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Slangen, Y.D.

Department of Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy

Disintegration Theory

Jürgen Habermas’s Legitimation Crisis revisited

Crisis theory has long been a fundamental feature of the toolset of critical theory. Very little, however, has done to improve upon the basic Marxian formula of systemic collapse and related problems of the relation to the lived experience of crisis. In the face of recent global turmoil and the proliferation of crisis talk there seems a profound lack in articulated crisis theory. Jürgen Habermas’s work Legitimation Crisis is still unique in confronting the Marxian heritage of crisis theory. The issues and solutions that he identifies provide a key to the obstacles to theorizing crisis today. Habermas’s theory of crisis can be characterized as a theory of societal disintegration. His main views converge on an irreducible crisis zone between system imperatives and lifeworld structures. First identified in Legitimation Crisis, this model of crisis continued to inform his more well-known and influential works like The Theory of Communicative Action and Between Facts and Norms. Habermas’s crisis theory is original in stressing the importance of normative structures and the extent to which these cannot be subsumed under the dominant systems-view of crisis. Yet, despite of his criticism of systems theory and the view of crisis that is based on it, his own understanding of crisis seems beset by similar problems. Identifying these problems leads to suggestions for renewal of crisis theory.

Last modified:07 February 2017 4.30 p.m.