The Relevance of Habermasian Theory for Development and Participatory Communication

  • Thomas JacobsonEmail author
Living reference work entry


This chapter examines Jurgen Habermas’s theory of communicative action as a theory communication for development and social change. In the main his theory has focused on analysis of industrial or postindustrial societies, but it is also relevant to the study of development and social change. This relevance extends beyond questions related to the public sphere. Habermas’s work involves a general theory of social evolution. This he shares with early modernizationists along with his defense of at least some of the enlightenment traditions they shared. At the same time, the theory of communicative action has deep and systematic differences from modernization theory. Its critical theory shares with the many critics of modernization theory a deep apprehension regarding the negative effects of scientism and uncontrolled market rationality. It is fundamentally critical of the functionalist reason underlying early modernization research. Its theory of the lifeworld provides an elaborate framework for analyzing cultural change. It offers a sophisticated defense of universalizable human rights that eschews the idea of a priori universal rights. In sum, the theory defines development and social change as a process of increasing dialogical, and participatory, communication in all sectors of society. The chapter reviews modernization theory and its weaknesses, outlines the theory of communicative action, and then considers Habermas’s theory as an approach to the study of development and social change. A concluding chapter suggests research opportunities using the communicative action framework.


Habermas Modernization Communicative action Development 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Media Studies and ProductionLew Klein College of Media and Communication, Temple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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