Individuality and the formation of Social Rationality: points of critique in Horkheimer and Habermas
Political Sciences-University of Munich Geschwister Scholl Institute for Political Science Athens, Greece
Any critique that Horkheimer and Habermas exerted on the politicization of the individual presented constantly a counterbalance of concern, which often served as the initiation for the critique on the consciousness formation of the individual. That was the investigation of the apolitical social behaviour of the masses. The emphasis in Habermas was placed on the reductionist role of the public sphere and of the political thought formation that allow the public only to participate in social decisions limited in their scope.
The public, considered either consisting of individuals or as a whole, formulates opinions more in the form of mere agreement or disagreement and less as a complete political articulation of argumentation and exchange of opinions. This plebiscitary approach in which the existing social mode allows its subjects to exist politically is the initial point of reference for Horkheimer's and Haberma's critique of the individual.
Individuality is appropriated by humans when they become conscious of their capacity for self-reflection and to be aware of social reality, which can and should be the object of criticism and transformation for them. Especially, in terms of self-reflection the main point of concern for individuals is reason, which relies on people's expression of social needs and the will to move from realizing these needs to actualizing, or, better, satisfying them socially. Since the early Frankfurt School of Horkheimer to Habermas the point that is stressed with regards to the individual is individuation, which at the same time entails socialization of the individual when the latter approaches socially integrated forms of life. The individual is building on self-reflection and self-consciousness when realizing personal needs along with collective demands of a society.
Individual needs as considered by both Horkheimer and Habermas - despite Horkheimer's late emphasis on them - are not only socially interwoven but also deriving from personal concerns and interests. Therefore, they have to be realized and regarded as shared by conscious social members, which do not drop their individuality but simultaneously develop communal and cooperative claims.