The Colonization of the Public Sphere by the Rationality of the Lifeworld

  • Brigitte Berger


Recent decades have seen renewed interest in the capitalist phenomenon, its causes, its career, and its future. Much of the current academic debate has been conducted between economic historians and social demographers, with sociologists typically standing to the side. Despite considerable theoretical and disciplinary differences, scholars are in agreement that a new, peculiarly modern social order emerged roughly between the 17th and 19th century in the Northwestern part of Europe, with England having been the most precocious. They also agree that the rise of the modern world is a consequence of peculiar institutional arrangements which evolved slowly and doggedly over a long period of time to ultimately find their clearest expression in the capitalist economy, political democracy, and individual liberty. Although the Cambridge social demographers around Peter Laslett, E.Anthony Wrigley and Alan Macfarlane recently uncovered rich lodes of new demographic evidence able to put to rest some of the most hotly contested claims surrounding the transition from feudalism to industrialism (such as the erroneous notion that individualism is a consequence of industrialism), on the theoretical level the shadows of Marx and Weber continue to loom large.


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© Leske + Budrich, Opladen 1997

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  • Brigitte Berger

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