Lifeworld, Civilisation, System: Patočka and Habermas on Europe and its Crisis

HORIZON. Studies in Phenomenology 5 (1):70-89 (2016)
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The aim of this article is to show how both Jan Patočka and Jürgen Habermas, starting from a reinterpretation of the idea of «lifeworld», engaged a critique of modern civilisation, aiming (with different outcomes) at a redefinition of the concept of political community. In order to achieve this goal, I firstly focus on Patočka’s understanding of modern rational civilisation and its attempt to fix the fracture between «life» and «world». At this stage, I take also advantage of Hans Blumenberg’s distinction between these two terms, in order to better clarify Patočka’s stance on this problem. Secondly, I analyse Habermas’ ideas of lifeworld and system, and their uncoupling in modern societies, as well as the reemergence of this issue in Habermas’ recent works on the European economic and political crisis. Finally, I focus on the very different ways in which Patočka and Habermas tackled the ideas of conflict and crisis in contemporary world, also in view of a possible path out of this crisis through a re-constitution of Europe.

Author's Profile

Francesco Tava
University of the West of England


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