Episode 7: Is there life in the educational system?
A major theme in Habermas’s theory of communicative action is the complex relation of “system” and “lifeworld.” The interactions whereby persons achieve mutual understanding are enabled by the participants’ collections of cognitive schemata, emotional attitudes, and socially constituted norms and values. Habermas terms this largely unconscious background to communication the lifeworld (Lebenswelt). Social systems, like government, education, and the economic system, being abstract and impersonal, bypass communication and function by policy and mandates. However, systems are necessary in large, complex societies, and it would be an error to imagine that because human communication is “good,” systems are therefore bad. The challenge for educators, therefore, is to “find the lifeworld in the system” and let the system support, rather than threaten, the teacher-student relationship.