Disembodied Capitalism: Habermas's Conception of the Economy

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Abstract

Habermas's primary theoretical project is to combine fruitfully the two major approaches to social analysis, hermeneutic theory and systems theory. To this end, he reinterprets the capitalist economy as an economic subsystem that engages certain functional imperatives of material reproduction behind the backs of society's actors. However, Habermas's attempt to distinguish subsystem processes from lifeworld experiences ultimately distorts our understanding of the capitalist economy in that it obscures the structural forms through which capitalism must be actualized. Consequently, his theory diminishes the necessary organizational forms of the economic subsystem, produces inconsistencies in regard to action orientations and subsystem dynamics, and encourages a misleading restrictive notion of the loci of contemporary social conflict.

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