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Occidental civilization and its problems: A dialogue between Weber, Elias and Habermas.

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posted on 19.11.2015, 08:50 by Patrick. Li
This thesis starts with an analysis of Weber's thought. Weber's analysis of occidental civilization is multidimensional. Weber attempts to provide a judgement about the value of occidental civilization for the improvement of human welfare which is more differentiated and more balanced, and therefore neither overly optimistic nor overly pessimistic. Opposed to some commentators' misunderstanding that his viewpoint about occidental civilization is too pessimistic, Weber's viewpoint is actually an heroic one. Weber conceives value differentiation and value irreconcilability as the natural outcomes of societal rationalization. He suggests that his heroic pessimism provides a viable way to confront this impasse of occidental civilization. While I appreciate Weber's attempt to provide a differentiated and balanced view about occidental civilization, I argue that his work is empirically inadequate in certain regards and is not critical enough concerning the solutions to the problems generating in occidental civilization. Therefore his work needs to be reconstructed and corrected. Elias and Habermas's works provide valuable resources for this task. In fact, an analysis of Weber's. work provides a good starting point for developing a dialogue between Elias and Habermas. I believe that this is an important step in the appraisal of Elias and Habermas's contributions to our understanding of occidental civilization. In developing a dialogue between Elias and Habermas here, I identify a central difference between their accounts of occidental civilization. While Elias admits the presence of an inescapable evaluative aspect to our understanding, and he suggests that we should keep a good balance between involvement and detachment, Habermas suggests one way of understanding which consciously incorporates into it an evaluative stance. I argue that this aspect is essential for the critique of social injustice and the promotion of human welfare. The remaining target is to show how this critical approach enriches our understanding of occidental civilization.


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College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology

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University of Leicester

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