On Habermas's Critique of Castoriadis and its Counter-Critique
Sociology and Social Policy The University of Sydney Sydney, Australia
This paper aims to explore the implications of the confrontation between the thought of Habermas and Castoriadis. As is well known, Habermas's The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity includes a critical excursus on Castoriadis, which is intended to buttress the preceding chapter's contention that "not even the linguistic turn of praxis philosophy leads to a paradigm change". Habermas finds that Castoriadis's notion of the imaginary institution of society fails to grasp the normative dimension of intersubjective praxis. By contrast, the work of George Herbert Mead enables, in Habermas's opinion, a superior appreciation of the connection between the 'intramundane learning' of everyday practices and the broader alterations in 'world-horizons'. Yet, Habermas's elaboration of the intersubjective paradigm of mutual understanding is undoubtedly open to a counter-critique. Even his reconstruction of Mead's theory subordinates some of the continuities that it has with the philosophy of praxis. In fact, Castoriadis's account of the imaginary institution of society can be seen to address questions that Habermas's theory left unresolved. It will be suggested that a constructive dialogue between the thought of Habermas and Castoriadis should commence from an analysis of Habermas's original reconstruction of the intentions of praxis philosophy in the program of knowledge constitutive interests. Habermas's later theory may have abandoned the core intentions of this program, but my analysis suggests that the outcome need not be considered intrinsically superior and that Castoriadis addressed somewhat similar questions from a different angle, such as the epistemological grounds of critique, the limits of the production paradigm, and the implications of the integration of psychoanalysis into social theory.