Quest for a Cosmopolitan Social Theory: From Habermas to Gadamer, and Back Again

Monday, 16 July 2018: 16:20
Oral Presentation
Estevão BOSCO, University of São Paulo, Brazil
The main question addressed by this article is whether or not the theory of communicative action grapples with the challenges to social theory posed by the cultural experience of globalization. It assumes that cultural globalization is a total sociological phenomenon which sheds light on the entanglements among societies. At the micro-sociological level, this is shown in the research of Cicchelli and Octobre on aesthetic-cultural cosmopolitanism, and, at the macro-sociological level, by three of Appadurai’s global ethnoscapes as well as by the main arguments from Lévi-Strauss’ Race et histoire and Chakrabarty’s provincialization of history. Based on this, I formulate two reconstructive hypotheses. First, I argue that the continuum between communicative action and strategic action, lifeworld and system, and socio-moral and cognitive-technological evolutionary spheres gives shape to a culturally endogenous concept of society, thereby preventing us from approaching the entanglements among societies, i.e cultural globalization. This is because the formal pragmatic foundation of mutual understanding takes intersubjectivity as given (Vandenberghe). The second hypothesis claims that, when starting with the hermeneutical preconditions of our world experience (Gadamer), we are able to outline a complementary perspective to Habermas’ theory of society. This perspective encompasses the entanglements among societies and conceives the cultural experience of globalization as a hermeneutical experience, having as a medium an indiciary concept of intercultural understanding. Finally, I identify two major implications of this hypothesis. At the theoretical level, cultural globalization indicates that we should consider social evolution alongside cultural co-evolution. At the politico-normative level, if we consider the entanglements among societies as based on a quasi-naturalistic argument related to the human condition, nationalism can no longer only be taken as a problematic politico-cultural feature of modern societies, but rather, and fundamentally, as a deficient worldview which drives action. This perspective is sympathetic to the cosmopolitical claim for inter-cultural dialogue (Delanty).