Between Reason and History

Habermas and the Idea of Progress

By David S. Owen

Subjects: Philosophy Of The Social Sciences
Series: SUNY series in the Philosophy of the Social Sciences
Paperback : 9780791454107, 220 pages, July 2002
Hardcover : 9780791454091, 220 pages, July 2002

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Table of contents




1. The Idea of Progress and Critical Social Theory

Critical Social Theory
Critical Hermeneutics

2. Habermas's Conception of Critical Social Theory

Formal Pragmatics


Communicative Action
Sociocultural Lifeworld
Communicative Rationality


The Developmental Theory of Social Evolution


Habermas's Reconstruction of Historical Materialism
Overview of the Mature Theory


The Theory of Modernity

3. The Development Theory of Social Evolution

General Considerations


Conceptual and Theoretical Distinctions
Epistemological Assumptions


Principal Elements


The Dimenions of Development
The Dynamic between Interaction and Labor
Development Logic and Empirical Mechanisms
Social Evolution as a Learning Process


4. The Idea of a Development Logic of History

The Concept of Developmental Logic


The Psychological-Theoretic Conception
Formal Properties
The Social-Theoretic Conception


The Developmental Logic Thesis


The Homological Arguments
The Formal-Pragmatic Argument
Further Questions


5. Progress and Social Evolution

Habermas's Conception of Progress
The Dialectic of Progress
A Differentiated Conception of Progress
Summary and Conclusions




The first book-length treatment in English of Habermas’s theory of social evolution and progress.


Between Reason and History examines the role of the idea of progress both in Ju¬rgen Habermas's critical social theory and in critical social theory in general. The reception to Habermas's magnum opus, The Theory of Communicative Action, has tended to downplay the theory of social evolution it contains, but there are no in-depth examinations of this aspect of Habermas's critical theory. This book fills this gap by providing a comprehensive and detailed examination of Habermas's theory of social evolution, its significance within the wider scope of his critical social theory, and the importance of a theoretical understanding of history for any adequate critical social theory.

David S. Owen is Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Hamline University.


"The first full-length study in English of this important aspect of Habermas's thought, this is a clearly written, very well researched, and cogently argued book. " — Thomas McCarthy, author of The Critical Theory of Jurgen Habermas

"This book is a real gem. Among scholarly works on Habermas, it is rare to find a book that so deftly combines scholarship, analytic precision and clarity, and highly readable prose. It is the only book devoted to treating in critical detail what is arguably the most important feature of Habermas's theory of social evolution. " — David Ingram, author of Habermas and the Dialectic of Reason

"It is an area of Habermasian studies that scholars have all too often neglected for the last twenty years. But the author not only deals very well with the material, but also reveals why this area is central to Habermas's critical project. " — James C. Swindal, author of Reflection Revisited: Jurgen Habermas's Discursive Theory of Truth