts no longer pr imari ly concern the distr ibution of material goods, but rather cultural reproduction and social izat ion. . . Since they are an expression of the reif icat ion of the communicative order of the l i feworld, it follows that these tensions cannot be alleviated through further economic development, or technical improvements in the administrative apparatus of government. The new conflicts, and associated 4 social movements, derive from problems that can only be resolved through a reconquest of the life-wor ld by communicative reason, and by concomitant transmutations in the normative order of daily l i fe . (Giddens, 1987:241,242) The theory of communicative action provides a program for the transformation in theory and social organization which would completely eradicate relations based on force, dominat ion, oppression and competi t ion between individuals and within and between collectivi t ies. It runs counter to the adversarial relationship towards nature Western society has adopted with the scientific revolution. This is entirely consistent with feminist goals. A s a result of his conception of societal transformation, Habermas's theory is potential ly able to incorporate and inform a wide range of social movements - including feminist, environmentalist and anti-mili tarist -which reject orthodox frameworks of a l l kinds. Habermas's theory of communicative action is a notable attempt to inject vitali ty into current theoretical debate and to provide a theory capable of both reflecting and informing the new social movements which are attempting to radically alter the status quo. These new social movements are attempting to step outside the dominant paradigms of social thought and action. A n d , it provides the basis for a cri t ique of other anti-establishment movements which fa i l to question the basic quantitative paradigm and therefore fa i l to challenge the status quo. Habermas's theory of communicative action, therefore, offers an important opportunity to explore a promising area within social theory from a feminist perspective. Habermas's theory of communicative action is cr i t ica l of welfare state capital ism from a post-Marxist perspective and therefore is in conflict with the theoretical programmatic of the New Right . Habermas's failure to address this programmatic more comprehensively than he does must be attributed to the fact that he wrote at a time which just 5 preceded the wholesale attack on the welfare state launched by the New Right , and he wrote from within the context of the Federa l Republ ic of Germany which did not see the rise of the New Right to the same degree as did Uni t ed K i n g d o m and the Un i t ed States. (Whi le Volume I of The  Theory of Communicat ive A c t i o n was published in Engl i sh in 1984 and Volume II in 1987, Habermas completed the or iginal texts in 1981). Whi le Habermas views the welfare state negatively in terms of its role in the commodification of private life and the pacification of class conflict without substantive societal transformation, the (transatlantic) New Right is attempting to dismantle the welfare state entirely because it inhibits the operation of capital and undermines t radi t ional hierarchies. The New Right is regressive in that it is attempting both to return to the relative freedom of capital in its earlier period and re-institute a rigidly hierarchical society. Habermas developed his theory of communicative action within the context of an internat ional crisis in economic growth. The welfare state emerged and enjoyed success in the West during a period of economic prosperity and seemingly limitless possibili t ies for expansion. Now that l imits to growth have become a painful reality, the welfare state founders as it is caught between the need to pacify the mass of the populat ion with expensive social welfare measures and corporate demands for ever higher profits. Faced with economic crisis and the increasing inabil i ty of the welfare-state to facili tate 'class compromise' , modern social theory must both address the origins of the modern di lemma and propose solutions to it. Social ism, as proposed by Marx, has lost its credibil i ty as a desirable solution. Habermas wrote both volumes of The Theory of Communicative 6 A c t i o n before Soviet Perestroika or the crumbling of the B e r l i n W a l l and so addressed the fai lure of social ism in terms of the inadequacy of Soviet and Eastern European forms to provide models for Western societal transformation. Recent developments simply reinforce his perspective. W i t h this recognition and his attempts to forge a new path for social change, Habermas takes on yet another crucial theoretical and pract ical issue which belies the vastness of his project: The guiding thread of a l l Habermas's work, according to his own testimony, is an endeavour to reunite theory and practice in the twentieth-century wor ld . In the nineteenth century, Marx believed that his theory provided both an analysis of capitalist society and the means of changing it in practice, through the revolution of the proletariat . The revolut ion has not come about, and w i l l not do so, Habermas accepts, in the manner anticipated by Marx. . . .Marx 's conception of the unity of theory and practice is hopelessly inadequate in the late twentieth century. (Giddens, 1985: 124) Habermas is ult imately concerned to defend modernity and rationality from cr i t ica l onslaught, arguing that these concepts continue to be socially vibrant and indeed, necessary for human freedom. Both the importance of Habermas within the intel lectual community and the scope of his work make the theory of communicative action an ideal focus for feminist cr i t ic ism. To date, there has been l i t t le engagement by feminists with Habermas's theory as a whole but certain issues have been addressed - in Iris Young 's (1987) crit ique of Habermas's re-definit ion of rationality and argument for revi tal izat ion of the publ ic sphere, and Barb Marshal l ' s (1990) recent and as yet unpublished paper on Habermas's The Structural Transformation of the Publ ic Sphere (1962). Nancy Fraser (1987) offers a valuable and more comprehensive feminist critique of Habermas's theory of communicative action as a whole but is l imited by the 7 conventions of the essay form. The requirements of this thesis l imi t the scope of my effort as we l l . Nevertheless, I intend to do the fol lowing: in chapter two I w i l l explore the relationship between Habermas's dichotomy between instrumental and substantive reason and that posited by many feminists (Merchant , 1980; Morgan , 1982) to exist between 'male ' and 'female' reason. Furthermore, I w i l l use a postmodern/poststructural feminist analysis to cri t icize the notion of universal rationality endorsed by both Habermas and some radical feminists. A major contr ibution to the feminist movement and feminist theory is the slogan "the personal is po l i t i ca l" with an accompanying analysis of the ways in which a false dichotomy between the publ ic and private institutionalizes and obscures the oppression of women in Western society. In chapter three, Habermas's theory w i l l be evaluated in terms of his characterization of the relationship between the publ ic and private realms and the implicat ions for women in transformations he proposes. The notion of a contrast between system and l ifeworld potentially camouflages the part icular oppression women face. Consistent with the publ ic /pr ivate dichotomy, the dichotomy between system and l ifeworld may we l l overlook the experience of women as second class citizens not only as a result of the instrumental reason of the system but of the process of communicative action wi th in the l i feworld as we l l . Therefore, I w i l l examine Habermas's conceptualizat ion of the nexus between system and l ifeworld and relations and boundaries between publ ic and private spheres in this chapter. The transformative agents of Habermas's vis ion of social change are 'new social movements.' Habermas's account of the bases for and composit ion of these movements w i l l be analyzed from a feminist perspective in chapter four. A key focal area concerns his characterization 8 of the feminist movement itself. In order to bring Habermas's arguments into view as clearly as possible, they w i l l be contrasted with the poststructuralist feminist Project for Rad ica l Democracy outl ined by Ernesto Lac lau and Chantal Mouffe in Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (1985). The f inal chapter w i l l summarize and synthesize the arguments that I have developed in reference to Habermas's re-definit ion of rationality, his account of relations between system and l i feworld, public and private spheres, his treatment of new social movements, and, ultimately, his social vis ion itself and the means he proposes for achieving it. The implications of specific instances of androcentric bias in the theory of communicative action for Habermas's project as a whole w i l l be drawn out. F inal ly , the implicat ions for feminism as a result of its interaction with Habermas's Theory of Communicat ive A c t i o n w i l l be discussed. 9 CHAPTER TWO: HABERMAS'S APPROACH TO THE PROBLEM OF RATIONALITY In this chapter I w i l l provide an overview of Habermas's approach to the problem of rationality and cri t icize it from a feminist perspective. This feminist crit ique w i l l be based upon approaches to the problem of rationality presented by radical feminists and by feminists wri t ing wi th in the postmodernist/poststructuralist framework. Bo th Habermas's theory of communicative action and feminist approaches to the problem of rationality w i l l be discussed in relat ion to their challenges to prevail ing l ibera l humanist discourse. Ul t imately , Habermas's theory w i l l be evaluated in terms of the degree to which he successfully achieves his own goal of providing a grand theory which transcends that of l ibera l humanism. I: HABERMAS'S APPROACH TO THE PROBLEM OF RATIONALITY In the Theory of Communicat ive A c t i o n . Volumes I and II, Jurgen Habermas is pr imari ly concerned with a defense of reason. This defense is conducted on two fronts - a cr i t ic ism of the form of reason which predominates in modern Western society and a defense of modernity in the face of both conservative and radical cri t icisms. Habermas rejects both posit ivism with its exclusive reliance on ' te leological ' or instrumental reason and relat ivism with its wholesale rejection of universalism in favour of par t icular ism. Instead, he attempts to transcend this false e i ther /or debate with the presentation of his theory of communicative action. Habermas defends modernity against criticisms from both conservative and radical sources by insisting that the Enlightenment served as a necessary break with the past, a l lowing for a shift from a tradi t ional to a ra t ional basis of knowledge. The possibility of reflexivity, Habermas 10 argues, characterizes a society as more or less advanced. This model of social evolution, from the t radi t ional myth-based past to the modern, reason-based present, mirrors the model of the cognitive development of chi ldren developed by Piaget (1965). Habermas argues that social evolution follows the same three stages that Piaget outlines for the cognitive development of chi ldren. A s Giddens notes, these three social stages are the 'mythical ' , the ' religious-metaphysical ' , and the 'modern' . For Piaget, cognitive development is associated with a 'de-centring' process, in which the chi ld gradually moves away from a concentration upon its own immediate concerns and needs, towards an expanded awareness of the world and the needs of others. (Giddens, 1985: 133) Habermas argues that cul tural reflexivity resulted from the Enlightenment and was specifically made possible by the rat ional izat ion and secularization of Western society which produced a necessary dist inct ion between three spheres of existence - science, moral i ty / law, and art - corresponding to the three worlds - material , social , and aesthetic (Giddens, 1985: 133). The differentiation of these spheres as partly separable arenas of activity, however, also produced the inst i tut ionalizat ion of instrumental reason as the form of reason. Habermas responds to conservative criticisms of modernity by point ing out that the Enlightenment was a necessary break with the past which allowed us to move forward, that is, to base knowledge upon reason rather than re l igion, t radit ion or myth. Rad ica l criticisms of modernity and reason, however, are addressed by Habermas's insistence that, although the inst i tut ional izat ion of instrumental reason was a necessary first step within the modern project, this form of reason is inappropriately predominant. Indeed, Habermas offers an escape from Weber 's "iron cage", that is, from the paradox of modernity referred to by 11 Weber, by insisting on the need to redefine rationality. The defense of reason through redefini t ion is therefore both integral and paral le l to the defense of modernity. Max Weber conceived of rationality in solely instrumental terms. Consequently, he viewed the rat ional izat ion of society as a paradox, as an "iron cage" from which there was no escape. H e was torn between a reverence for ra t ional ism on the one hand and a fear of its consequences on the other. Weber observed that ra t ional izat ion creates a wor ld of technical efficiency and undemocratic administrat ion. Humanis t ic values, he insisted, have no place in the development of modern Western culture. Habermas agrees with Weber about the consequences of this form of rat ional izat ion but claims to rescue reason and modernity from cr i t ical onslaught by insisting that instrumental reason is only one form of reason and that others are possible. Habermas thus suggests an alternative to and an escape from Weber 's "iron cage" view of society as moving relentlessly toward greater and greater ra t ional izat ion through an ever-intrusive and dehumanizing bureaucracy. The instrumentalist, goal-oriented, dehumanized form of rationality which Weber both revered and feared has, as Habermas terms it, ' co lonized ' and dehumanized the wor ld of everyday l iving (the ' l i feworld ' ) (Habermas, 1984: 69,70). Habermas makes a dist inction between the system (economy, administrative and coercive aspects of the state) and the l i feworld (the wor ld of everyday l iving) . The relationship or nexus between system and l i feworld w i l l be the subject of a later chapter. Habermas argues that the instrumental reason of the system has invaded and distorted the l i feworld. For the l i feworld, which is by defini t ion social , this form of reason is anti-social and entirely 12 inappropriate. It drains the vitali ty from the process of social reproduction because of this contradiction (Bernstein, 1985: 23). Modern society is distorted by this form of rationality because it allows for, and indeed necessitates, relations of force and coercion. Consequently, the movement toward greater human freedom, ini t iated by the Enlightenment, has actually resulted in an increase in dominance and repression. U n l i k e Weber, however, Habermas insists that it is possible, once again, to expand the realm of human freedom and break out of the deadlock produced by the dominat ion of the instrumental rationali ty of the system over the l i feworld . This is to be accomplished by a redefini t ion of rationality. Expanding the concept of rationality is a basic requirement for the development of a theory of communicative action. This task requires not one but at least two paradigm shifts: from a model based on the philosophy of consciousness (the solitary thinker) to language analysis (in terms of actual speech or 'Ianguage-in-use') and within action theory from goal-directed purposive action to communicative action. Habermas argues for the abandonment of the subject-oriented philosophy of consciousness. Humans are, after a l l , social beings. Hence, the focus of sociological investigation must not be the relationship of the individual to the wor ld (subject/object) but rather that between individuals in relat ion to the wor ld (intersubjective). Habermas insists that individuals participate in a symbolically structured l ifeworld (Habermas, 1984: 236). The l ifeworld is the everyday world of human activity. It is ins t i l led with tradit ion and history, forming a backdrop to the "three spheres" of existence of the "objective world." It is the rationality of communicat ion between individuals which makes us uniquely human. Consequently, it is necessary to drop the model of the "solitary thinker" 13 consistent with the philosophy of consciousness (Habermas, 1984: v i i i ) . This model is problematic because it represents the subject as acting in an objectivating manner with the world rather than intersubjectively. Language analysis focusing on 'language-in-use' or actual speech allows for a conception of rationality which does not isolate individuals in an objective, objectifying and objectified relationship to each other and the material wor ld . Rather, it reflects the social nature of human beings and represents human communication as an activity oriented towards and constitutive of human community. If we assume that the human species maintains itself through the socially coordinated activities of its members and that this coordinat ion has to be established through communicat ion aimed at reaching agreement - then the reproduction of the species also requires satisfying the conditions of a rationality that is inherent in communicative action. (Habermas, 1984: 397) The abili ty to reason and act rationally is, for Habermas as for Ar is to t le and classical l ibera l theorists, what distinguishes a human being from an animal . However, in modern Western society, rationality has come to be thought of in solely teleological or instrumental terms, that is, in terms of purposive rat ional action. Rat ional i ty , in this sense, is construed quantitatively. Of course, this is consistent with and partially reflective of the imperatives of capital ism. In contrast to instrumental reason, Habermas puts forward a model of communicative rationality which is based on an integrative view of humanity, a focus on the community and the regenerative processes of communicat ion between individuals wi thin it. The theory of communicative action transcends the theoretical and practical dichotomy between individual ism and collect ivism by focusing on 14 the processes aimed at achieving understanding between individuals and within communities. Communicat ive rat ional action, Habermas argues, is prevalent in everyday l ife . When we implore a person to "be reasonable", we are asking h im or her to think cr i t ical ly, present cogent arguments for or against a proposit ion, and above a l l , to make a sincere attempt at reaching an understanding wi th us. We are not requesting, necessarily, that a more strategic outlook be adopted. In everyday life we recognize various types of rat ional action. Communicat ive rationality, as Habermas defines it, involves a communicative practice which, against the background of a l i feworld is oriented to achieving, sustaining and renewing consensus - and indeed a consensus that rests on the intersubjective recognition of cr i t ic izable val idi ty claims. The rationality inherent in this practice is seen in the fact that a communicatively achieved agreement must be based in the end on reasons. (Habermas, 1984: 18) Communicat ive rationality is, for Habermas, based solely on the "binding (or bonding)" force of the better argument (Habermas, 1984: 305). It is a process of consensus, that is, agreement arrived at freely, without coercion or force. Thus, Habermas is insisting that communicative rationality justifies social as opposed to anti-social behavior. Communicat ive action is ra t ional if it can be grounded in reason. For Habermas, this means that participants in the communicative process would be considered rat ional if they could provide reasons for their expressions. In this sense then, Habermas insists on a process of argumentation, acting as a court of appeal, that makes it possible to continue communicative act ion with other means when disagreements can no longer be repaired with everyday routines and 15 yet are not to be settled by the direct or strategic use of force. (Habermas, 1984: 18) Coming to an understanding or reaching an agreement without force or coercion is the central cr i ter ion of communicative rationali ty. Habermas insists that communicative action is ra t ional action in that it can be grounded in reason. This 'grounding' takes place through 'argumentation' . Argumenta t ion is the process whereby participants "thematize contested validi ty claims and attempt to vindicate or cri t icize them through arguments" (Habermas, 1984: 18). Habermas insists that there are four val idi ty claims which are universal and impl ic i t in a l l speech acts. These claims apply to pre-theoretical, theoretical , practical and aesthetic discourse. They are comprehensibility, truth, sincerity, and normative rightness. Anthony Giddens summarizes these claims as follows: in te l l ig ib le ; that its proposi t ional content is true; that I am justified in saying it; and that I speak sincerely, without intent to deceive. A l l of these claims are contingent or fa l l ib le , and a l l except the first can be cr i t ic ized and grounded by the offering of reasons. (Giddens, 1987: 229,330) These validity claims are made explicit through the process of argumentation. A s far as Habermas is concerned, therefore, knowledge is grounded in reason if it can be cr i t ic ized. In order for action to be considered communicatively rat ional , it must be oriented toward reaching understanding. This would be understood as a genuine attempt at achieving consensus, thereby precluding force or coercion. Habermas rejects the arguments with respect to rationali ty of both logical posit ivism and cul tural relat ivism. Log ica l positivists are solely concerned with instrumental reason and the purely quantifiable. They 16 insist that such rationality is universal . Cu l tu ra l relativists reject claims to objectivity and argue that there is no universal defini t ion of rationality. By redefining rationality, Habermas hopes to defend its universality while distancing himself from the logical positivist camp. A s Habermas's arguments for a redefini t ion of rationality have already been presented, I w i l l concentrate, at this point, on his arguments against the adoption of a perspective of cul tural relativity. Habermas opposes cul tural relativism as an abandonment of reason. Because it denies reflexivity, cul tural relativism denies reason. A n d , by abandoning universals, it abandons the belief in reason. Obviously, for Habermas, reason is by defini t ion universal . C r i t i c a l of positivism's narrow conception of rationality, he nonetheless shares the belief in universal cr i ter ia for knowledge. The very validi ty claims which he insists ground a l l areas of communicat ion, whether scientific (theoretical), pract ical (moral / legal ) or aesthetic, are universal . For Habermas, no dispute which can be tied to a validi ty c la im is beyond argumentation and hence the possibility of being grounded in reason. Habermas is concerned, in the development of critical, social theory (and he insists that social theory is necessarily 'c r i t ica l ' ) wi th the central problem of rationality on both theoretical and methodological levels (Habermas, 1984: 75). The solution to this problem is not the abandonment of rationality as cultural relativism insists. Rather, "the very situation that gives rise to the problem of understanding meaning can also be regarded as the key to its solution" (Habermas, 1984: 12). Accept ing the premise that the social scientist, in order to understand society must be capable of part icipating in it, as distinct from what is required of the physical scientist, Habermas incorporates c r i t ica l social theory as an 17 activity wi th in and crucial to social reproduction. Habermas equates the role of cr i t ical social theory vis a vis society with the role of psychoanalysis vis a vis the individual , in that the theorist or psychoanalyst assists the subject in self-reflexivity, thereby allowing the society or individual to understand itself and modify its or his or her actions (Giddens, 1985: 126). II: G E N E R A L P R O B L E M S IN H A B E R M A S ' S T H E O R Y In constructing his theory of communicative action, Habermas engages in a crit ique of the notion of rationality developed wi th in the l ibera l humanist t radi t ion. He dismisses some aspects of the l ibera l humanist conception of reason while retaining others. In this section I w i l l identify his crit icisms and begin to reveal the problematic nature of those aspects of l ibe ra l humanist philosophy which Habermas continues to embrace. For present purposes, l ibera l humanist philosophy can be reduced to four basic tenets. These are the notions of (a) abstract individual ism, (b) normative dualism, (c) universal , value-neutral rationality, and (d) the unitary subject. L i b e r a l humanism views human nature as ahistorical and fixed. The capacity to reason is what sets us apart from animals and it is this capacity which enables us to determine our own interests and needs. These interests and needs are not socially defined. This tenet of l ibera l humanist theory is label led 'abstract individual ism' (Jagger, 1983: 42). Habermas rejects the notion of abstract individual ism by rejecting the philosophy of consciousness and the solitary thinker and replacing it with a notion of rationality which is intersubjectively located. That is, reason, for Habermas, is not embodied in individuals but within relationships between individuals. Reason, therefore, is inherently social . 18 Habermas's notion of reason as social rather than individualis t ic is consistent with a powerful feminist cr i t ic ism of abstract individual ism. A s A l i s o n Jagger points out, in order to raise enough children to continue the species, humans must live in social groups where individuals share resources with the young and temporarily disabled. Human interdependence is thus necessitated by human biology, and the assumption of individual self-sufficiency is plausible only if one ignores human biology. (Jagger, 1983: 41) Thus, for l ibe ra l humanists, with their neglect of human biology and in particular reproductive biology, community and cooperation are problematic while self-interest and competitiveness are taken as given (Jagger, 1983: 41). Jagger argues that this is a part icularly male perspective in that, given the context of the sexual divis ion of labour within which l ibera l humanists wrote, only men were in a posi t ion to ignore the physical aspects of human survival. This sexual division further reflected a dualism within l ibera l humanism between mind and body. Normative dualism is the term used to describe this perspective of a natural dichotomy between mind and body, human and animal , man and nature, the rat ional and the i r ra t ional , and ult imately, male and female because males have been associated with the mind-human-rational side of the equation and females have been associated with the body-animal-nature-irrat ional side of the equation. Whi le Habermas rejects the notion of abstract individual ism and is seeking a more organic form of rationality, he nevertheless fails to completely reject this concept of normative dualism because he comes down clearly on the side of those who insist that rationality, however defined, is superior to irrat ionali ty. This leads to a further problem wi th in Habermas's theory of communicative action. 19 Habermas employs a clear dist inction between tradi t ional , i r ra t ional society and rat ional , modern society and hence implies a l inear model of social evolution. The form modernity has taken is presented as a wrong turn in the movement from the t radi t ional and i r ra t ional to the modern and rat ional . Whi l e cr i t ica l of the quantitative, polemical theories of social change which have predominated in sociology to date, Habermas nonetheless fails to challenge the notion of progress from tradit ion to modernity involving capital ism as at least an in i t ia l ly l iberat ing force. A s Marxists lament the dehumanizing consequences of capital ism and yet insist that it is a necessary stage in the development of socialism, Habermas laments the dehumanizing effects of teleological ra t ional izat ion and yet insists on viewing it as a necessary step towards a more comprehensive and humanistic ra t ional izat ion of society. Certainly, Habermas sees the form of rationality adopted in the West as distortive. Nevertheless, it has provided a basis for further rationali ty by breaking with tradit ion (Habermas, 1984: 52,53). The assumption of progress is unfounded and the dist inction between the t radi t ional and the modern is highly problematic. Such a dist inction has been convincingly cr i t ic ized wi th in the f ie ld of development theory as highly enthnocentric. A s Anthony Giddens remarks, "For Habermas...there is a real sense in which West is best" (Giddens, 1985: 133). Ult imately, Habermas's conception of history and social development is l inear and deterministic in that he envisions a movement towards the rat ional society from i r ra t ional beginnings. This linear view of social development highlights the universality of rationality according to Habermas. For Habermas, the cr i ter ia for rationality are universal . That is, language-in-use is presented as providing a basis for val idi ty claims which 20 are universal properties of speech and which can be appealed to in order to ground our actions in reason. Habermas insists that, if the process of argumentation is sincerely adhered to, the better - that is, the more reasonable - argument w i l l prevai l . A s Giddens notes, however, this is problematic: Tru th is agreement reached through cr i t ica l discussion. Here Habermas's standpoint seems to face a major difficulty. How are we actually to distinguish a ' ra t ional consensus' - one based upon reasoned argument - from a consensus based merely upon customs or power? (Giddens, 1985: 130,131) A s Iris Young (1987: 71) observes, Habermas's portrayal of the process of argumentation abstracts f rom the realities of communicat ion. Habermas ignores the impl ic i t relations of power which colour communicative practices. This is part icularly apparent as communicat ion takes place wi th in power configurations where participants are unequal. This is obviously problematic f rom a feminist point of view. Fo r example, Habermas insists that Actors are behaving rationally so long as they use predicates such as "spicy," "attractive," "strange," "terrible," "disgusting" and so forth, in such a way that other members of their lifeworlds can recognize in these descriptions their own reactions to s imilar situations. (Habermas, 1984: 17) Language has been identif ied particularly by feminists, but also by other oppressed groups, as a key way in which power relations are established, consolidated, and reinforced. The very meanings of terms, therefore, are inevitably mult iple and laden wi th power connotations. A p p l y the term "attractive" as a descriptive term for a woman, for example, and it w i l l have power connotations as we l l as different meanings for different members wi th in the same l i feworld . A n d , while some members of a l i feworld would 21 use the term "disgusting" to refer to homosexuality, other members would certainly not agree that this term reflects "their own reactions to similar situations." The issue of the plurali ty of language w i l l be examined more extensively later in this chapter. A s the fol lowing exploration of feminist criticisms of the universal notion of rationality and the conception of the 'unitary subject' reveals, conceptions of rationali ty reflect, perpetuate, and advance part icular relations of power. Such configurations are directly relevant to understanding gender relations. I l l : F E M I N I S T CRITICISMS - R A D I C A L A N D P O S T M O D E R N / P O S T S T R U C T U R A L In this section I w i l l explore two general alternative approaches to the issues of universal rationality and unitary subjectivity - tendencies wi th in radical feminist and that provided by postmodern and poststructural feminists. F r o m the radical feminist perspective, there are two approaches: the dismissal of reason and rationali ty entirely and the identif icat ion and denigration of 'male ' as opposed to 'female' reason. Whi le postmodern and poststructural feminism are not one and the same thing, their notable differences refer more to their emphases, with postmodernism orienting itself more historically in its cr i t ic ism of philosophy and poststructuralism more epistemologically. For present purposes, this dist inction is not relevant. Rather, a l l feminist criticisms examined here w i l l be applied to a notion of reason such as Habermas's , which posits an opposit ion between universal reason and non-reason. Whi le these criticisms w i l l be made somewhat generally, they w i l l ult imately be specifically applied to Habermas's theory of communicative action. Many radical feminists, notably Gr i f f i n (1978), Daly (1978) and R i c h (1976), have identified the glor if icat ion of reason with the maintenance of 22 patriarchy, and the predominance of rationality over irrat ionali ty with the oppression of men by women. A s stated earl ier , the normative dualism characteristic of l ibera l humanism posed a dichotomy between the rat ional and the i r ra t ional which was used to justify the dominance of the i r ra t ional female by the rat ional male. Rad ica l feminists have observed this relationship between patriarchy and rationality as a power configuration which has reflected and perpetuated itself. Some radical feminists have responded by dismissing rationality altogether as inherently male and hence oppressive while others have argued for an alternative, ' feminine' form of rationality. This latter group has argued that the predominance of the wrong kind of reason - 'male ' - produces not only the oppression of women but the social and environmental imbalance which characterizes the modern wor ld . Rad ica l feminists such as Daly (1978) and R i c h (1976) have demonstrated that the sciences and the social sciences have used the notion of objectivity as a way of masking assumptions and interests, of discounting subjective investment. One radical-feminist answer to this problem is to abandon t radi t ional rationality and celebrate i r ra t ional forms of discourse and subjectivity. (Weedon, 1987:28) This cr i t ic ism of what Nicholson terms the "Gods eye view" of the Academy is made both wi th in feminist theory and the philosophy of science (Nicholson, 1990: 3). Objectivity and universal truth are no longer readily acceptable as possible goals. Feminists insist, furthermore, that they are not desirable goals. Indeed, feminists, l ike other postmodernists, have begun to suspect that a l l such transcendental claims reflect and reify the experience of a few persons -mostly white, Western males. (Flax, 1990: 43) 23 Claims to objectivity and rationality have been used to justify existing power relations and to marginalize challenges to the status quo. Consequently, a number of radical feminists, arguing that reason, far from being value-free, is not only inherently a social construct but also a patr iarchal distortion of womanhood, have rejected rat ional means for challenging patriarchal society (Weedon, 1987: 99). Other radical feminists, however, have insisted upon the need to redefine rationali ty to reflect ' feminine ' values. The second tendency wi th in radical feminism addresses the problem of rationality by insisting on a dist inction between 'male ' instrumental reason and 'female' substantive reason. Argu ing against a dismissal of rationality entirely, this group insists, as does Habermas, that it is simply a case of modern society being dominated by the wrong type of reason. The 'female' k ind of reason is associated with the social , non-hierarchical , cooperative radical feminist v is ion while the dominance of the 'male' instrumental reason is associated with current social inequalit ies, environmental and mili tary crises (L loyd , 1984: 106). Both tendencies wi th in radical feminism, however, share the same basis for an alternative epistemology, that is, the belief that knowledge can only be based on personal experience. Thus, the universalistic form of rationality or rationali ty defined in universal terms is associated with 'maleness' and countered, by radical feminists, with a dismissal of abstract bases of knowledge in favour of experiential ones. This experiential, personal focus is consistent with a radical feminist (and humanist) assumption of a fixed essence of womanhood. A s Weedon observes, this project seeks to identify and promote the nature of true femininity: The radical feminist project is not to deconstruct the discursive processes whereby certain qualities come to be defined as feminine and others as 24 masculine nor to challenge directly the power relations which these differences guarantee. It is rather to revalue the feminine which patriarchy devalues as an alternative basis for social organization in separation from men. (Weedon, 1987:81) For both those radical feminists who associate 'maleness' irrevocably with reason and those who make a dist inction between 'male ' and 'female' types of reason, gender is viewed as fixed. Rad ica l feminists committed to the complete dismissal of reason as a tool of white, male power would dismiss Habermas's theory of communicative action outright, if not on the basis of his gender then certainly on the basis of his defense of reason. History has shown us, these theorists argue, that the notion of rationality is nothing more than the phi losophical expression of male privilege. Those feminists who argue for a redefinit ion of rationali ty along ' feminine' lines, however, have much in common with Habermas. Habermas's central thesis - that the ascendence of the wrong kind of reason in modern society, instrumental reason - is responsible for current social and economic crises, is s imilar to the radical feminist argument that 'male ' instrumental reason needs to be replaced by 'female' reason. N o doubt, both arguments have distinctly different bases concerning the notion of gender as problematic. The degree of convergence, although significant, is far from complete. Habermas wants the rationality of the l ifeworld to dominate the rationality of the system, rather than the other way around as is the case at present. F r o m a radical feminist perspective, then, it could be said that Habermas is suggesting that 'male ' instrumental reason be subverted by 'female' cooperative reason. A point of dissonance would very l ikely emerge, however, as it becomes clear that, according to Habermas, this 'female' reason is to be disciplined by what radical feminists would 25 certainly characterize as 'male ' validity claims on the basis of their universality. IV: A P O S T M O D E R N / P O S T S T R U C T U R A L F E M I N I S T C R I T I C I S M O F R A D I C A L F E M I N I S T A P P R O A C H E S T O T H E P R O B L E M O F R A T I O N A L I T Y Postmodern and poststructural feminist theory shares radical feminism's analysis of the defini t ion of reason as a property of power relations. L ikewise , this cr i t ic ism extends to the l ibera l humanist claims for the independence of truth from social context, the possibility of objectivity and the universality of reason. Rad ica l feminism's insistence on fixed meaning regarding gender identity and the epistemological basis of experience, however, is disputed. Indeed, the shortcomings of radical feminist approaches to the problem of rationality are revealed by postmodern/poststructural feminist cr i t ic ism to remain squarely wi th in and to result f rom the l imitat ions of the l ibera l humanist framework. Personal experience as the basis of knowledge for radical feminists is cr i t ic ized on two counts. In the first place, an essentialist conception of womanhood tends to preclude the variations in status dependent on class, race, and nationality which interact with but are relevant somewhat independently of gender in terms of their own historical specificity. A s Benhabib and C o r n e l l point out: Under ly ing the idea that there is an essential connection between feminist theory and the unique experience of women, is the seemingly unproblematic assumption that this experience can be identified and found to yie ld conclusions generalizable on the basis of gender. Th i rd W o r l d women have challenged precisely the assumption that there is a generalizable, identifiable and collectively shared experience of womanhood. (Benhabib and C o r n e l l , 1987: 13) 26 In the second place, postmodern/poststructural feminist critics of radical feminism point out that there is no such thing as pure experience. Experience gains meaning only through interpretat ion. The basic principles of poststructuralism are plural i ty of language and the impossibil i ty of fixing meaning permanently (Weedon, 1987: 85). In Foucault 's work, discourses are ways of constituting knowledge, together wi th the social practices, forms of subjectivity and power relations which inhere in such knowledge and the relations between them....They constitute the 'nature' of the body, unconscious and conscious mind and emotional life of the subjects which they seek to govern. (Weedon, 1987: 108) Individuals are subject to and participate in the competi t ion between various discourses. Experience, as such, is only meaningful as it is constituted in discourse. The constitution of experience in language reflects the individual 's relationship wi th in the struggle between discourses. Language, therefore, is no mere reflection of anything but rather a process whereby meaning is both assumed and produced. Experience, therefore, does not mean anything in itself. Thus, it is completely inadequate as a basis for knowledge. The notion of fixed meaning precludes historical and specific relations between competing discourses. This is the basis upon which poststructural feminism challenges the radical feminist commitment to fixed meaning wi th respect to gender: Poststructuralist feminism requires attention to historical specificity in the production, for women, of subject positions and modes of femininity and their place in the overal l network of social power relations. In this the meaning of b iological sexual difference is never f inally fixed. It is a site of contest over meaning and the exercise of patr iarchal power. (Weedon, 1987: 135) 27 A s such, this struggle has no end and meaning is never finally fixed. By valuing the ' feminine ' and label l ing it as such in opposit ion to the 'masculine' , radical feminists do employ a fixed notion of gender. A s L loyd (1984: 105) points out, this amounts to an acceptance of the l iberal humanist consti tution of the ' feminine' . Af ter a l l , the opposit ion between 'male' and 'female' is a social construct which has historically reflected patriarchal interests. The radical feminist approach of accepting the l ibera l humanist constitution of the ' feminine ' but countering its devaluation with valuation, is consistent wi th what poststructuralist theory terms "reverse discourse": W h i l e a discourse w i l l offer a preferred form of subjectivity, its very organization w i l l imply other subject positions and the possibili ty of reversal. Reverse discourse enables the subjected subject of a discourse to speak in her own right. (Weedon, 1987: 109) Reverse discourse is a valuable theoretical and po l i t i ca l tool as it creates room for resistant discourses. However, it is inadequate for challenging the offending discourse as a whole. U n t i l the impl ic i t assumptions of the discourse are challenged (the very assumptions which the reverse discourse are based upon) the capacity to subvert the discourse cannot be realized (Weedon, 1987: 110). Rad ica l feminism, in turning l ibera l humanism's devaluation of the 'feminine' on its head, retains a fixed view of gender identity which is highly problematic. A s the work of Ju l ia Kris teva (Weedon, 1987: 88,89) reveals, the constitution of the subject is always in process; subjectivity is constantly being constituted in language. Kris teva argues that there are two aspects of discourse - symbolic and semiotic - and that rat ional discourse marginalizes the semiotic in favour of the symbolic. Symbolic discourse refers to the 28 actual words of verbal or writ ten language while semiotic refers to body movements or 'body language' as we l l as the intonation which accompanies the art iculat ion of the symbolic aspects of language. This exclusion of an important part of discourse is done in an attempt to preserve the apparent stability of the unitary subject and thereby to fix the meanings of the symbolic order. (Weedon, 1987: 89) Now that we understand the creation of subjectivity as relating to configurations of power through the struggle of competing discourses, however, we see the suppression of the semiotic aspects of language to paral le l the suppression of the i r ra t ional by the ra t ional . Indeed, the power to define what is ra t ional is highlighted as a key aspect of the configuration of modern power relations (Weedon, 1987: 89). Rad ica l feminism's acceptance of 'masculine' and 'feminine' identities as fixed is both challenged by Kristeva's cr i t ic ism of the unitary subject, as has been demonstrated above, and supported by it. A s Weedon notes, Kr is teva associates the symbolic aspect of language with 'masculinity' and the semiotic aspect with ' femininity ' . Whi le Kris teva insists that a l l individuals , regardless of b iological sex, have access to both these aspects, Weedon correctly insists that although The effect of this theoretical move is to break with the b io logica l basis of making femininity and masculinity universal aspects of language, rather than the particular constructs of specific historically produced discourses, Kristeva 's theory loses its po l i t ica l equate the feminine with the i r rat ional , even if the feminine no longer has anything to do with women, is either to concede rather a lot to masculinity or to privilege the i r ra t ional , neither of which is very helpful pol i t ical ly . (Weedon, 1987: 89,90) 29 A postmodern/poststructural feminist perspective, therefore, views the ' feminine' and 'masculine' as entirely social constructs which reflect existing and his tor ical power configurations. A s such, they should not be treated as given, either naturally or normatively. V . A F I N A L C R I T I Q U E O F H A B E R M A S ' S N O T I O N O F R E A S O N Habermas has developed his conception of reason and indeed his entire theory of communicative action wi th in the framework of l ibera l humanism. A s this phi losophical framework is associated materially with both modernity and capital ism, this makes a great deal of sense. Habermas's a im, however, is to provide a grand theory which transcends l ibera l humanist phi losophical and material expressions. H i s notion of reason w i l l be evaluated, therefore, in light of postmodern/poststructural feminist criticisms of l ibera l humanism. In an earl ier section, four major tenets of l ibera l humanism were identified and cr i t ic ized. A g a i n , these are the commitments to notions of (a) abstract individual ism, (b) normative dualism, (c) the universality and value-neutrality of rationality, and (d) the unitary subject. Habermas dismisses the notion of abstract individual ism when he argues for a shift from the subject oriented philosophy of consciousness perspective of communicative action which locates rationality wi thin social relationships rather than individuals. This is a very positive step. Habermas does not, however, entirely escape the problems associated with normative dualism and he ultimately defends a universal, although redefined, notion of rationality and view of the unif ied subject. Habermas does provide much of value to feminist theory, notably by disputing objectivity and insisting upon the cr i t ica l theorists' inevitable 30 subjectivity. However, in many other respects he remains wel l within the l ibera l humanist problematic in ways that render his theory incompatible with a postmodern/poststructural feminist approach to the problem of rationali ty. In spite of his redefinit ion of rationality, Habermas continues to oppose reason to unreason with the corresponding devaluation of irrat ionali ty in favour of rationality. A s Iris Y o u n g (1987: 69) points out, Habermas has much to offer a feminist ethics as a result of his arguments against the reduction of reason to purely instrumental terms. In doing so, he poses a par t ia l challenge to what she terms deontological reason. Young 's conception of deontological reason is para l le l to the t radi t ional l ibera l humanist conception of reason as impar t ia l and universal . She insists that, for feminists, a dialogic conception of normative reason which implies reason as contextualized and "where answers come out of a plural i ty of perspectives and cannot be reduced to unity" is appropriate (Young, 1987: 69). Habermas, however, fails to truly transcend deontological reason in that he does not, in the end, define reason contextually and perspectively: he retains a commitment to the ideal of normative reason as expressing an impar t ia l point of view. Rather than arbitrari ly presuppose a transcendental ego as the impar t ia l reasoner, as does the deontological t radit ion, he claims that an impar t ia l point of view is actually presupposed by a normative discussion that seeks to reach agreement. (Young, 1987: 69) Fo r Habermas, consensus results from an ideal speech situation where part icular motives are suspended in favour of cooperatively seeking an agreement about truth. Clear ly , this reflects a universal notion of reason. This universal notion has been shown earl ier in this chapter to produce an ethnocentric, Eurocentr ic , l inear approach to social development which 31 posits a normative opposit ion between the modern and the tradit ional , the rat ional and the i r ra t ional . This universal notion has also been shown to be androcentric. Because Habermas insists upon a universalist ic understanding of normative reason, he impl ic i t ly assumes the unitary nature of subjectivity. A s has been established, this approach enables the powerful to define subjectivity in accordance with their own interests. F r o m a postmodern/poststructural feminist perspective, this fixity of meaning and subjectivity abstracts from the specific and historical configurations which shape gender identity. Young (1987: 71) insists that Habermas promotes an opposition between reason and unreason and desire. She l inks this to Kristeva's argument that universalist ic notions of reason suppress the semiotic aspect of language in favour of the symbolic: this model of communicat ion reproduces the opposi t ion between reason and desire because l ike modern normative reason it expels and devalues difference: the concreteness of the body, the affective aspects of speech, the musical and figurative aspects of a l l utterances, which a l l contribute to the formation of understanding of their meaning. (Young, 1987: 71) This supports the point I made earlier that Habermas neglects the impl ic i t aspects of power which conversants bring to the process of argumentation. Thus, by abstracting from real life communicat ion situations, Habermas's model is based on an ideal speech situation which denies a feminist awareness of the mult iple expressions and effects of power. Power is expressed semiotically as we l l as symbolically. In this light, Habermas's insistence that in communicative action the force of the better argument w i l l prevai l in the absence of coercion or force can be seen to be based on 32 an abstraction that cannot be meaningfully translated into everyday practice. Accep t ing both the semiotic and symbolic aspects of language forces us to accept a poststructuralist view of the subject as constantly in process and not statically represented in an ideal speech situation as Habermas would suppose. Habermas's theory of communicative action, therefore, while challenging important aspects of l ibera l humanist discourse - notably the asocial notion of abstract individual ism and the reduction of reason to a purely instrumental form - fails to transcend aspects of this framework which figure in the oppression of women as other. A s long as rationality and subjectivity are defined normatively in universal terms the historical and specific contexts for the creation and perpetuation of power configurations, on the basis of gender and other socially constructed differences, w i l l be ignored. F r o m a postmodern/poststructural feminist perspective with its emphasis on power as both a relationship and a process, the creation of character ideals and processes on the basis of universalistic notions of reason and subjectivity is inevitably and deeply problematic. 33 CHAPTER THREE: HABERMAS'S CONCEPTION OF RELATIONS BETWEEN SYSTEM AND LIFEWORLD AND PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SPHERES In this chapter I w i l l provide an overview of Habermas's conceptualizat ion of the relations between system and lifeworld and between publ ic and private spheres. F r o m a feminist perspective, of course, the relationship between private and public spheres is a central issue in any theoretical scheme for the transformation of society. Habermas's account of this relationship, wi thin what he considers to be the larger issue of the nexus between system and l i feworld, w i l l be outl ined and evaluated from a feminist perspective. This crit ique w i l l focus specifically on the relations between private and public spheres, the composit ion of each sphere, and the solution to the modern di lemma within this context proposed by Habermas. I: THE THEORY OF COMMUNICATIVE ACTION: RELATIONS BETWEEN SYSTEM AND LIFEWORLD; PUBLIC AND PRIVATE A s I outl ined in the previous chapter, Habermas's attempt to salvage modernity, in the face of conservative and radical cr i t ic ism al ike, rests on his argument that we have simply taken a wrong evolutionary turn. That is to say, the potential of modernity for heightened rationality remains, albeit unreal ized. The ra t ional izat ion of the lifeworld makes it possible to differentiate off autonomized subsystems and at the same time opens up the Utopian hor izon of a bourgeois society in which the formally organized spheres of action of the bourgeois (the economy and the state apparatus) form the foundation of the post-tradit ional l i feworld of the homme (the private sphere) and the citoyen (the publ ic spheres). (Habermas, 1987: 328) 34 Thus, according to Habermas, a l l we must do is reverse the relationship between the two forms of rationality, instrumental and communicative, so that it is communicative rationality which becomes decisive for the conduct of social l i fe . This is of course impl ic i t in Habermas's evolutionary model as a whole, where it is 'moral-pract ical ' action that is the pacemaker of social change and the means whereby society learns to overcome historically-specific crises (Habermas, 1979). Habermas insists that the pathology of our current form of modernity results from the incursion of system imperatives into the communicatively organized l i feworld. Instrumental rationality has "colonized" the l i feworld . Beginning with the emergence of classical capital ism and ending with the modern welfare state, Habermas describes the historical process whereby system - the official economy and the state - became differentiated from the l ifeworld - the publ ic realm of po l i t i ca l part icipat ion, opinion and w i l l formation and the private realm of the modern restricted nuclear family (Habermas, 1987: 310). Descr ib ing the interactions between the institutions within the respective spheres as wel l as the boundaries between them, Habermas insists that the main battle line in the fight to salvage modernity lies between system and l ifeworld (Fraser, 1987: 55). Under both classical and welfare state capital ism, relations are conducted through the media of money and power. RELATIONS BETWEEN SYSTEM AND LIFEWORLD UNDER CLASSICAL CAPITALISM Habermas defines societal modernizat ion on the basis of the differentiation between symbolic and material reproductive functions. Ma te r i a l reproductive functions are handed over to two institutions - the 35 state and the off icial economy - which are system integrated. These institutions are situated in the larger social environment with the development of two other institutions - the modern, restricted nuclear family and the publ ic sphere - which are socially integrated and specialize in symbolic reproduction (Fraser, 1987: 36,37). System and l i feworld , however, are not simply disengaged or detached from the l i feworld; they must be embedded in it. Concomitant with the beginnings of classical capital ism, then, is the development within the l i feworld of "institutional orders" that situate the systems in a context of everyday meanings and norms. (Fraser, 1987: 41) Moderni ty emerged hand in hand with capital ism. Thus, according to Habermas, the imperatives of capitalism influenced the shape modernity took, precluding for the time being a form dominated by communicative rather than instrumental rationali ty. Interactions between and wi th in system and l i feworld , and problems resulting from the incursion of system imperatives into the l i feworld, reflect this context. The structure of the modern wor ld is divided into four elements which comprise two distinct but related spheres (see diagram, Appendix A ) . The system, which is formally organized, systemically regulated, and dominated by instrumental rationality, is comprised of the state and the official economy. The l i feworld, which is socially organized, symbolically regulated, and dominated by communicative rationality is comprised of the private sphere (the family) and the public sphere (the pol i t ica l arena). Thus, there is a division between private (economy) and public (state) wi th in the system and wi th in the l i feworld - private (family) and public (pol i t ica l arena). A s the system is dependent on the l ifeworld for meaning, 36 interchange relations between system and l i feworld are based on roles which emerge wi th in the l i feworld. A s Habermas explains it, various social roles crystallize around these interchange relations: the roles of the employee and the consumer, on the one hand, and those of the client and the ci t izen of the state, on the other. (Habermas, 1987:319) Under classical capital ism, the roles of worker and ci t izen are central. The role of consumer takes on increasing importance with the development of welfare state capi tal ism as does that of client which emerges only under these conditions and replaces that of the c i t izen. Under classical capitalism, the family is l inked to the official economy through the role of the worker and hence through the medium of money. The private realm supplies the economy with appropriately social ized labour power in exchange for wages, and it provides appropriate, monetarily measured demand for commodified goods and services. (Fraser, 1987:41) The public arena is l inked to the state through the role of the ci t izen and hence through the medium of power. "Loyalty, obedience and tax revenues are exchanged for "organizational results" and po l i t i ca l decisions" (Fraser, 1987:41) The ideal of the bourgeois publ ic sphere wi th in the context of modernity as Habermas defines it was briefly real ized in Europe in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. This sphere, part of the l i feworld, lay between the absolutist state and private life and consisted of discoursing private persons bent on cr i t ic iz ing and ultimately curbing the absolutist power of the state. This model of the public sphere recognizes neither social differences nor privileges. Equal i ty of the members and general accessibility are assumed even if they cannot be real ized in specific situations. The revolutionary potential of the model is attributed to the fact that it makes possible, even demands, its applicat ion to a l l social groups. The publ ic sphere sees itself clearly distinguished both from the state and from the private domain. (Hohendahl , 1979: 93) Condit ions for the emergence of the publ ic sphere appear only wi th the advent of modernity. Moderni ty , wi th its rat ional as opposed to t radi t ional bases of knowledge, makes reflexivity possible. Consequently, the public sphere, unique in its inst i tut ional capacity for social reflexivity, emerges with the modern dist inct ion between material and social reproduction. This public sphere, according to Habermas, is v i ta l for the success of the modern project. W i t h it we have the means for the entrenchment of communicative rationality and the predominance of l ifeworld considerations over system imperatives. Without it, we have unl imited system expansion and a pathological form of modernity. The pattern of classical capitalist modernizat ion has been to suppress communicative rationali ty and inst i tut ionalize instrumental reason as the form of reason: capitalist modernizat ion follows a pattern such that cognitive-instrumental rationality surges beyond the bounds of the economy and the state into other, communicatively structured areas of life and achieves dominance there at the expense of mora l -pol i t ica l and aesthetic-practical rat ionali ty and...this produces disturbances in the symbolic reproduction of the l i feworld. (Habermas, 1987: 304,305) The path that modernity has historically fol lowed, therefore, has been one which has produced not a necessarily v i ta l public sphere capable of real izing the emancipatory potential of bourgeois ideals, but one which has overridden publ ic life and the social imperatives of the l i feworld with the asocial logic of the system. The system is properly organized instrumentally 38 while the l i feworld is properly organized communicatively. Such colonizat ion of the social by the asocial necessarily produces pathological consequences. R E L A T I O N S B E T W E E N S Y S T E M A N D L I F E W O R L D U N D E R W E L F A R E S T A T E C A P I T A L I S M The colonizat ion of the l i feworld by instrumental rationality commenced with classical capital ism but has been largely accomplished through the emergence of modern welfare state capital ism. Habermas terms his argument regarding the development of welfare state capital ism and the relat ionship between system and l ifeworld wi th in this context the thesis of inner colonization. Nancy Fraser outlines this thesis in the form of six related arguments. In the first place, Habermas states that welfare capital ism results from and emerges in response to the inabi l i ty of classical capital ism to contain class conflict. Therefore, Keynesian "market replacing" and "market compensating" factors are employed to avert social and po l i t i ca l crises. Thus, important and pol i t ica l ly fought for concessions are granted. Needless to say, however, a realignment of relations between the official economy and the state, and between system and lifeworld occurs. "Thus, welfare capital ism partial ly overcomes the separation of publ ic and private at the level of systems" (Fraser, 1987: 47). This has the effect of strengthening the system at the expense of the lifeworld - which is also weakened by the replacement of its public sphere of the ci t izen with the dependent relationship between l ifeworld client and bureaucratic state. Accordingly , Habermas's second argument concerns the changing nature of the relationship between system and l i feworld. Relat ions change in the fol lowing way: with respect to the private sphere there is an increased importance placed on the role of consumer and second, with 39 respect to the publ ic sphere, the importance of the ci t izen role declines. In its place emerges the new role of the social-welfare client (Fraser, 1987: 47). Third ly , these new arrangements, while "poli t ical ly fought for and vouchsafed in the interest of guaranteeing freedoms" nevertheless ultimately l imi t the scope of human freedom rather than increasing it (Habermas, 1987: 361). In a positive sense they have the effect of restraining the power of capital in the workplace and male dominance in the family. A n d yet, they tend perversely to endanger freedom. These means are bureaucratic procedure and the money form. They structure the entitlements, benefits and social services of the welfare system. A n d in so doing, they disempower clients, rendering them dependent on bureaucracies and therapeu-tocracies, and preempt their capacities to interpret their own needs, experiences and life problems. (Fraser, 1987: 47) The welfare state, therefore, rather than advancing the emancipatory project of modernity, has the opposite effect. The fourth argument Habermas develops in defense of his thesis of inner colonizat ion is that the incursion of system imperatives into the l i feworld , greatly accelerated in the welfare state, has pathological consequences. This occurs as domains of action appropriate to social organization are organized by system integration mechanisms. Such colonizat ion of the l i feworld results in reif ication and cultural impoverishment. Dehumanizat ion of society and the draining of vitality from public life reflect the uncoupling of system and l i feworld. Habermas's fifth argument is that the uncoupling of system and l i feworld that results from the inner colonizat ion of system and l ifeworld comes about only under the fol lowing circumstances: 40 - when tradi t ional forms of life are so far dismantled that the structural components of the l i feworld (culture, society, and personality) have been differentiated to a great extent; -when exchange relations between the subsystems and the l i feworld are regulated through differentiated roles... - when the real abstractions that make available the labour power of the employed and make possible the mobi l iza t ion of the electorate are tolerated by those affected as a trade-off against social rewards (in terms of time and money); - where these compensations are financed according to the welfare-state pattern from the gains of capitalist growth and are canalized into those roles in which, withdrawn form the world of work and the public sphere, privatized hopes for self-actualization and self-determination are pr imari ly located, namely, in the roles of consumer and client. (Habermas, 1987: 356) The modern welfare state has accomplished the inner colonizat ion of the l i feworld in that system and l ifeworld have become uncoupled. Rather than the l i feworld generating norms and meaning for the system, the system has distorted the l i feworld to the extent that meaning can be manipulated and extracted from it in keeping with system rather than l ifeworld imperatives. Habermas's f inal argument with regard to the thesis of inner colonizat ion is that the dismantling of the publ ic sphere and the distortion of the communicative practices of the l i feworld generate new pol i t ica l configurations. The rise of new social movements is, for Habermas, a direct response to the colonizat ion of the l i feworld (Habermas, 1987: 392). The nature and role of new social movements wi th in Habermas's theory of communicative action is the topic of chapter four. Ul t imate ly , Habermas paints a picture of modern society as having been thwarted from the path of emancipation by the predominance of the wrong kind of rationali ty in the form of system imperatives. The uncoupling of system and l i feworld reflects the dominance of instrumental rationality 41 over communicative rationality. The welfare state's specific contribution to the colonizat ion of the l i feworld can be traced to its role in strengthening the system at the expense of the l i feworld. Habermas's thesis revolves around the contention that the way to get back on track is to revitalize the publ ic sphere. This project stands in opposit ion to the objectives of the New Right which attack the welfare state from a different perspective. The project of the New Right seeks to reintroduce hierarchies that the welfare state has played a role in eradicating. This would involve the unl imi ted privatizat ion and complete commodificat ion of a l l spheres of life through the undermining of the publ ic sphere of the system - the state - as wel l as that of the l i feworld. In contrast, Habermas seeks to revitalize the public sphere of the l i feworld and see that it predominates over but does not cripple that of the system. T H E R E V I T A L I Z A T I O N O F T H E P U B L I C S P H E R E : T H E S O L U T I O N T O T H E M O D E R N CRISIS The revi tal izat ion of the publ ic sphere is the solution to the modern crisis for Habermas because it is the public sphere alone which has the capacity to contain the expansion of the system and hence preserve and expand the integrity of the l i feworld. The publ ic sphere, therefore, has a central place in Habermas's theory of communicative action, and for that matter, in his work as a whole. Indeed, its longstanding importance in the development of Habermas's conceptual scheme is indicated by the publicat ion in 1962 of his hook The Structural Transformation of the Publ ic Sphere. In the battle to save the l i feworld from colonizat ion by the system, the public sphere is the crucia l sector. The revi tal izat ion of the public sphere w i l l save both segments of the l i feworld - publ ic and private - al ike. 42 Habermas defends modernity against cr i t ic ism that it is by defini t ion pathological by insisting that it need not be. Pathological consequences result, not from modernity as such, but from the one-sided rat ional izat ion our society has pursued. It is not the uncoupling of media-steered subsystems and of their organizational forms from the l i feworld that leads to the one-sided rat ional izat ion or reif icat ion of everyday practice, but only the penetration of forms of economic and administrative rationality into areas of action that resist being converted over to the media of money and power because they are specialized in cultural transmission, social integration, and childrearing, and remain dependent on mutual understanding as a mechanism for coordinating action. (Habermas, 1987: 330,331) Indeed, for Habermas, bourgeois ideals retain their emancipatory potential and thus provide a basis for attempts at social transformation today (Marsha l l , 1990: 15). In particular, the ideal of the bourgeois public sphere should be pursued as it contains the potential to combat the colonizat ion of the l i feworld. A s Habermas remarks, "there is an indissoluble tension" between capital ism and democracy" (Habermas, 1987: 345). This tension reflects the emancipatory potential of bourgeois ideals in that it results from the continued vital i ty of the l i feworld in the face of incursion from system imperatives. After a l l , regardless of the extent of the colonizat ion of the l i feworld, the system st i l l depends on the l i feworld for legit imation. This dependency ultimately can be used against the system: "the fact that the steering media of money and power have to be anchored in the l ifeworld speaks pr ima facie for the primacy of socially integrated spheres of action over objectified systemic networks" (Habermas, 1987; 312). So although the l i feworld is manipulated and distorted by the system it remains the site 43 of potential resistance. Whi le the system distorts the communicative practices in the private sphere of the l i feworld, by turning social domains into bureaucratically and monetarily structured contingencies, it is the destruction of the public sphere of the l i feworld which is at the heart of the modern di lemma. The solution to the one-sided rat ional izat ion of both the private sphere and the publ ic sphere of the l i feworld, therefore, is the revi tal izat ion of the public sphere: The point is to protect areas of life that are functionally dependent on social integration through values, norms, and consensus formation, to preserve them from fa l l ing prey to systemic imperatives of economic and administration subsystems growing with dynamics of their own, to defend them from becoming converted over, through the steering medium of the law, to a pr inciple of sociation that is, for them, dysfunctional. (Habermas, 1987: 372,373) The potential embodied in the bourgeois public sphere, therefore, is a central aspect of Habermas's defense of modernity and rationality. II: A FEMINIST CRITIQUE OF HABERMAS'S ACCOUNT OF THE RELATIONS BETWEEN SYSTEM AND LIFEWORLD, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE The first cr i t ic ism concerns his conception of the roles that mediate between system and l i feworld . A s I out l ined in the previous section, under classical capital ism the role of the worker links the private family of the l i feworld with the off icial economy of the system. The private realm supplies properly social ized labour in exchange for wages and streamlines demand for commodities. The role of the ci t izen, on the other hand, links the l ifeworld's publ ic sphere - the po l i t i ca l arena - to the public sphere of the system - the state. Changes in relations between system and l ifeworld with the emergence of welfare state capital ism are highlighted by a change in the roles that serve as a conduit for interchange relations. The private 44 spheres of system and l ifeworld - family and off icial economy respectively -become l inked increasingly by the role of the consumer. Interchange relations between the publ ic sphere and the state witness the emergence of a new role - that of the social-welfare state client. Habermas ignores the gender subtext of these roles. This is a crucial and revealing oversight. A s Fraser insists, a feminist analysis reveals that, in addit ion to money and power, gender is a media of exchange in capitalist society (Fraser, 1987: 43). The role of worker in classical capitalism is very much a male role . A s Fraser points out, differences in the quality of women's presence in the paid workplace testify to the conceptual dissonance between femininity and the worker role in classical capital ism. (Fraser, 1987: 43) The consumer, in welfare-state capital ism is, on the other hand, a feminine role. Whether women work outside the home or not they hold primary responsibility for providing the home with consumer goods. Furthermore, the predominance of advertising aimed at women attests to the feminine gender subtext of this role . The role of cit izenship is obviously a male role in classical capital ism' as it is dependent upon an individual 's ability to participate in po l i t i ca l debate, publ ic opinion formation, and, crucially, to defend his country as a soldier in time of war. These capacities are historically construed as masculine not feminine (Fraser, 1987: 44). Indeed, the or ig inal Greek concept of the publ ic sphere was emphatically masculine and the role of ci t izen has remained true to its conception (Walby, 1986: 94-142). Likewise , the role of social-welfare client is predominantly a feminine role, with the bureaucratic and therapeutic apparatus of the patr iarchal state replacing the individual ized patriarch wi th in the family. Whi le men, too, receive social welfare benefits, the vast 45 majority of recipients are female. Indeed, this reflects the "feminization of poverty" under welfare capital ism (Jordan, 1989: 273-296). A s Fraser convincingly argues, these gender identities are not incidental to relations between system and l i feworld but reflective of the significance of gender in mediating relations between the four spheres (Marsha l l , 1990: 17). Af te r a l l , a l l these roles and their gendered subtexts have something in common in that they reflect and reinforce the power of men and the dependence of women. By ignoring this gendered subtext, Habermas misses the way that the masculine cit izen-soldier- protector role l inks the state and publ ic sphere not only to one another but also to the family and to the paid workplace, that is, the way the assumptions of man's capacity to protect and women's need of man's protect ion run through a l l of them. He misses...the way the masculine worker-breadwinner role links the family and official economy not only to one another but also to the state and the po l i t i ca l publ ic sphere, that is, the way the assumptions of man's provider status and woman's dependent status run through a l l of them...(Fraser, 1987: 45) A n d , importantly, Habermas completely ignores the way in which the connection between the four spheres is forged in the media of gender by means of the feminized childrearer role and the social izat ion of chi ldren to gendered subjectivity (Fraser, 1987: 43). Habermas seems to ignore the problematic aspects of gender. He could have expanded his understanding of money and power as media of exchange by examining the way they interact with gender in the construction of social , economic and po l i t i ca l institutions. But then this would necessitate a re-drafting of his system/lifeworld, publ ic /pr ivate model to incorporate an understanding of interactions as mul t id i rect ional . 46 The second major cr i t ic ism of Habermas's model concerns his separation between l ifeworld and system within the private sphere. Acco rd ing to Habermas, the private sphere of the system - the (official) economy - is system integrated because it is involved with material reproduction. The private sphere of the l i feworld - the family - however, is socially integrated because it engages in social reproduction. The separation between public and private at the level of the system and of at the level of the l ifeworld is based, therefore, upon a dist inction between material reproduction - that which is necessary for the physical survival of the individual and ultimately the human species - and social reproduction -that which concerns the social izat ion of the individual . I wish to argue that this dist inction, when analyzed in terms of its referents, the (official) economy and the family, is entirely ar t i f ic ia l . The (official) economy is not above and beyond contributing to the social izat ion of individuals - for example, workers learn much of what is expected of them in terms of behavior wi th in the workplace itself - but, more importantly, the activities involved in childrearing are not purely socially reproductive. Af ter a l l , infants are dependent on adult caregivers for b iological survival. Women involved in childrearing, therefore, are involved in material reproduction. Furthermore, the performance of domestic labour by women, although largely unpaid, is ignored. For example, I question the value of a conceptual scheme which labels the toilet-cleaning activity of a janitor in the official economy material reproduction and that of a housewife in the home social reproduction? This dist inction, when applied to labour typically performed by women is visibly inadequate. It also draws attention away from the fact that the household is a site of labour (albeit unpaid). Bo th the household and the paid workplace are sites where inequality and 47 subordination are the rule for women (Walby, 1986: 94-142). Habermas's model does l i t t le to explain this. Not only is the dist inction between material and social reproduction ar t i f ic ia l when applied to actual system and l i feworld contexts of women's work but Habermas's vis ion of the modern, restricted nuclear family ignores the fundamental inequality experienced by women. This combination of oversights serves to perpetuate the enclavement and feminizat ion of chi ldrear ing and domestic labour. The characterization of the private sphere as 'naturally' non-system mediated distorts the experience of women too. A feminist analysis of the nuclear family clearly reveals that it is far from being above mediat ion by money and power: Feminists have shown v i a empir ical analyses of contemporary fami l i a l decision-making, handling of finances and wife battering that families are permeated with, in Habermas's terms, the media of money and power. They are sites of egocentric, strategic and instrumental calculat ion as we l l as sites of usually exploitative exchanges of services, labour, cash and sex, not to mention sites, frequently of coercion and violence. (Fraser, 1987: 37,38) Famil ies are themselves economic institutions, therefore, and it is androcentric bias which permits them to be portrayed otherwise (Hartsock, 1983). Habermas tries to insulate modernity from any intrinsic responsibili ty for the oppressive nature of the nuclear family. He ascribes family situations which are oppressive to a failure to r id ourselves of the vestiges of our t radi t ional , premodern past. Ma le dominance is not incidental to modernity, however, but an integral part of it. It is certainly not merely a leftover from the tradi t ional and i r ra t ional premodern past. Af ter a l l , gender inequality mediates relations throughout the modern system and l i feworld. A s Fraser remarks, 48 male dominance is intrinsic rather than accidental to classical capital ism. Fo r the inst i tut ional structure of this social formation is actualized by means of gendered roles. It follows that the forms of male dominance at issue here are not properly understood as l ingering forms of premodern status inequality. They are, rather, intr insical ly modern in Habermas's sense, since they are premised on the separation of waged labour and the state from female chi ldrearing and the household. (Fraser, 1987:46) Habermas tries to rescue both modernity from its historical role in creating a private sphere of exploitat ion and oppression of women and he tries to rescue his Utopian vis ion of the l i feworld. Descr ib ing the l ifeworld as communicatively organized, Habermas is at a loss to explain the inequality and relations of force and coercion characteristic of the modern, restricted nuclear family. Habermas attempts to sanitize his communicative vis ion by making a distinction between 'normatively secured' and 'communicatively achieved' action contexts. Normatively secured action contexts apply to families whose achievement of consensus is questionable because of underlying or explicit relations of coercion or force or where such consensus is achieved pre-reflectively (Fraser, 1987: 38). This dist inct ion is helpful in distinguishing between genuine and ingenuine forms of consensus, but, as Fraser points out, it takes insufficient account of the contexts of power in which the modern nuclear family operates. Whi l e the private sphere is designated as such not by choice but by exclusion and while women's roles in both the private and public spheres of both system and lifeworld are subordinated to those of men's, a l l family dynamics are suspect. A s I mentioned in the previous chapter, Habermas pays too much attention to the process of communicat ion and not enough to the context. He ignores 49 the inherent structural inequalities which people bring with them to the bargaining table. Habermas's model tends to perpetuate or at least make invisible the unique oppression of women in at least two important ways. It ignores the inequality faced by women in both system and l ifeworld and it ignores the unique role of modernizing processes in establishing and restricting the concerns of women to a separate, private sphere. A s Fraser argues, Habermas has misconceptualized the arenas and boundaries of conflict where women are concerned: the struggles and wishes of contemporary women are not adequately clar i f ied by a theory that draws the basic battle l ine between system and l ifeworld institutions. F r o m a feminist perspective, there is a more basic battle l ine between the forms of male dominance l ink ing "system" to "lifeworld" and us. (Fraser, 1987: 55) Clear ly , Habermas has fai led to adequately identify and assess the problems faced by women in both classical and modern welfare-state capital ism. The fol lowing section w i l l evaluate his solution from a feminist perspective. PROBLEMS WITH HABERMAS'S PROJECT OF REVITALIZING THE PUBLIC SPHERE The appropriate starting point for feminist cr i t ic ism of Habermas's insistence on the revital izat ion of the publ ic sphere is to discuss the meaning of the feminist slogan, "the personal is pol i t ical ." This slogan emerged from the Amer i can feminist movement in the 1970s. Far from denying that a division between the personal and pol i t ica l exists, feminism instead seeks to alter the terms upon which this dist inction is made. Two principles which follow from this slogan are, first, that nothing be excluded in pr inciple from being an appropriate subject of public discussion, and 50 second, that "no persons, actions or aspects of a person's life should be forced into privacy" (Young, 1987: 74). Habermas's conception of the public sphere w i l l be discussed with these principles in mind. In the preceding chapter, Habermas's commitment to the bourgeois ideals of impart ial i ty and universality, as wel l as his opposit ion between reason and unreason, was outl ined and cr i t ic ized from a feminist perspective. I concluded that these principles were ultimately exclusive and argued that Habermas's theory of communicative action therefore fails to transcend important aspects of l ibera l humanist discourse which have figured in the oppression of women as other. I insisted that as long as rationality and subjectivity are defined normatively in universal terms, the historical and specific contexts for the creation and perpetuation of power configurations, on the basis of gender and other socially constructed differences, w i l l go unchallenged. A n examination of Habermas's commitment to the ideal of the bourgeois public sphere provides an opportunity to press this point further. The ideal of the bourgeois public sphere is defined by virtue of its impartial i ty and universality. The division between public and private, furthermore, specifically assigns particularity to the private sphere. The public sphere, therefore, is to be the realm where equals can discuss and debate, aiming for rat ional consensus. A t least two implications are apparent when this model is examined cri t ical ly. First , in light of a feminist analysis of the division between the personal and the po l i t i ca l , individual agency is negated by this model in that it is not what individuals choose to keep private but particularity that is forced into privacy. His tor ica l ly this has meant the exclusion of women and other marginalized groups from fu l l part icipat ion in the public realm. A n d this is not incidental - it is integral to the bourgeois notion of the separation between publ ic and private. Iris Young refers to Hannah Arendt ' s insistence that the private is "etymologically related to deprivation.. .The private, in this t radi t ional notion, is connected with shame and incompleteness...and, implies excluding bodily and personally affective aspects of human life from the public." (Young , 1987: 74) Part iculari ty becomes especially meaningful when we realize that power claims universality as its own; powerful groups define their interests and characteristics in universal terms while particularity is assigned to characteristics or individuals who are other: the dist inction between public and private as it appears in modern pol i t ica l theory expresses a w i l l for homogeneity that necessitates the exclusion of many persons and groups, part icularly women and racial ized groups culturally identified with the body, wildness and irrat ionali ty. In conformity with the modern ideal of normative reason, the idea of the public in modern po l i t i ca l theory and practice designates a sphere of human existence in which citizens express their rationality and universality, abstracted from their particular situations and needs and opposed to feeling. (Young, 1987:73) Women and/or women's part icular interests are excluded, historically and currently, from the realm of the universal. Participants in the public sphere are expected to be neutral. A s Simone de Beauvoir (1949) argued, however, neutrality is highly suspect as in the Western conceptualization of male and female, male is viewed as both positive and neutral while female is negative Habermas's commitment to the principles of universality and impart ial i ty therefore commit h im to a vis ion of a public realm which is inaccessible to women and other marginal ized groups. 52 Habermas's defense of modernity crumbles at this point. H i s argument that we have simply chosen the wrong form of modernity loses credibil i ty as we acknowledge that principles of exclusion are not incidental to bourgeois ideals but integral components. Feminists have shown that the theoretical and practical exclusion of women from the universalist public is no mere accident or aberration. The ideal of the civic public exhibits a w i l l to unity, and necessitates the exclusion of aspects of human existence that threaten to disperse...brotherly unity... especially the exclusion of women. (Young, 1987:59) A further and related point refers to the defini t ion of appropriate forms of discourse wi th in the publ ic realm. Habermas's persistent placement of rationality and irrat ional i ty as opposites rules out affectivity, passion, and play as forms of communicat ion (Young, 1987: 71). Ul t imately , the public sphere which Habermas insists must be revital ized is a rather restricted, restrictive, and oppressive social insti tution. Its openness is i l lusory; a l l may enter it providing they leave their particularity - their gender, sexuality, race, age, class and cultural background - at the door. The "neutral" individual which emerges after particularit ies are stripped, for a l l intents and purposes, is white, male and middle class. Habermas makes a good case for the need to revitalize the public sphere. F rom a feminist perspective this is not problematic in pr inciple . In fact, it is highly desirable and necessary. However, the nature of the public sphere and boundaries between the public sphere and the private must be revised. The first thing that a feminist conception of the public sphere must involve is the centrality of individual agency in deciding what is to be personal. The personal must therefore be understood as an individual 's 53 right to privacy. The second principle guiding a feminist conception of the public sphere is the need to allow for a mult ipl ici ty of forms of expression, not just sober, rat ional , discussion. A s Iris Young insists, the distinction between public and private should not reflect an opposit ion between reason and affectivity and desire, or between universal and part icular (Young, 1987: 73). Instead, the public realm must welcome affectivity, passion and play. Of central importance, universality and impart ial i ty must not be the guiding principles of the publ ic sphere. A consensus orientat ion overlooks particularity and partiali ty and assumes that there is something universal which underlies a l l our differences. A g a i n , this universality alludes to a conception of neutrality which is ar t i f icial and reflective of power configurations. The pursuit of compromise with the awareness of difference is a far more constructive goal. In short, a feminist perspective necessitates the abandonment of these l ibera l humanist ideals and the social, economic, and po l i t i ca l configuration of modernity. 54 CHAPTER FOUR: NEW SOCIAL MOVEMENTS - AGENTS OF CHANGE IN HABERMAS'S THEORY OF COMMUNICATIVE ACTION In chapter two of this thesis, my critique of Habermas's treatment of the problem of rationality was based upon a postmodern/poststructural feminist analysis. This analysis played a role in the chapter three, highlighting the social constitution of private and publ ic domains as wel l as identifying the role of power configurations in determining the appropriateness of certain forms of expression over others. This fourth chapter is designed to cri t icize Habermas's conception of new social movements - in terms of or igin , composit ion, and intended role. Habermas's treatment of new social movements is selected for cr i t ic ism because of the central role these movements play, according to Habermas, in pursuing the societal transformation he advocates. I w i l l begin this chapter by summarizing Habermas's approach to new social movements. Then, I w i l l juxtapose to it a postmodern/poststructural feminist perspective regarding new social movements contained within the book Hegemony and Socialist Strategy by Ernesto L a c l a u and Chantal Mouffe (1985). The primary project in the book is to argue for the radical deepening of the democratic imaginary, or project. A s for Habermas, Lac lau and Mouffe, although they, l ike others (Geras, 1987) express discomfort with the term, new social movements contain the potential , albeit ambiguous, for transforming society into a radical democracy. Fo l lowing my summaries of Habermas's and Lac lau and Mouffe's approaches, several cross-currents between the texts w i l l be identified and explored. Of particular interest, of course, w i l l be issues which lend themselves readily to feminist analysis. For example, an issue which 55 immediately demands attention is the way the different texts conceptualize feminism within the context of new social movements. A s out l ined in chapter three, Habermas considers the main battle in the fight to save modernity and human potential (for he believes the two are inextricably l inked) to lie between system and l i feworld. The focal goal for societal transformation is the revi tal izat ion of the public sphere and hence the strengthening of the l i feworld at the expense of system imperatives. A strong, communicatively achieved public sphere w i l l l imi t system imperatives to their appropriate domains, protect communicative rationality in the private sphere from distortion, and, ultimately, ensure that the system is functionally dependent oh the l i feworld for meaning rather than the other way around. The goal of Habermas's normative arguments in his theory of communicative action is to "decolonize the l ifeworld" f rom system imperatives. Habermas makes an analogy which explains his use of the term 'decolonize ' , but in so doing he reveals the masculinity of his vis ion through the language he uses: When stripped of their ideological veils, the imperatives of autonomous subsystems make their way into the l i feworld from outside - l ike colonia l masters coming into a t r iba l society - and force a process of assimilat ion upon it. The diffused perspectives of the local culture cannot be sufficiently coordinated to permit the play of the metropolis and the wor ld market to be grasped from the periphery. (Habermas, 1987: 355) The uncoupling of system and l i feworld, resulting from the erosion of the publ ic sphere under welfare-state capitalism, leaves the l i feworld vulnerable to system incursion. A t this point it is necessary to consider the means by which Habermas believes decolonizat ion may occur and what specific results he envisions from this process. Of central importance, then, 56 is the issue of agency in his scheme of societal transformation. Hence, the fol lowing section w i l l focus on Habermas's conception of the origin, composit ion, and potential of "new social movements," while this chapter as a whole w i l l cr i t ical ly analyze this aspect of the theory of communicative action from a pr imari ly but not exclusively feminist perspective. I: N E W S O C I A L M O V E M E N T S IN H A B E R M A S ' S T H E O R Y O F C O M M U N I C A T I V E A C T I O N While not disputing the class nature of capitalist society, Habermas insists that central axioms of Marxist theory, although relevant for the nineteenth century context of classical capital ism in which they emerged, fa i l to address current issues, specifically those identified with the development of the modern welfare state. Habermas is attempting to reconstruct his tor ical material ism with this in mind. Accord ing to Marx, class conflict was both the major source of social tension and the means for societal transformation. Whi le acknowledging that this was true for classical capital ism Habermas insists that the modern source of conflict lies between system and l i feworld. Correspondingly, wi th in this antagonistic relationship lies the potential for positive social change: In the face of class antagonism pacified by means of welfare-state measures...and in the face of the growing anonymity of class structures, the theory of class consciousness loses its empir ical reference. It no longer has appl icat ion to a society in which we are increasingly unable to identify class-specific lifeworlds. (Habermas, 1987: 352) This change in the locus and source of conflict has profound implications for the basis and instigation of societal transformation. Whi le for Marx the proletariat or working class were the "harbinger of revolution," welfare-state capital ism has produced a "class compromise" which has neutralized the revolutionary potential of the working class (Giddens, 1985: 135). 57 Marx wrote during the period of classical capital ism when the contingencies of the market were unbuffered for the most part by the state and conflict between classes was founded on the most basic issues of survival for the worker and profit for capitalists. Today, a combination of market regulation by the state to lessen fluctuations and their impact, the inst i tut ionalizat ion of unions and the collective bargaining process in many sectors, and the existence of welfare measures for the economically disenfranchised, mean that: Class longer have the hard edge they did in the nineteenth century; and the labour movement is not today the leading agency of social change. (Giddens, 1985: 135,136) New conflicts have emerged which have new contestants and require new forms of struggle. The New Right, however, faced with these new challenges, is engineering a return to conditions of classical capital ism. Thus, as Habermas sees it, there is also the struggle between those movements which endeavour to expand the l i feworld at the expense of the system - the welfare state - and those which attempt to revert to pre-welfare state capitalist conditions. Accord ing to Habermas, the new conflicts are not conflicts over distr ibution, conflicts which the welfare state emerged to pacify, but conflicts which go beyond the realm of material reproduction. They emerge, rather, in the realms of cultural reproduction, social reproduction, and social izat ion. The reif icat ion of communicatively structured domains of action that w i l l not respond to the media of money and power, resulting from the colonizat ion of the l ifeworld by system imperatives, is the basis for the new conflicts: The issue is not pr imari ly one of compensations that the welfare state can provide, but of 58 defending and restoring endangered ways of life. In short, the new conflicts are not ignited by distr ibution problems but by questions having to do with the grammar of forms of l i fe . (Habermas, 1987:392) New conflicts emerge from both the overburdening and the undermining of the l i feworld. Three main crises characterize modern welfare-state capitalism, crises which the welfare state was neither designed to nor capable of addressing. Indeed, the welfare state is at the root of much of modern pathology. These crises concern legi t imation, problems of excessive system complexity, and environmental l imitat ions. The first crises, that of legit imation, stems from what Habermas terms the "indissoluble tension" between capital ism and democracy (Habermas, 1987: 345). Legi t imat ion crises which characterize welfare-state capital ism arise from the dependency of the system on the l i feworld for legi t imation. A t the same time, the colonizat ion of the l i feworld by the system renders the l i feworld increasingly incapable of providing this legit imation. In Marx 's time, "false consciousness" both resulted from and prevented the masses from seeing the contradictions inherent in capital ism. In welfare-state capital ism, in contrast, Habermas states that false consciousness has been replaced with "fragmented consciousness." Whi le this fragmented consciousness allows the masses to be somewhat duped by the system, it also renders the l i feworld increasingly incapable of providing a basis for legitimacy. A s Anthony Giddens (1985: 136) remarks, according to Habermas, under welfare state capitalism polit ics is reduced to the matter of who can run the economy best. A s this orientat ion is consistent with system imperatives rather than social ones, the state is increasingly unable to provide moral leadership or adequately address issues of values. Thus, the majority of the populat ion feels no commitment to the state. This 59 is, for Habermas, an expression of the inadequacy of system imperatives when faced with the requirements of the social realm: because of its confined technocratic character, the pol i t ica l order lacks the legitimate authority which it needs to govern. Rather than economic contradiction, the tendency to legi t imation crisis is for Habermas the most deep-lying contradiction of modern capital ism. Just as class division and economic instabili ty gave rise to the labour movement in the nineteenth century, so this emerging contradict ion tends to spawn new social movements in the twentieth century. (Giddens, 1985: 136,137) The modern, structurally differentiated l ifeworld is the only source of legit imation for the state and is hence the basis for the tension between capitalism and democracy (Habermas, 1987: 359). Modern capital ism has survived because of the pacifying and regulatory role of the welfare state. The state, in turn, depends on the l i feworld for legi t imat ion. The imperatives of the l i feworld, however, clash with those of the system and the disintegration of the public sphere under capital ism has undermined the legitimating capacity of the l i feworld. The second related crisis - that concerning the problems of increasing system complexity - concern the forcing of abstractions on the l i feworld and the implications of technology gone wi ld (Habermas, 1987: 395). Anxiety-producing cognitive dissonance plagues individuals wi thin the l i feworld as a result of contradictions which emerge between moral and technical imperatives. Here , Habermas refers to a new category of risks - those associated with technological capacities for the destruction of humanity and the world , and those resulting from the uncoupling of this technology from lifeworld constraints (Habermas, 1987: 394,395). Technology, in other words, has become a runaway train. The inabil i ty of the l i feworld to comprehend, let alone control the system, is at issue here. In this sense 60 then, the system is out of control and people know it but are at a loss as to how to regain some form of control . "Green" problems, a term which Habermas uses to characterize the problems plaguing our environmental well-being, are the third crisis. Green problems result from the impingement of system imperatives ( industr ial izat ion) on not only the physical quality of the l i feworld but on the living wor ld itself, present and future. This tension between system and l ifeworld priori t ies is a focus of new forms of conflict. New conflicts do not take place between classes, as nineteenth-century conflicts/struggles did, but "arise along the seams between system and l ifeworld" (Habermas, 1987: 395). The conflicts result from the colonizat ion of the l i feworld by system imperatives and therefore concern resistance to the technicization of the functions of symbolic reproduction and impingements on the quality of life (Habermas, 1987: 351): The new polit ics have to do with quality of life, equal rights, individual self-realization, part icipat ion, and human rights. (Habermas, 1987:392) There is an overal l crit ique of growth binding the new movements together, a critique which finds no endorsement in the labour movement or in the tradit ion of bourgeois emancipation movements (Habermas, 1987: 393). A s the locus of the new conflicts is the boundary between system and l i feworld, Habermas sees the focus of protest as being just those roles (discussed in chapter three) which perform interchange relations between system and l ifeworld v ia the media of money and power. These new conflicts challenge not only the conditions under which these roles are fulf i l led but, unlike earl ier struggles, the nature and dimensions of the roles themselves: Al ternat ive practice is directed against the profit-dependent instrumentalizat ion of work...the 61 market-dependent mobi l iza t ion of labour power, against the extension of pressures of competi t ion and performance a l l the way down into elementary school. It also takes aim at the monetarization of services, relationships, and time, at the consumerist redefinit ion of private spheres of life and personal life-styles. Furthermore, the relat ion of clients to public service agencies is to be opened up and reorganized in a participatory mode, along the lines of self-help organizations. (Habermas, 1987: 395) Above a l l , Habermas insists, new forms of protest challenge the definit ion of cit izen and notions of self-interest consistent with purposive-rational action in the domains of health care and social policy (Habermas, 1987: 395). "New social movements," as Habermas and others cal l them, include a wide variety of social groupings. What they have in common are their concerns not with material reproduction but issues relat ing to the quality of life - physical and social - and forms of protest that are sub-institutional or extra-parliamentary. Nei ther the party system nor t radi t ional interest group lobbying is sufficient for dealing with these new conflicts. New social movements include the anti-nuclear, peace and environmental movements, the psychoscene of support groups and youth sects, religious fundamentalism, the tax protest movement, school protest by parents' associations, resistance to "modernist" reforms, and the women's movement. O n the international level, Habermas includes movements for regional, cul tural , religious and linguistic autonomy (Habermas, 1987: 393). These movements generally find their base of support within the new middle classes, the younger generation, and the more educated sectors of the populat ion. This is in contrast to "old poli t ics" supported by employers, workers and middle-class t radesmen (sic) (Habermas, 1987: 392). 62 Habermas makes several distinctions within the general category of new social movements. A l l distinctions are based on the degree to which these movements attempt to decolonize the l i feworld: Decoloniza t ion encompasses three things: first, the removal of system-integration mechanisms from symbolic reproduction spheres; second, the replacement of (some) normatively secured contexts by communicatively achieved ones; and third, the development of new, democratic institutions capable of asserting l i feworld control over state and (official) economic systems. (Fraser, 1987: 49) New social movements are classified according to what Habermas considers to be their emancipatory potent ial on the basis of the above principles. In the first place, Habermas distinguishes between movements with emancipatory potentials and movements with potentials for resistance and withdrawal: "The resistance and withdrawal movements aim at stemming formally organized domains of action for the sake of communicatively structured domains, and not at conquering new territory" (Habermas, 1987: 393). Thus, movements such as religious fundamentalism are not ultimately emancipatory because, although they work against system intrusion into the l ifeworld, they oppose the abandonment of any normatively secured action contexts and do not pursue the development of genuinely democratic pol i t ica l institutions. Movements l ike peace and ecology, in contrast, are genuinely emancipatory providing they avoid retreating into part icularism and isolationist communities (Fraser, 1987: 49). Movements must challenge the hegemony of the system if they are to be considered genuinely emancipatory. If they do not, they are "more symptomatic than emancipatory: they express the identity disturbances caused by colonizat ion" (Fraser, 1987: 49). 63 Habermas makes a second dist inction between new social movements whose defense of the l i feworld is based on tradi t ional access to property and privilege and those which "already operate on the basis of a rat ional ized l i feworld and tries out new ways of cooperating and l iving together" (Habermas, 1987: 394). Habermas uses this dist inct ion to separate the protest of t radi t ional middle classes against attacks on their relative advantages form those which comprise the core of a new conflict potential.. .youth and alternative movements for which a crit ique of growth sparked by themes of ecology and peace is the common focus. It is possible to conceive of these conflicts in terms of resistance to tendencies toward a colonizat ion of the l i feworld. (Habermas, 1987: 394) These "core" new social movements are genuinely emancipatory and are the vehicle Habermas looks to for the achievement of the decolonizat ion of the l i feworld. Of central importance, given the topic of this thesis, is Habermas's categorization of the feminist movement according to the above cri ter ia . For Habermas, the feminist movement is difficult to peg. O n the one hand, he considers it to be part icularist ic and hence connected to non-emancipatory but defensive social struggles: the emancipation of women means not only establishing formal equality and el iminat ing male privilege, but countering concrete forms of life marked by male monopolies. Furthermore, the historical legacy of the sexual division of labour to which women were subjected in the bourgeois nuclear family has given them access to contrasting virtues, to a register of values complementary to those of the male wor ld and opposed to one-sidedly rat ional ized everyday practice. (Habermas, 1987: 393,394) 64 Habermas also extends his critique of part icularism among new social movements to the feminist movement, observing tendencies towards "retreat" into communities and identities organized "around the natural category of biological sex" (Fraser, 1987: 49). O n the other hand, the feminist movement is unique among the new social movements in that it both retains l inks to bourgeois l iberat ion movements, remaining rooted in "universalist morality" and, as Fraser observes, according to Habermas's cri ter ia for genuinely emancipatory social movements, it is offensive in that it is aimed at "conquering new territory" (Fraser, 1987: 49). The feminist movement, among new social movements, is particularly emancipatory in that it is attempting to expand realms of communicative action beyond their historical l imits . Thus, according to Habermas's cri teria, his characterization of the feminist movement is contradictory. The feminist movement is both part icularist ic and universalistic, offensive and prone to withdrawal or "retreat", genuinely emancipatory and simply reformist. In his discussion of new social movements as agents of societal transformation, Habermas is least specific about the means by which these movements are to achieve the decolonizat ion of the l i feworld. He does offer several clues, however. H e takes note of idealist ic programmatic conceptions which focus on the "partial disintegration of the social roles of employees and consumers, of clients and citizens of the state" which are intended to clear the way for counterinstitutions that develop from within the l i feworld in order to set l imits to the inner dynamics of the economic and pol i t ica l -administrative action systems. These institutions are supposed, on the one hand, to divert out of the economic system a second, informal sector that is no longer oriented to profit and, on the other hand, to oppose to the party system new forms of a "politics in the first person," a poli t ics that is 65 expressive and at the same time has a democratic base. (Habermas, 1987: 396) For Habermas, these ideals, although unrealist ic, "are important for the polemical significance of the new resistance and withdrawal movements reacting to the colonizat ion of the l ifeworld" (Habermas, 1987: 396). In other words, the adoption of such an orientat ion leads certain new social movements to develop truly emancipatory potential by pursuing the revi tal izat ion of the public sphere, thus creating pol i t ica l institutions capable of challenging the hegemony of the system. Habermas's point is that it is not possible to protect areas of life which are functionally dependent on social integration through a purely defensive posture. Institutions which are communicatively rat ional must be developed to curb the influence of the instrumental rationality of the system. Al though he does not develop a pract ical program, Habermas does hint at the centrality of the role of mass communications in decolonizing the l i feworld, based on what he terms their "ambivalent potential": These media publics hierarchize and at the same time remove restrictions on the horizon of possible communicat ion. The one aspect cannot be separated from the other - and therein lies their ambivalent potential . (Habermas, 1987: 390) Whi le acknowledging that "video plural ism" and "television democracy" are no more than "anarchist visions" at the moment, Habermas insists that the l i feworld can not only defend itself from mass media manipulat ion but can make use of it. However systemically colonized, the mass media is based in the l ifeworld, through professional codes of journal ism, for example, as wel l as content (Habermas, 1987: 391). Mass media is therefore a contestable area, a realm wi thin which the imperatives of system and l ifeworld clash. Habermas's remarks in this respect suggest that new social movements 66 make popular part icipat ion in mass communications a primary focus of struggle. Habermas devotes l i t t le attention to the specific and pract ical means by which emancipatory new social movements are to achieve the decolonizat ion of the l i feworld, beyond providing the above suggestions as to appropriate foc i . Perhaps a practical program w i l l be the subject of a later work. II: T H E P R O J E C T F O R R A D I C A L D E M O C R A C Y : L A C L A U A N D M O U F F E ' S C O N C E P T I O N O F N E W S O C I A L M O V E M E N T S L i k e Habermas, Lac l au and Mouffe (1985) believe that Marxist principles concerning the primacy of class conflict and the revolutionary role of the working class are irrelevant for Western society today. However, theirs is pr imari ly a crit ique of Marxist essentialism, while Habermas, although he does object to Marx 's economism, insists that Marx was right in his time but has become outdated. For Lac lau and Mouffe, the democratic revolution is a continuous process which was set in motion in the nineteenth century, with the French Revolu t ion introducing the democratic imaginary: This break with the ancien regime, symbolized by the Dec la ra t ion of the Rights of M a n , would provide the discursive conditions which made it possible to propose the different forms of inequality as i l legit imate and anti-natural, and thus make them equivalent as forms of oppression. Here lay the profound subversive power of the democratic discourse, which would allow the spread of equality and liberty into increasingly wide domains and therefore act as a fermenting agent upon the different forms of struggle against subordination. (Lac lau and Mouffe, 1985: 155) The introduction of the democratic imaginary with its two themes of equality and liberty provided the potential , therefore, for unl imited conflict. Lac l au and Mouffe describe this process as the introduction of 67 radical indeterminacy - nothing is absolute. What happens as a result of this potential is equally indeterminate - nothing is fixed. Lac l au and Mouffe cite Lefort 's insistence that the radical difference which democratic society introduces is that the site of power becomes an empty space...Democracy inaugurates the experience of a society which cannot be apprehended or control led, in which the people w i l l be proclaimed sovereign, but in which its identity w i l l never be definitely given, but w i l l remain latent. (Lac lau and Mouffe, 1985: 186,187) The introduction of the democratic imaginary and the dissolution of absolutism in the nineteenth century has shaped the poli t ics of the twentieth century. Lac lau and Mouffe employ the term 'hegemony' to understand western societies since the introduction of the democratic imaginary in the nineteenth century. 'Hegemony' , L a c l a u explains, "means the contingent ar t iculat ion of elements around certain social configurations - historical blocs - that cannot be predetermined" (Lac lau , 1988: 16). In contrast to the absolutism that preceded it, therefore, hegemony consists of social struggles without fixed boundaries and power with no predetermined locus or form. Lac l au and Mouffe insist that 'new social movements' is an unsatisfactory term as it amalgamates a series of very different struggles at the level of the relations of production, which are set apart from the 'new antagonisms' for reasons that display a l l too clearly the persistence of a discourse founded upon the privileged status of 'classes'. (Lac lau and Mouffe, 1985: 159) Nevertheless, they accept the term 'new social movements' pragmatically because of its common usage and say that it is pointless to argue any further about its appropriateness. They see new social movements as worthy of 68 attention because they are playing a novel role in the advanced industrial context. New social movements articulate the rapid diffusion of social conflictuality to an ever increasing number of relations (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985: 159). Lac lau and Mouffe conceive of these movements as an extension of the democratic revolution to a whole new series of social relations. A s for their novelty, this is conferred upon them by the fact that they ca l l into question new forms of subordination. (Lac lau and Mouffe, 1985: 160) These movements are highly diverse but, according to Lac lau and Mouffe, they do have in common their differentiation from typically 'class' struggles (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985: 159). New social movements, or 'new antagonisms', as Lac l au and Mouffe prefer to ca l l them, are different than but related to historical democratic struggles. Some continuity exists because of the legacy of the egalitarian imaginary stemming form liberal-democratic ideology. New social movements extend this imaginary in unprecedented and radical ways. The discontinuity exists largely because of vastly different historical circumstances. The f ield of social conflictuality has been expanded in relat ion to three significant developments - the commodificat ion and bureaucratization of social relations resulting from the implanting and expansion of capitalist relations of production and the growing intervention of the state; the reformation of l ibera l ideology as a result of the expansion of struggles for equality; and, f inal ly, new cultural forms resulting from the growth of mass communicat ion: the new struggles - and the radical izat ion of the older struggles such as those of women or ethnic minorit ies - should be understood from the double perspective of the transformation of social relations characteristic of the new hegemonic formation of the post-war per iod, and of the effects of the displacement into new areas of 69 social life of the egalitarian imaginary constituted around the l iberal-democratic discourse. (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985: 165) Lac lau and Mouffe emphasize the mult ipl ic i ty of social relations from which new antagonisms emerge. C i v i l society itself is included as a context within which relations of subordination exist (Lac lau and Mouffe, 1985: 179). Relat ions of subordination, as such, are not sources of conflict, not by definit ion anyway, Lac l au and Mouffe insist. What is important, rather, is that such relations are identified and called into question. This socially constitutive process transforms relations of subordination - "that in which an agent is subjected to the decisions of another" - into relations of domination - "the set of those relations of subordination which are considered i l legi t imate from the perspective, or in the judgement, of a social agent external to them" - which, can be transformed into relations of oppression - "those relations of subordination that have been revealed as arbitrary by identifying them as relations of oppression in this way." The movements taking up the project of radical democracy seek to transform those relations of subordination which they deem oppressive - either those relations of subordination already in existence or those which are introduced or threatened: in every case what allows the forms of resistance to assume the character of collective struggles is the existence of an external discourse which impedes the stabil izat ion of subordination as difference. (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985: 159) In keeping wi th the ' radical unfixity' produced by the democratic imaginary, however, neither the subject of an antagonism, its form, nor its contestants, can be predetermined (Lac lau and Mouffe, 1985: 159). 70 What L a c l a u and Mouffe term the "deepening of the democratic revolution" refers to the prol i ferat ion of antagonisms based on the cal l ing into question of various relations of subordination (Lac lau and Mouffe, 1985: 163). The democratic project is furthered in this way and much of this expansion occurs through chain reactions - as one form of subordination is called into question, it leads to questions being posed about others. This is what Lac lau and Mouffe consider to be an important aspect of the revolutionary power of the democratic imaginary, arguing that its liberatory potential is l imit less. They carefully point out, however, that its potential is also ambiguous: It is precisely this polysemic character of every antagonism which makes its meaning dependent upon a hegemonic art iculat ion to the extent that...the terrain of hegemony practices is constituted out of the fundamental ambiguity of the social , the impossibil i ty of establishing in a definite manner the meaning of any struggle, whether considered in isolat ion or through its f ixing in a re la t ional system. (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985: 170) Consequently, L a c l a u and Mouffe make a dist inct ion between radically democratic new social movements which function on the basis of radical indeterminacy and go beyond criticisms based on democratic logic to provide proposals for a new order and those movements which are at best opposit ional or at worst, be they right or left, universalist ic. Argu ing from a postmodern/poststructural feminist perspective, Lac l au and Mouffe highlight the importance of renouncing the unitary subject and notions of universal human nature. This is highly relevant for understanding the or igin, constitution, and aims of new social movements. The publ ic sphere, tradit ionally and historically, has been constructed as the arena for the expression of democratic ideals through 71 the part icipat ion of certain individuals who qualify as citizens. The underlying principle of the public sphere is that wi th in this space, differences are to be erased. These differences are assigned room only in the private realms. The public is to express the universal, the private the particular. Many new social movements, those consisting of marginalized groups in particular, respond to the so-called universality of the public sphere by showing that its very universality excludes them on the basis of their highly relevant part iculari ty. A critique of principles of universality and the unitary subject allows us to see the purely social and hence arbitrary construction of these boundaries: What has been exploded is the idea and the reality itself of a unique public space of constitution of the po l i t i ca l . What we are witnessing is a pol i t ic iza t ion far more radical than any we have known in the past, because it tends to dissolve the dist inction between the public and the private, not in terms of the encroachment on the private by a unified publ ic space, but in terms of a prol i ferat ion of radically new and different pol i t ica l spaces. We are confronted with a plurality of subjects, whose forms of constitution and diversity it is only possible to think of if we rel inquish the category of 'subject' as unified and unifying essence. (Lac lau and Mouffe, 1985: 189) Radica l ly democratic new social movements contest universalism in principle and in practice and, logically, question the boundaries between the public and private spheres. Lac lau and Mouffe insist that, with the prol i ferat ion of new antagonisms and 'New Rights ' , a massive social crisis is inevitable and impending. Of course, its form or resolution cannot be predetermined (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985: 168). They argue on behalf of a project for 72 radical democracy, insisting that many new social movements have adopted it already, whether impl ic i t ly or explicit ly. Rad ica l democracy is founded on two major premises: "the rejection of privileged points of rupture and the confluence of struggles in a unified pol i t ica l space, and the acceptance, on the contrary, of the plurali ty and indeterminacy of the social" (Lac lau and Mouffe, 1985: 152). This involves, necessarily, both the renunciation of the unitary subject and the rat ional society as ideals and as possibil i t ies. A s Lac lau and Mouffe insist, these ideas are mythical (Lac lau and Mouffe, 1985: 191). The renunciation of the unitary subject opens up a new range of possibil i t ies. A s we recognize that antagonisms are constituted on the basis of different subject positions, we now have a theoretical terrain on the basis of which the notion of radical and plural democracy...finds the first conditions under which it can be apprehended. (Lac lau and Mouffe, 1985: 166) A thoroughly radical pluralist democratic movement seeks nothing less than the recognition of difference and particularity as important but wi thin the context of equivalence and egali tarianism. Lac l au and Mouffe insist that we must not abandon l ibera l -democratic ideology "but on the contrary...deepen it and expand it in the direct ion of a radical and plura l democracy" (Lac lau and Mouffe, 1985: 176). The basis of their argument is that the affirmation of individual rights wi th in l ibera l ism is a permanent and powerful characteristic of Western consciousness: the conversion of l iberal-democratic ideology into the 'common sense' of Western societies la id the foundation for that progressive challenge to the hierarchical pr inciple which Tocquevi l le called the 'equalizat ion of conditions ' . (Lac lau and Mouffe, 1985: 160) 73 This characteristic is, importantly, unfixed. That is, although l iberal ideology can be conservatively interpreted, particularly in narrow economic terms, to support the agenda of the New Right , it can also be radically interpreted. His tory has shown us, Lac lau and Mouffe argue, that l iberal ideas of individual rights have been radically extended and the potential to take this powerful ideology much further remains. Contrary to conservative interpretations of the rights of the individual , we must radically interpret and understand these rights to be exercised fully only within a collective context which is based on equal rights for a l l (Lac lau and Mouffe, 1985: 184,185). Furthermore, not only are individual rights to be interpreted radically, but the spheres in which they exercised must be radically enlarged. Thus, democratic rights must be exercised, not only in the tradi t ional publ ic sphere of citizenry, but in a l l sectors, such as the economy and the family. Here , Lac l au and Mouffe explain the place of socialism in a project for radical democracy: every project for radical democracy implies a socialist dimension, as it is necessary to put an end to capitalist relations of production, which are at the root of numerous relations of subordination; but social ism is one of the components of a project for radical democracy, not vice versa. (Lac lau and Mouffe, 1985: 178) Rad ica l democracy, with its comprehensive emancipatory potential , must be understood to be a continuation of the democratic project init iated in the nineteenth century. Liberal -democrat ic ideals, interpreted as being radically unfixed, are therefore at the heart of the current project. Rad ica l democracy is a l l about potentiality and is therefore open to non-liberatory interpretations. Problems include the conservative potentials of ambiguous principles and movements: 74 The forms of art iculat ion of an antagonism...far from being predetermined, are the result of hegemonic struggle. This affirmation has important consequences, as it implies that these new struggles do not necessarily have a progressive character. (Lac lau and Mouffe, 1985: 169) Many l iberal-democratic ideals have been employed by the New Right in their efforts to reconstruct a hierarchic society. In addit ion, tendencies toward unifying aspects of the social threaten us with the logic of total i tarianism. O n the other hand, we face the dangerous possibility of a complete lack of unity where the unfixity of meaning is taken to lengths so extreme that l i teral ly nothing matters. As Lac l au and Mouffe insist, art iculat ion must never be viewed as fixed and must be constantly re-created. But, this ar t iculat ion of the recognition of social logics must be made. These are problems which the Left must confront should it take up the project for radical democracy. The task of the Left is, for Lac l au and Mouffe, to take on the project for radical democracy, thereby locating itself fully in the f ield of the democratic revolut ion and developing a new 'common sense' based on the equivalence of different struggles against oppression. The Left must endeavour to develop itself and its agenda wi th in this context. Lac lau and Mouffe insist that the Left must go far beyond the mere polit ics of opposit ion to provide proposals for the positive reconstruction of the social order. A central aspect of this endeavour is the creation of a social context of equivalence. Po l i t i ca l spaces must be mult ipl ied and concentration of power prevented (Lac lau and Mouffe, 1985: 178): Fo r the defense of the interests of workers not to be made at the expense of the rights of women, immigrants or consumers, it is necessary to establish an equivalence between these different struggles. It is only on this condit ion that struggles against power become truly democratic, and that the demanding of rights is not carried out on the basis of an individual is t ic problematic, but in the context of respect for the rights to equality of other subordinated groups. (Lac lau and Mouffe, 1985: 184) Each movement, each struggle, therefore, w i l l have its own particular agenda but if this agenda involves achieving goals at the expense of the rights of others, real democratic rights are denied to a l l . This involves a shift in the poli t ics of the Left from universalism which is ultimately exclusive to an inclusive radical democracy: there is no radical and plura l democracy without renouncing the discourse of the universal and its impl ic i t assumption of a privileged point of access to 'the truth', which can be reached only by a l imited number of subjects. (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985: 191,192) The task of the Left , therefore, is to empower itself through empowering others. Only in this way can it be radically democratic. Ill: CROSS-CURRENTS BETWEEN THE THEORY OF COMMUNICATIVE ACTION AND THE PROJECT FOR A RADICAL DEMOCRACY While Lac l au and Mouffe 's thesis is not immune to cr i t ic ism in itself (see Geras, 1987; Mouze l i s , 1988), such an undertaking is beyond the scope of this thesis. For my purposes I hope it has sufficed to outline their project for radical democracy in order to bring Habermas's theory of communicative action into as sharp a contrast as possible. Whi le Habermas insists that new social movements are a response to the colonizat ion of the l i feworld by system imperatives, L a c l a u and Mouffe consider these movements to emerge from and engage in a process of questioning relations of subordination. These relations of subordination result, not from the one-way flow of system imperatives into the l ifeworld which Habermas depicts, but from a multitude of sources - the state and the 76 economy certainly, but also from the so-called private realm and civi l society. Habermas depends on an inherent human capacity for communicative rationality for emancipatory potential . In contrast, Lac l au and Mouffe cite the specific historical process which introduced a democratic imaginary into western consciousness as the potential means for societal transformation. The differences between Habermas's theory of communicative action and Lac l au and Mouffe's project for radical democracy are philosophical ly and practically significant. Analysis from a feminist perspective can, I think, establish this in a powerful way. Nancy Fraser (1987) makes a strong cri t ic ism of Habermas's conception of the colonizat ion of the l i feworld by system imperatives as the basis of modern pathology and for the existence of new social movements. She insists that a feminist analysis reveals it as inadequate and, correspondingly, so too the scheme of decolonizat ion which he proposes as the means for its resolution. In the first place, Fraser argues, the process of ' colonizat ion ' is portrayed by Habermas as unidi rect ional and negative. System imperatives impinge on the l i feworld with negative consequences. In actuality, Fraser insists, by thematizing the gender subtext of the roles of worker, consumer, ci t izen, and client, and adding that of childrearer, the ambiguous effects of the welfare state on women's lives is revealed. Whi le women in the postwar period have experienced new forms of domination, these have been accompanied by a heretofore unreal ized degree of economic and po l i t i ca l emancipation: Above a l l , it has been an experience of conflict and contradict ion as women try to do the impossible, namely, to juggle simultaneously the existing roles of childrearer and worker, client and ci t izen. The cross-pulls of these mutually 77 incompatible roles have been painful and identity-threatening, but not simply negative. Interpellated simultaneously in contradictory ways, women have become split subjects; and, as a result, the roles themselves, previously shielded in their separate spheres, have suddenly been opened to contestation. (Fraser, 1987: 52) The removal of system imperatives from l i feworld spheres does not address the subordination women experience in the workplace of the family and it ignores the mult idirect ional i ty of causal influence, positive and negative. Fraser is also cr i t ical of Habermas's insistence on the need to reverse the direct ion of influence and control from the system to the l i feworld without challenging the actual organization of the system. This is problematic in two ways. In the first place, l i feworld norms are far from homogeneous although Habermas's portrayal of the l ifeworld tends to be monol i thic . Whi l e Habermas views the major conflicts to exist between system and l ifeworld he misses the significance of conflict within the l ifeworld - the contestation of male and female roles and notions of masculinity and femininity being a case in point. We are reminded of Fraser's insistence that Habermas has drawn the battle line at the wrong point - between system and l ifeworld rather than between relations of subordination and those of emancipation which exist within ail social spaces (Fraser, 1987: 55). In the second place, strengthening l ifeworld institutions at the expense of systemic incursion fails to challenge the very hierarchical and oppressive basis of the system itself: If the real point is the moral superiority of cooperative and egalitarian interactions over strategic and hierarchical ones, then it mystifies matters to single out l i feworld institutions - the point should hold for paid work and pol i t ica l administration as wel l as for domestic life. (Fraser, 1987: 52) 78 Habermas seems to treat the imperatives of the system as given. In this sense, we can see that although he has escaped one aspect of Weber's iron cage, that of the inevitabil i ty of instrumental rationality to penetrate and dehumanize all of society, he has accepted the seeming necessity of letting instrumental rationality c la im and hence dehumanize at least a significant segment of society. Habermas has made a deal with the devi l . Fraser is most accepting of the second element of decolonizat ion, that which concerns the replacement of normatively secured action contexts with communicatively achieved ones. But, she notes, Habermas fails to achieve the potential he suggests. New social movements, Fraser argues, are involved in struggles over the meanings and norms at a number of levels - within social movements a wel l as those underlying government and corporate policy. Habermas restricts his theory to an understanding of struggles waged erroneously "over systems media above" and fails to thematize altogether the "contestation for hegemony over the 'socio-cultural means of interpretation and communicat ion '" (Fraser, 1987: 52,53). The strength of Lac l au and Mouffe's work is precisely their ability to conceive of the mult idirect ionali ty of causes of relations of subordination and their conception of meaning as being unfixed and therefore open to a perpetual and conflictual process of interpretation and construction. Habermas embraces a universalistic notion of rationality and bases his argument for the need to revitalize the publ ic sphere on this opposit ion between reason and unreason. L a c l a u and Mouffe deny universalism altogether and consequently argue, not for the revital izat ion of the public sphere, but for the mul t ip l ica t ion and dispersion of pol i t ica l spaces and the repudiation of the ar t i f ic ia l boundaries between public and private realms. 79 Lac l au and Mouffe agree with feminist analyses of the purported universal nature of the public realm which see its historical role as one of marginal izat ion of women and racial minorit ies in particular. Lac l au and Mouffe's conception of new social movements involves the celebration of the particular which Habermas views negatively but Iris Young (1987) finds to be a central impetus and role of new social movements. New social movements, she insists: have begun to create an image of a more differentiated public that directly confronts the allegedly impar t ia l and universahstic state....The women's Movement.. .has claimed to develop and foster a distinctly women's culture and that both women's specific bodily needs and women's situation in male-dominated society require attending in public to special needs and unique contributions of women. (Young, 1987: 75) The conceptualization of new social movements developed by Lac l au and Mouffe is consistent, therefore, with the postmodern/poststructural feminist crit ique of universal rationality outl ined in chapter two and with the corresponding crit ique of the bourgeois public sphere developed in chapter three of this thesis. Habermas and L a c l a u and Mouffe make s imilar distinctions between new social movements which are defensive and those which are potentially transformative and between those, which challenge relations of oppression and those which seek to re-insti tutionalize certain forms of hierarchy. Habermas makes his distinctions on the basis of a three-fold project of decolonizat ion while L a c l a u and Mouffe base theirs on the principles of radical democracy. Both theoretical bases have been outl ined above. Habermas both praises the feminist movement as being uniquely emancipatory in that it breaks new ground in expanding realms of communicative action beyond their historical l imits and condemns it as 80 defensive in its tendency to withdraw into part icularism. Lac lau and Mouffe, in contrast, herald feminist tendencies which are cr i t ical of universalism as being in the forefront of the project for radical democracy. Lac lau and Mouffe see feminism as a historical development, emerging first with the publ icat ion of Mary Wollstonecraft 's book A Vind ica t ion of the Rights of Women in 1792. Wollstonecraft "determined the bir th of feminism through the use of the democratic discourse" (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985: 154). This understanding of feminism as a historical process is based on Lac l au and Mouffe 's argument, explored earlier, that relations of subordination do not become relations of oppression and hence contestable unt i l they are subjected to scrutiny and revealed as arbitrary. Wollstonecraft used the democratic discourse to initiate this process of questioning. Other feminists (Donovan, 1987: 8; Jagger, 1988: 38) locate Wollstonecraft 's work wi th in the genre of enlightenment l ibera l feminism and acknowledge her book as a "classic" in feminist theory. They, however, focus more on the shortcomings of l ibera l discourse when applied to feminist concerns which Wollstonecraft 's work highlights. A l l feminists do not agree that Wollstonecraft is, as Lac lau and Mouffe would have it, the "mother" of modern feminism, but they generally acknowledge that there is a degree of continuity from that early movement to the present day one. L a c l a u and Mouffe argue that since the publicat ion of Wollstonecraft 's book, feminism has undergone a process which reflects the increasing radical izat ion of l iberal-democrat ic ideals: it was a question of gaining access for women first to pol i t ica l rights; later to economic equality; and, with contemporary feminism, to equality wi th in the domain of sexuality. (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985: 156) 81 A n d , in keeping with their insistence on the hegemonic art iculat ion of new or radical ized older antagonisms, there are mult iple tendencies wi th in and against feminism, a l l struggling to define its terms and their meaning. Tendencies towards withdrawal are not necessarily understood as belonging outside the domain of 'strategies of construction of a new order ' or as refusals to participate in the democratic process, but rather, potentially, as Lac lau and Mouffe conceive of a mult ipl ici ty of pol i t ica l spaces, one form among possible others for advancing the project for radical democracy. In keeping with their conception of the unfixed nature of antagonisms, also, they view feminism as a col lect ion of competing tendencies, some more radical than others, rather than a monol i thic movement. Nancy Fraser (1987) raises three cr i t ical points concerning Habermas's conception of feminism within his various categories of new social movements. In the first place, she challenges his failure to make a dist inction between short-term and long-term strategies in his dismissal of cul tural feminism's tendency toward withdrawal: cultural separatism, while inadequate as long-term pol i t ica l strategy, is in many cases a shorter-term necessity for women's physical, psychological and moral survival; and separatist communities have been the source of numerous reinterpretations of women's experience which have proved pol i t ical ly fruitful in contestation over the means of interpretation and communicat ion. (Fraser, 1987: 54) I am incl ined to believe that Fraser does not go far enough in challenging Habermas's distinction between feminist pol i t ica l engagement and so-cal led apol i t ica l engagement. This cr i t ic ism of feminist separatism comes often from the male Left and goes largely unchecked by al l but the most radical feminist writers. I believe that a defense which is less reductionist than that which radical feminism tends to offer is more appropriate. In the 82 first place, feminists who 'separate', separate themselves not from society in general but from the part icular society of men - the 'mainstream' society which has been created by men and dominated by men at the expense of women, not to mention minori t ies . It is important to realize that 'society' is another term which connotes generality but which, in reality, connotes the particularity of male-dominated sectors. The society of women is certainly no less social . This devaluation of a counter society of women must be understood as suspect when it is made by men whose theoretical schemes continue to exclude women and assume masculine norms. In the second place, much of the cr i t ic ism of feminist separatism coming from the male Left can be understood as resentment and jealousy at feminist withdrawal of women's organizational services. In many cases, feminists have withdrawn into organizing with and on behalf of women alone on the basis of a healthy refusal to tolerate the misogyny of the male Left or to take responsibility for eradicating it or 'healing' the rifts which have arisen from it. Habermas's condemnation of feminist tendencies can be understood as frustration at women's refusal to jo in in ' larger ' projects such as his. It is fair to argue that, before he has a right to complain at women's lack of part icipation in such theoretical designs, his theory must genuinely and fully include us. The second point Fraser raises in connection with Habermas's conception of the feminist movement concerns his dismissal of feminist identif ication with the body. A s Fraser (1987) notes, Habermas does wel l to be cr i t ica l of b io logica l reductionism but not to ignore the historical and social significance of women's bodies: women's struggle for autonomy necessarily and properly involves, among other things, the 83 reinterpretation of the social meanings of our bodies. (Fraser, 1987: 54) Women's bodies have been and continue to be the physical sites of struggles over power and meaning and therefore are a significant component of the feminist problematic. Fraser's third point refers to Habermas's endorsement of universalism and condemnation of part icularism on a theoretical level . Habermas is appealing to a universal notion of distributive justice and concerned about the undermining effects of part icularism on a project to further it. Rather than challenging the very possibili ty of universality, as postmodern/poststructural feminists do, Fraser holds back, cautioning Habermas against dismissing part icularism out of hand. Indeed, Fraser embraces a universal notion of distributive justice as being consistent with feminist goals. She excuses certain forms of part icular ism from Habermas's condemnation by insisting that they are not "particularistic in a pejorative sense" (Fraser, 1987: 54). A s established in chapter two of this thesis, however, universals are inevitably exclusive. It is only through the recognition of the significance of the particular that women's concerns can be addressed. Habermas's treatment of the feminist movement is problematic in ways which reflect his commitment to universal po l i t i ca l principles which historically and currently function on behalf of those power configurations which shape them, thus belying their very universality. The postmodern/poststructural feminist approach adopted by Lac lau and Mouffe, on the other hand, allows for a recognition of feminism's role in a social struggle of interpretation and meaning which is necessarily particular. Furthermore, the project for radical democracy revolves around 84 a conception of an inclusive mult ipl ici ty of po l i t ica l spaces rather than an inevitably exclusive, specifically but arbitrarily defined, publ ic realm. 85 CHAPTER FIVE: CONCLUSION I: IMPLICATIONS OF SPECIFIC FEMINIST CRITICISMS FOR HABERMAS'S THEORY OF COMMUNICATIVE ACTION AS A WHOLE Whi le Habermas acknowledges certain aspects of the patr iarchal oppression of women, such as the his tor ical sexual divis ion of labour (Habermas, 1987: 393,394) and inequality wi th in the family (Habermas, 1987: 368), he fails to fol low through on these observations. In other words, while paying lip-service to some feminist concerns, he fails to incorporate this knowledge into his theoretical framework. In most respects, he says nothing about gender at a l l . Far from engendering a crit ique on the basis of an absence of feminist content, however, I am arguing that this failure produces substantial inadequacies wi th in the Theory of Communicat ive A c t i o n . A s A l i s o n Jagger remarks, every aspect of social life is governed by gender.. .all of social life is structured by rules that establish different types of behaviour as appropriate to women and men. Feminists subject these rules to cr i t ica l scrutiny, arguing that, in many cases if not a l l , they are oppressive to women. (Jagger, 1983:21) Not only has Habermas left out of his cr i t ica l theory of modern society an analysis of the way the construction of gender identities, in keeping with po l i t i ca l and economic factors, insti tutionalize the inequality of women, but he has perpetuated this inequality by rendering much of it invisible and by fa i l ing to challenge its inst i tut ional bases. The invisibi l i ty of women in the Theory of Communicat ive A c t i o n , however, is problematic not only for women but for Habermas's entire theoretical framework. In this f inal chapter, I intend to establish this point by bringing together the arguments 86 about specific androcentric biases in the Theory of Communicat ive A c t i o n which I have made in the previous chapters. In chapter two, I argued that Habermas's Theory of Communicat ive A c t i o n , while challenging important aspects of l ibera l humanist discourse -notably the asocial not ion of abstract individual ism and the reduction of reason to a purely instrumental form - fails to transcend aspects of this framework which figure in the oppression of women as other. I based this argument on the insistence that, in reality, when rationality and subjectivity are defined, not socially and historically but universally, this very defini t ion is exclusive as it represents the specific interests of dominant power configurations. Women and other marginal ized groups have been excluded from this universal notion of rationali ty; their disenfranchisement based on their particularity. Ul t imate ly , I argued against Habermas's employment of a universal not ion of rationality on the basis of a postmodern/poststructural feminist perspective which insists that universality is mythical and serves only to mask relations of power and inequality. Habermas's commitment to principles of universality ignore the social and histor ical construction of meaning. This is evident from his assumption that in an ideal speech situation the force of the better argument w i l l prevai l and consensus w i l l be achieved. A s I pointed out in chapter two, Habermas believes that absolute meanings exist in language, independently of society, and are simply distorted by relations of coercion and force. Removing those relations accesses that underlying, unchanging meaning. This assumption of universality is clearly exclusive. In chapter two I was also cr i t ical of Habermas's unidimensional model of communicative rationality. I pointed out that the abstract ideal 87 speech situation neglects the larger social context wi thin which individuals internalize relations of force and coercion and neglects the highly relevant semiotic aspects of communicat ion. Habermas thus ignores the impl ic i t relations of power which are characteristic of human interaction. In chapter three I defended Fraser 's argument that Habermas has drawn the battle l ine between system and l ifeworld erroneously. Rather than viewing the central conflict to be against relations of subordination in all sectors of society, Habermas views the incursion of system imperatives to be at fault. The causal flow creating the pathology of the modern wor ld is, according to Habermas, unidi rect ional - from system to l i feworld. In combinat ion with the fact that Habermas ignores the gender subtext of the roles which he insists mediate relations between system and l ifeworld and his neglect of the childrearer role, this singlemindedness about the source of oppression prevents Habermas from understanding or explaining either the oppression women experience in the home or the part icular oppression women face in the workplace. In chapter three I also agreed with Fraser's argument that the dist inct ion between material and social reproduction is entirely ar t i f ic ia l . This reflects the fact that, ultimately, Habermas fails to question the boundaries between the publ ic and private wi th in the l i feworld and thereby leaves intact an inst i tut ional mainstay in the subordination of women. Habermas, thereby, fails to acknowledge that women "work" in the home although they are not generally paid for it. By making a dist inct ion between material and paid production and social and unpaid production, Habermas fails to question the historical , sexual division of labour. Habermas's solution to modern crisis resulting from the colonizat ion of the l i feworld is the revi tal izat ion of the public sphere. Whi le this 88 solution is not inconsistent with a feminist perspective in pr inciple , it certainly is inconsistent in practice. Habermas's gender-blindness prevents h im from seeing that the ideal of the bourgeois publ ic sphere which he insists we should strive to realize is inherently masculine. A s long as this publ ic sphere is based on principles of universality and the opposit ion between rationality and irrat ionali ty, dominant power configurations w i l l be able to define the terms of entry and the acceptable forms of expression to exclude others. A t this point the connection between the crit ique of rationali ty I made in chapter two and the crit ique of Habermas's argument for the revi tal izat ion of the bourgeois publ ic sphere becomes apparent. A further cr i t ic ism of the bourgeois publ ic sphere which I made, supported by the work of Iris Y o u n g (1987), is that as long as the publ ic sphere is founded on the pr inciple of universality, it means that part iculari ty is driven into the condit ion of the private sphere. A s I pointed out, this means that women and other marginalized groups are disenfranchised, at least in terms of their specific concerns. In contrast to Habermas's ideal of the publ ic sphere, I proposed a feminist program for the creation of an accessible publ ic sphere. The principles which are appropriate to such a project included the emphasis on individual agency in designating the private sphere, the abandonment of universal notions of rationali ty and the hegemony of so-called rat ional forms of expression, and, finally, the orientat ion towards compromise with the awareness and valuat ion of difference rather than a consensus-orientat ion. Ul t imate ly , I argued that, in keeping with the critique of Habermas's notion of rationality that I made in chapter two, and in combination with a feminist analysis of the oppressive nature of a private sphere based on particularity and a public sphere based on universality, the 89 liberal-humanist ideal of the publ ic sphere - with its two principles of universality and rationality - and the social , economic, and po l i t i ca l configuration of modernity, based on this opposit ion between reason and unreason, must be abandoned. Thus, so far, two central principles have been identif ied: that of the need to abandon universal notions of rationality and that of the need to deconstruct the boundaries between publ ic and private spheres wi th in the l i feworld. These principles emerge as a result of a feminist analysis which views gender as problematic. It is quite clear that Habermas's ability to defend a universal not ion of rationality and to ignore the ar t i f ic ial and oppressive nature (to women and other marginal ized groups) of the boundaries between publ ic and private spheres wi th in the l i feworld results in part from his failure to consider the gender subtext of subject matter. These principles informed the critique of Habermas's conceptualizat ion of new social movements advanced in chapter four. In chapter four, a poststructuralist feminist cri t ique, based on principles compatible with the conclusions I reached in chapters two and three, was enlivened by the introduction of L a c l a u and Mouffe 's work Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (1985). L a c l a u and Mouffe 's poststructural feminist Project for a R a d i c a l Democracy provided contrast to throw Habermas's treatment of new social movements into sharp relief. A s a result, I was able to identify a number of problems in the theory of communicative action. In the first place, Habermas's fai lure to conceive of the mult idirect ional i ty of causal influence, positive and negative, between and wi th in system and l i feworld, in contrast to L a c l a u and Mouffe 's very insistence on such mult idirect ionali ty, was shown to prevent Habermas from grasping the part icularly ambiguous effects of the welfare state on 90 women's lives. Furthermore, he fails to realize that many of the problems which the feminist movement, as a new social movement, addresses concern relations of subordination within the l i feworld. A g a i n , this is in keeping with the argument for a mul t id i rect ional understanding of the oppression of women within the l i feworld as we l l as a result of the incursion of system imperatives. In the second place, a related point emerged which concerned the fact that if the system was to become directed by l i feworld norms these norms would very l ikely be oppressive to women. Af te r a l l , the l i feworld is far from monoli thic and there are forces striving to increase the oppression of women as we l l as those working to abolish it. The agenda of the New Right could equally emerge in the struggle for hegemony wi th in the l i feworld . This is a point which Lac l au and Mouffe, with their poststructural deconstruction of conceptions of universality, are able to make. In the third place, fol lowing from the argument against a universalistic publ ic sphere made in chapter three, the new social movements which Lac l au and Mouffe see as advancing the project for radical democracy seek to break down the boundaries between publ ic and private and to see part iculari ty appreciated and valued. Universal is t ical ly oriented social movements, whether they be on the Right or the Left - as in the case of Habermas - are considered by L a c l a u and Mouffe to be the greatest danger of a l l . By employing the technique of contrast between Habermas's theory of communicative action and Lac l au and Mouffe's project for a radical democracy, I have been able to show that Habermas's commitment to universality and failure to question the boundaries between publ ic and private cripple his entire theoretical framework. 91 A fourth cr i t ical point which I made concerned Habermas's categorization of the feminist movement with respect to his distinctions between 'progressive' and 'defensive' new social movements. By this time, Habermas's positive reaction to feminist strands with universalist tendencies and negative reaction to those strands which emphasize part icular ism and the social construction of women's physical, emotional , and intel lectual beings could simply be reversed from a feminist perspective in keeping with the two central principles outl ined above. A f inal point which I would l ike to raise was made earl ier in chapter four and it concerns the relative lack of ambit ion Habermas demonstrated in leaving the organization of the system unchallenged. Af ter a l l , if system imperatives are not replaced with communicative imperatives, po l i t i ca l administrat ion and the paid workplace w i l l remain rife with relations of coercion, force, and inequality. Consider ing the vastness of Habermas's project, it is unseemly that he should settle for so l i t t le in this respect. II: IMPLICATIONS OF A CRITIQUE OF HABERMAS'S THEORY OF COMMUNICATIVE ACTION FOR FEMINISM In this fol lowing section I w i l l discuss the implicat ions for feminism of an analysis of Habermas's Theory of Communicat ive A c t i o n . Feminism, clearly, has much to be cr i t ica l about with respect to Habermas's theory but, as cr i t ic ism is necessarily an interactive process, this thesis would be incomplete if I did not outline the aspects of Habermas's theory which have much to offer feminism. In the first place, Habermas provides a number of analytical tools which, after modif icat ion to take into account gender subtexts, can be adopted by feminist theorists. F o r example, Habermas (1987) presents a sharp crit ique of the distortive effects of systemically organized media - in 92 this case, law - when introduced into domains which are properly communicatively organized. Indeed, in areas of family law it is a l l too clear that the adversarial basis of c iv i l law is destructive (Chodorow, 1978). Habermas (1987) also introduces the concept of "therapeutocracy" to refer to the non-monetary social-welfare measures of the state. H e makes a solid point that these measures, far from actually addressing the underlying social problems behind unemployment or single-motherhood, for example, simply address the symptoms. Whi l e this l ibera l process of 'blaming the v ic t im ' is quite wel l known, Habermas presents it in an or iginal context -that of the inappropriateness of systemically organized interventions into the l i feworld . In the second place, Habermas makes an extremely valuable contr ibution to feminist theory with his arguments i n support of the 'naturalness' of cooperative and egalitarian interactions as opposed to competitive, strategic and hierarchical ones. Whi le some feminists, myself included, question the 'natural ' bases of any form of behaviour, preferring rather to insist, where behaviour is concerned, that human potentiality for any number of behaviours is a l l that is 'natural ' , Habermas's argument provides a useful contrast to the Socia l Darwin ism which drives the agenda of the New Right . In the third place, a related point is that Habermas's crit ique of posit ivism and the recognit ion of social as we l l as instrumental forms of knowledge and ' rat ionali ty ' , however problematic that word may be, are positive contributions to feminist theory. A s Habermas remarks, the sexual division of labour has given women access to a different register of virtues and values which stand in contrast to the one-sidedly rat ional ized, 'male ' wor ld (Habermas, 1987: 393,394). The value of non-instrumental bases of 93 knowledge and of women's historically constructed emphasis on means as we l l as rather than exclusively on ends has been an important argument of many feminist theorists. Indeed, some argue that women are uniquely capable of transforming the aggressive nature of social relationships and relations between 'man' and nature into cooperative forms (Gr i f f in , 1978). It is an important contribution Habermas is making when he insists that these so-called 'female' qualities, rather than devalued, should dominate the l i feworld . A s I have argued earlier, I question his l imi ted scope, but nevertheless, his point is we l l taken. A f ina l point which needs to be made on behalf of the value of feminist interaction with cr i t ical theory is that through this process of interact ion assumptions wi th in both bodies of thought, emerge sharply. It is only when such assumptions are thrown into rel ief that they can be cr i t ic ized . Indeed, as part of this thesis involved a crit ique of Habermas's approach to the problem of rationality, the employment of a poststructural feminist perspective allowed me to uncover the assumptions surrounding the approaches to the problem of rationali ty of both Habermas and of two tendencies wi th in radical feminism. This is a very valuable result of the cr i t ica l interaction between feminist and cr i t ica l social theory in general. Ill: CONCLUSION: Whi le Habermas's theory of communicative action did not ult imately fair we l l from a feminist perspective, it certainly cannot be dismissed. The subjects which Habermas discusses so exhaustively are of great concern to feminist theorists and to cr i t ica l social theorists in general. By raising many of the central issues of our time in such a comprehensive manner, Habermas's important place in on-going intel lectual debates is guaranteed. 94 The substantial flaws in Habermas's Theory of A c t i o n , although not entirely resulting from androcentric bias, have been highlighted by a feminist analysis. This provides a convincing example of the capacity of feminist discourse to access and reveal underlying and questionable assumptions which have the potential to undermine the basis of a theory. In this case, feminist analysis identif ied as crucial two principles - the need to abandon universality ( including universal notions of rationality) and the his tor ical social construction of the publ ic sphere - which Habermas fai led to embrace. It was by identifying this failure that I was able to challenge three main principles of Habermas's theory of communicative action - the defense of modernity, the opposit ion of reason to unreason, and the commitment to the revi tal izat ion of the bourgeois publ ic sphere. 95 A P P E N D I X A : T H E R E L A T I O N S H I P B E T W E E N S Y S T E M A N D L I F E W O R L D , P U B L I C A N D P R I V A T E , IN T H E T H E O R Y O F C O M M U N I C A T I V E A C T I O N (Habermas, 1987: 320) Institutional orders of the lifnurld Interchange relations Media-steered subsystems 1) P' laborpover M Income from empkiymeni Private sphere i) M Economic system Goods and services M Demand Public sphere la) M Taxes P Organizational accomplishments 2a) p Political decisions P' Mass loyally Administrative system M - Monty medium P = Piiwr medium Figure 39. Relations between System and Lifeworld from the Perspective of the System 96 R E F E R E N C E S Barnes, Barry. 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