Habermas and the Caring Society: A Trans-disciplinary Feminist Critique


critique of extractive capitalism
Carol Gilligan’s ‘ethic of care’
caring society
eclectic methodological context


Jürgen Habermas’s rationalistic reimagining of a more compassionate society can be imaginatively defended by feminism, and one such legitimate line of criticism would be a feminist reading of this Frankfurt School-inspired project. In this contribution, therefore, I also aim to show ‘how’ and ‘why’ these efforts of Habermas’s could be complemented. The former is an exploration of novel post-structuralist ideas on inclusive ‘both/and’ theory appropriation. I briefly outline the nuanced intellectual history of the Frankfurt School between the first and second generations, which is Habermas’s seminal contribution to this tradition. Carol Gilligan’s ‘ethic of care,’ around which a more caring, responsive society might be (re)constructed, is then applied. Against this backdrop, Lakoff’s and Gerhardt’s proposals for the caring society, based on investigations into the link between authoritarian parenting and capitalism, are taken into consideration. These ideas are supported with an outline of recent progress within neuroscience that demonstrates the benefits of both early emotional nurturing and an appropriate attachment paradigm. It is thus argued that feminism, as part of a richer interdisciplinary methodology, could meaningfully correct and thereafter complement Habermas’s shortcomings, with post-structuralism as the methodological glue that adheres Habermas’s universalistic project with feminists’ emphases on specificity.



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