Habermas and Markets

Constellations 20 (4):587-603 (2013)
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In this paper I examine Habermas’ conception of the market in The Theory of Communicative Action (TCA). Habermas’ characterization of the market as norm-free has been controversial and I discuss three objections to it: the claims that it (1) conflates of action types, types of action coordination and spheres of action, (2) cannot account for the normative structure of the social organization of labour, and (3) that it makes impossible to make moral judgments about behaviour in the market. I conclude that while some of these objections are unfounded, we have reason to revise Habermas’ substantive claims about the market. I also stress the importance of distinguishing between the TCA’s methodology and its time-diagnostic thrust. Next, I assess the colonization thesis through a case study of the commodification of higher education. I conclude that this thesis remains plausible, but that it needs to be supplemented with a theory of ideology.
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Archival date: 2014-08-09
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