"The crises associated with late capitalism affect society and individual and threaten-both objectively and subjectively-the identity of society and individual. Objectively speaking, late capitalism manifests an identity crisis or inner contradiction between incompatible steering imperatives. The state is caught in the midst of a system crisis in which it vacillates between behaving like a socialist state and behaving like a liberal capitalist state. Like a socialist state it funnels public revenue into welfare projects and the economy (through tax breaks, economic stimulus, etc.). Like a liberal capitalist state, it reacts against its mounting debt by reversing course, in effect 'downsizing' and privatizing public services while deregulating markets. Seen from another perspective, the state behaves dictatorially (bureaucratically) and democratically, paternalistically and in a laissez-faire manner. Shifting its contradictions from one system to another, the schizoid state also engenders a subjectively felt identity crisis within its own citizens, who experience themselves as active and passive, independent and dependent.
In his book Legitimation Crisis (1973) Habermas says that the 'system' onto which the contradictions of economy and state are pushed is 'society.' Society becomes anomic-persons lose respect for one another; they lose respect for government, which they see as incompetent, unjust, and illegitimate, and lastly (and most important) society fails to instill the proper motivation in citizens to produce and succeed (TCA 2 143,386). Motivation crises reflect the limits of bourgeois ideology in motivating single-minded devotion to work and consumption. Yet, in principle they can be forestalled to the extent that socialization is 'uncoupled' from a culture that encourages critical inquiry, aesthetic illumination of new sensitivities (through postauratic modern art that abjures authoritative representations of timeless beauty for the sake of social commentary), and autonomy and equality (universal morality)….
Written almost a decade after Legitimation Crisis, The Theory of Communicative Action expands further on the identity crises besetting late capitalism. Here, however, Habermas has in mind something besides social crises reflecting a loss of respect for law, government, and social values, namely, two tendencies that directly undermine the reproduction of cultural meaning and identity, on the one hand, and personal psychological well-being and reflective agency, on the other. These tendencies exploit these other resources (cultural patterns and personality structures) in the process of temporarily ‘resolving’ crises of anomie, legitimation, and motivation (TCA 2 386). In their place, they leave psychopathology, stunted education, and alienation (on the side of disturbances affecting the personality structure) and loss of meaning, identity, and traditional continuity (on the side of disturbances affecting the transmission of cultural patterns) TCA 2 143).
The first tendency, which Habermas dubs the colonization of the lifeworld, involves substituting strategic forms of economic and legal action mediated by money and power for communicative forms of action responsible for socialization, cultural transmission, and social integration. Also directly implicated in the colonization of the lifeworld is the second tendency, which Habermas characterizes as cultural impoverishment caused by the splitting off of elite subcultures. This second tendency involves truncating or suppressing critical discourses within everyday communication in a way that produces a 'fragmented consciousness' incapable of integrating cognitive, normative, and aesthetic understandings of reality in a critical way" (Ingram 2010:271-272).
2010 Habermas: Introduction and Analysis. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
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