Habermas, Rorty and the Politics of Cultural Change

Although Jürgen Habermas and Richard Rorty both reject the traditional picture of cultural change in which intellectuals are supposed to have the ‘last word’ on cultural issues and envisage cultural changes as the result of ‘dialogue’ or ‘conversation’ between them and the lay public, they nevertheless end up espousing different pictures of cultural change because of their totally different conception of the role and function of language, truth and rationality in such dialogue. In the first two sections of this article, I will recount Habermas’s critique of Rorty’s neo-pragmatism and the latter’s responses to it so that they can reveal the core issues of the debate. In the third section, I will argue that, as a ‘sociologized version’ of Rorty’s philosophy, Jeffrey Alexander’s theory of social performance provides us with a sociological framework that makes possible a wide range of empirical studies of cultural change.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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