The organization of enlightenment: Habermas, socialization, and the possibility of autonomy

David A Borman, Fordham University


The dissertation concerns the contradictory demands made on the school in societies that are both multicultural and late capitalist: the argument is that the sorts of competences and attitudes required among future citizens who are to be socially integrated without recourse to cultural assimilation, nationalism, etc., are incompatible with the sorts of competences and attitudes required for the reproduction and legitimation of the capitalist occupational system. For the first question, I draw on normative work in the deliberative democratic theory of multiculturalism; for the second, on empirical work in the sociology of schooling. The point of the argument is two fold: first, to investigate in a non-reductive manner the relationship between culture, society, and the economy, between social and cultural inequality and economic exploitation; and second, to identify potential grounds for social solidarity and social transformation. Habermas' social theory provides a framework for integrating research trends in the sociology of schooling, while its link to his developmental theory of the subject both points implicitly toward the significance of education and socialization for the possibility of social transformation, and allows for the critical identification of obstacles to developmental possibilities that results from the interference by money and power in processes of socialization. In order to draw upon Habermas in this way, it is necessary to deal with changes in his thought that occur over the course of his career; to that end, I advance a critique of his increasingly uncritical acceptance of the limits of democratization in the light of the purported significance of 'overwhelming' social complexity. I argue that Habermas' argument in this respect is crucially underdetermined by his failure to consistently interrogate the significance of frustrated developmental potentials at the level of the individual. We can only identify democratically unmanageable levels of complexity relative to the available competence among citizens for democratic self-direction. ^

Subject Area

Education, Sociology of|Philosophy|Education, Philosophy of

Recommended Citation

Borman, David A, "The organization of enlightenment: Habermas, socialization, and the possibility of autonomy" (2008). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3310413.