Revisiting Habermas's colonisation thesis: towards a communicative transformation of the theory of reification

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Condon, Roderick
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University College Cork
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This thesis is a study in social theory. Responding to the contemporary empirical problem situation of late capitalist societies, I revisit Jürgen Habermas’s (1984; 1987) thesis of the colonization of the lifeworld to outline a critical theory of neoliberalism. Synthesizing the theories of Axel Honneth, Niklas Luhmann, and Talcott Parsons, this thesis is composed of several critical excurses expanding Habermas’s conceptual framework. These excurses principally involve: an in-depth treatment of the theory of the economy; a critical appraisal of Habermas’s media theory; a reconstruction of the system-lifeworld concept with regard to the contemporary economy; a reconsideration of the colonization thesis from an evolutionary perspective; an expansion of the frame to consider political-ideological complexes and cultural values; and, a communicative transformation of the theory of reification. Through these excurses, this thesis advances an expanded account of colonization processes, such that system differentiation, cultural-structural rationalization, and class struggle are all within the frame. This facilitates an historical account of the emergence of the neoliberal social order from the previous postwar model. This historical account is, in turn, elaborated through social theory, such that the theoretical excurses are enriched historically, and the diagnosis of the contemporary situation enriched theoretically at the same time. The combined theoretical-historical exposition culminates in a communicative reconstruction of the colonization thesis in the theory of relinguistification. The primary contribution of this research, this original theory reformulates the problem of false-consciousness in communicative terms. Relinguistification diagnoses the systematically distorted communication produced by colonization processes in terms of the translation of the money code into linguistic form such that the semantic content of ordinary language is distorted. This narrows the space for the critical testing of validity claims from within the structure of communication itself to a capitalistic register. The theory of relinguistification then constitutes a critical theory of neoliberalism.
Reification , Neoliberalism , Jürgen Habermas , Social theory , Critical theory , False-consciousness , Communicative action
Condon, R. 2018. Revisiting Habermas's colonisation thesis: towards a communicative transformation of the theory of reification. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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