The Colonization Thesis: Habermas on Reification

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Abstract
Abstract According to Habermas' colonization thesis, reification is a social pathology that arises when the communicative infrastructure of the lifeworld is 'colonized' by money and power. In this paper I argue that, thirty years after the publication of the Theory of Communicative Action, this thesis remains compelling. However, while Habermas offers a functionalist explanation of reification, his normative criticism of it remains largely implicit: he never explains what is wrong with reification from the perspective of the people whose social relations are reified. As a result, Habermas cannot explain why only some forms of colonization lead to reification effects. In particular, he suggests that reification effects result from the juridification of communicatively structured domains of action but not from the commodification of labour power. I criticize this argument and suggest that if the normative dimension of the colonization thesis is made explicit, a more nuanced explanation of reification becomes possible
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Archival date: 2014-08-09
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