Roundhouse Student Journal

Locating the Lingustic Self: Habermas, History & Inner-Nature

Andrew Walker

The works of Freud and the ideas in psychoanalysis have been influential in the formation of the theory of internal repression in Critical Theory. Jűrgen Habermas has reformulated Freud’s ideas of the self in order to further develop his own communicative theory of social interaction and inter-subjective framework for social critique. His has been criticised as a misreading of Freud. This essay seeks to defend Habermas’ interpretation of psychoanalytic ideas by reading them alongside his reconstruction of historical materialism. With communicative interaction placed along side material reproduction at the centre of historical development, the theory of a linguistically structured inner-nature becomes more coherent. Finally the essay will deal with the charge that Habermas does not sufficiently account for the lack of happiness in communicative rationality.

From its inception, the thinkers of the Frankfurt School sought to formulate a coherent critical theory of modern social formations. Critical Theory would distinguish itself from traditional theory through its practical orientation; while traditional theory sought only to understand, Critical Theory would seek to critique and change. In an effort to disassociate themselves from Marxism-Leninism, the Soviet Union and the trajectory of contemporary western Marxism, these theorists combined Marx with other theoretical analyses of modern society. Marx, Weber and Hegel provided a firm grounding for a substantive critique of modernity, while Freud and psychoanalysis provided a fourth pillar for their interpretive framework. Critical Theory developed a concern with the effects of modern enlightenment thinking and society on the human consciousness. The incorporation of Freud’s ideas allowed for a different analytical perspective of the impact of modern, advanced civilisation on the human psyche. It provided a deeper understanding of the analysis that ‘just as the capitalist system continuously produces and reproduces itself economically on higher and higher levels, the structure of reification progressively sinks more and more definitively into the consciousness of man’ (Lukacs 1971: 93).

Locating the Linguistic Self: Habermas, History & Inner-Nature - Andrew Walker [PDF file]

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