The Theory of Communicative Action  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Theory of Communicative Action is a book by Jurgen Habermas published in 1981.

It is an account of the development of the concept and theory of communicative reason which distinguishes itself from the rationalist tradition by locating rationality in structures of interpersonal linguistic communication rather than in the structure of either the cosmos or the knowing subject. He holds an assumption about identity - that we learn who we are as autonomous agents from our basic relations with others.

This framework of feedback rests on the argument called universal pragmatics - that all speech acts have an inherent telos (the Greek word for "purpose" or "goal") — the goal of mutual understanding, and that human beings possess the communicative competence to bring about such understanding. Habermas promotes the model of "deliberative democracy", based on the participation of civil society and a consensus between rational citizens.

The Theory of Communicative Action has inspired many responses by social theorists and philosophers, and in 1998 was listed by the International Sociological Association as the eighth most important sociological book of the 20th century, behind Norbert Elias' The Civilizing Process (1939) but ahead of Talcott Parsons' The Structure of Social Action (1937).

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