Copyright Sociological Research Online, 2001


Marianna Papastephanou (2001) 'Modernization, Rationalization, and Education: Responding to the Other'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 6, no. 3, <> ;

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Received: 4/4/2001      Accepted: 22/11/2001      Published: 30/11/2001


As societies forfeit increasingly their homogeneous character and cross-cultural encounters are being multiplied, demands for multicultural and Other- oriented education appear legitimate and convincing. However, to endorse such demands does not suffice on its own, if it is not accompanied by appropriate theoretical shifts in sociological core assumptions. In this article, I propose that one such shift should concern the old coupling of modernization with societal rationalization. By discussing Habermas's conception of rationalization, I defend the rejection of the identification of modernization with rational development. I show the benefits of this rejection for multicultural education by highlighting what ethnocentric vices (Martha Nussbaum's term) it staves off. I conclude with some suggestions for a sociology of education that is sensitive to otherness.

Descriptive And Normative Vice; Education; Habermas; Modernization; Multiculturalism; Nussbaum; Rationalization; Reason; Weber


Discussing education as an institution, i.e. from a sociological perspective, one cannot avoid an implicit or explicit reliance on some theory of reason and rationalization of society. For, if schooling functions as a mechanism of socialization and adaptation of the young to society (regarded positively by theorists from Comte down to Parsons and negatively since determinist Marxism) or as a means of social transformation and change (voluntarist Marxism and Gramsi), that entails two things at least. It entails that
  1. the school contributes to the development of societal rationality, since it 'distributes' knowledge and prepares individuals for their future social roles by rendering existential choice rational. And it also entails that
  2. the school reflects the particular level of rationalization of the culture that generates it, since the structures of the educational system are informed to a great extent by what counts as worth pursuing. If education aims solely at the betterment of social action coordination, it presupposes as well as promotes a conception of rationalization process that differs drastically from the one that it would employ if its objective were more revolutionary and interventionist.

Similarly, when education is oriented to a politics of difference and fights against discrimination and xenophobia in classrooms it conceives rationalization in a way that differs crucially from the one informing a conscious or unconscious promotion of Eurocentrism.[1] The latter assumes tacitly that rationalization is a linear, teleological, and one-dimensional process manifested triumphantly in Western technological and scientific progress. The shortcomings and pathologies of occidental societies, when acknowledged at all are seen as side effects of an otherwise effective and rational societal system in need of some minor modifications. All those cultures that cannot display similar orientations, priorities and 'achievements' are treated as less rational and justifiably lagging behind.

In turn, such prejudices find expression in curricular constructions and the silencing of alterity they impose. Arthur Schlesinger's work defends the thesis that 'the noble idea of human rights is purely Western in origin' and 'uses this claim to cast doubt on the value of non-Western cultures, and on their place in the college curriculum' (Nussbaum, 1997, 139). Such views either rely on a conception of rationality as something inherent and fixed to a specific limit within each culture or on one that couples the potential for reasonable arguments with particular versions of societal evolution and rationalization. Even if a rational-liberalist idea is 'Western in origin', this does not preclude the possibility that other cultures may include it actually (as one strand amongst others) or counterfactually (as a possibility of discourse not yet exploited). The source of an idea becomes prohibitive to its cross-cultural identification only when one begins with the very assumption that, when reason is at stake, 'origin' means 'monopoly'.

Therefore, many of us may justifiably wonder, as Martha Nussbaum does, how much of other cultures we were encouraged to learn in our educational settings. On grounds of self-sufficiency and exclusiveness (all the good ideas are already available in our tradition and absent in others) most Western curricula are blinkered and xenophobic in some way or other. But we may also wonder (and perhaps this is where we ought to start from) what kind of rationalization theory grounds the ideological discriminatory and oppressive attitude towards otherness. Nussbaum offers an account of the ideology underlying this attitude but not in sociological terms and with no reference to the concept of rationalization.[2] It is evident that her account of ethnocentric vices operates implicitly on the idea that educational practices have adopted an ethnocentric rationalism. I follow her on this as I believe that, if thought through to its end, Occidental ethnocentrism (the educational one notwithstanding) boils down to some rationalist core assumptions of superiority. Apart from an inferential justification of the connection of education and ethnocentric rationalism, another way of proving its validity is precisely by considering the constellation 'rationalization, modernization, and cultural difference' sociologically as I am attempting in the present article. [Of course, one might think that, if what is assumed is also indirectly proven by what develops out of this assumption, then there is a risk of circularity. There is no such risk here, however, if we keep in mind that education and conceptions of rationality are in a dialectical relation as shown in the opening paragraph. In any case, evidence that goes further than that cannot be offered here as the aim of the article is to pave the way for future research (both theoretical but also empirical), to initiate a dialogue in this direction, rather than close it off].

We may further wonder what kind of rationalization theory would be compatible with (and redeeming of) the demand for more inclusive and less ethnocentric education. In this paper, I shall deal with this issue. My main argument is that a detailed and in depth exploration of Habermas's communicative action theory offers a conception of rationalization that will prove to be very important for a sociology of education oriented to a politics of difference.

Preliminary Remarks on the Employment of Communicative Action Theory

New theories of rationalization try to overcome the outdated metaphysical reliance on narratives of humanity's ostensibly linear and undisrupted progression towards fixed and absolute ends thus avoiding charges of messianic transcendentalism and foundationalism. They retain the idea of progress in a naturalistic rather than a teleological fashion. Perhaps the most persistent and serious objection still confronting them, however, is the one related to the issue of the ethnocentrism of Occidental philosophy that defines human history according to its own standard of what counts as rational and progressive. To the extent that a theory identifies rationalization with modernization, it remains trapped to its own parochialism and ethnocentrism. Modernization has been an accomplished task for many Western societies, and from the moment we elevate it to rationalization as such, we obscure its empirical contingency and attribute to it the more encompassing and transcendent status that theoretically has been granted to rationalization. Consequently, and tacitly, we immunize modernized cultures from criticisms derived from alien worldviews and directed to their rational goal-setting. Or, if we object to the reifying effects of modernization, we dismiss rationality too, and resort to an exoticization of otherness that is equally truncating and disabling for alien cultures. Thus, the stakes that new accounts of rationalization face concern first and foremost their understanding of the other within and without and their ability of self- critique.

In my interpretation of Jrgen Habermas, his associates (Karl-Otto Apel, Albrecht Wellmer), and their pragmatic philosophy of language, it is possible to extract a notion of rationalization that goes beyond modernization and does justice both to a narrative of progress and the acknowledgement of the unique significance of non-Occidental cultures. This presupposes that we place the proper emphasis on its true critical force, which seems to have been attenuated recently by Habermas's shift to international constitutional right and globalization and their implicit liberalist affirmation of a supposed priority of the norms of the 'advanced' societies. The main aim of this article then (as stated above) is to examine how my interpretation of Habermas's idea of rationalization may succeed in meeting the demand for valuing the rationalities of all cultures. Other, indirect, aims promoting the basic argument are to explore how Habermas arrives at his notion of rationalization and how all this avoids the charge of ethnocentrism.

My discussion of Habermas's idea of rationalization and its stakes comprises the following steps.
  1. I begin with a brief account of rationality and its criteriology with regard to world interpretations in order to show that from a Habermasian point of view it is possible for one to assess cultures without being necessarily biased and self- affirmative. Hence one can speak of a rationalization process while avoiding to identify it with Occidental modernization or consider it complete by reference to (post)modern developments in science, economy and technology.
  2. To present such a reformulated conception of rationalization, I employ Habermas's critique of Max Weber. This step facilitates also the defence of the argument for a rehabilitation of other cultures as potential equal contributors to a process of progress that is not limited to our relation to instrumentality and strategicality.
  3. In a third move, I explore the revisited conception of reason that underpins such a renegotiation of rationalization and turn to the relations to world spheres that are presupposed by such openness to other cultures and their values. Within each step I mention implications for sociology of education that will be intersected in the concluding part of the article. There I shall demonstrate their being conducive to Nussbaum's project for a reformist education of citizenship.

Rationality and Worldviews

When we use the term 'rational' we usually attribute it either to people or to expressions or actions. Either someone (person) or something (idea, worldview) is rational. For a pragmatic philosopher of language, the term 'rational' can be applied to any person capable of speech and action in general, and in a less broad sense, anyone able in principle to offer reasons for their actions or views. A symbolic expression or an action is rational insofar as it can be potentially defended against criticism (Habermas, 1991, 16).

Communicative practice as we experience it in its everyday form, in its discursive or critical dimension, is imbued with rationality. In our interactions we implicitly or explicitly agree or disagree, approve or disapprove, accept or reject, either by means of power, control, violence and suppression or by means of a communicatively achieved consensus. The latter differs from a pseudo-consensus in that it derives from genuine, responsible and equal dialogical positions and not from strategicality and monological promotion of self- interest. Rationality is ubiquitous and indispensable to a communicatively achieved agreement, since the latter 'is based in the end on reasons. And the rationality of those who participate in this communicative practice is determined by whether, if necessary, they could under suitable circumstances, provide reasons for their expressions' (17).

In my opinion, the Habermasian conception of rationality relates to and goes beyond polemics in a path-breaking way. The Occidental philosophical past offers numerous examples of reciprocal charges of irrationalism between conflicting theories or worldviews. A theoretical system of a Cartesian origin that sees reason as intellectus can very easily attack any philosophical theory that assumes an empirical or situated reason as supposedly being irrational. For polemical reasons the charge of irrationalism has been employed effectively to refute and exclude whoever or whatever diverges from a certain and narrow definition of the rational. The opponent is irrational not because of the way s/he is involved in a discourse but because of the content of her worldview. One must be very cautious with this sort of material discrimination between theories or ideas because as a polemical tactic it does not do justice to difference and otherness. As a methodological tool of research, it loses sight of the fact that a worldview may be less accurate in its description of objects or unfair in the social relations it sustains compared with another one, but it can be equally coherent and systematic. As Radin, Evans-Pritchard, Lvi-Strauss and others have shown contrary to what Lvy-Bruhl or Cassirer assumed, a mythical worldview is no less rational (if rational is understood to mean formal-logical, coherent, and systematic) than a modern worldview. It might be less or more infused with internal contradictions or circularities but as a whole it can very well provide reasons for particular ideas or actions within it (Kondylis, 1987, 17).

Irrationality is a restraining force in a discourse when it is expressed as an unwillingness to assume a reflective attitude towards our own interpretation of the world. For Habermas, 'one behaves irrationally if one employs one's own symbolic means of expression in a dogmatic way' (Habermas, 1991, 22). In this vein, we may even be led to the conclusion that our own culture is irrational when it asserts its own content dogmatically and circularly against the overall content of other cultures and excludes them from the educational agenda. Habermas's 'procedural' definition of irrationality can serve the purpose of assessing discourses (showing whether they are dogmatic, ideological, coercive or free and undistorted) without excluding different contents of thinking as irrational, pre-rational or inferior. Its prima facie implication for education is its telling incompatibility with the dogmatic discrimination against otherness on grounds of rational cultural content.

His insights appear to be even more liberating if we take into account the double thinking of those postmodernist theorists who denounce traditional accounts of rationality. They do so because reason supposedly leads to a marginalization and exclusion of an opponent in agonistics by charging her with irrationality. But the double thinking becomes apparent when they themselves do not resist the temptation to invert the charge and equate (for polemical reasons and sometimes even without good grounds) the 'rational' with 'rationalist' or 'logocentric' and discard it in one blow.

When extended to worldviews, the definition of rationality (as non-dogmatism and problematization of self-affirmation) a Habermasian sociologist employs allows for evaluation and critique without a premature labelling as 'irrational' or 'savage' of different world-understandings. Still, even this redefinition of reason would not meet the approval of some postmodernist thinkers, for it is the very possibility of any rational assessment they dispute. Elizabeth Grosz argues that 'the crisis of reason consists [among other things she has mentioned -M.P.] in the impossibility of rationally deciding between competing methods and paradigms produced from different positions' (Grosz, 1993, 194). A Habermasian would challenge Grosz's assertion and so would do any educationalist following Nussbaum's defence of the cultivation of critical citizenship. With regard to schooling, the vision of an emancipatory education, one that assists the young to make informed existential choices, is incompatible with the 'anything goes' of the postmodernist attack on criteriology and the perspectivalist understanding of cultural diversion. For openness to alterity not to be aloof and consequently, indifferent and blind to the Other, what one needs is to be convinced that a critical engagement with any Other is possible in principle.

But one must set two basic conditions in order to avoid a contradiction between this possibility of assessment of the rationality of different worldviews and the previous assumption that there are not totally irrational or pre-logical worldviews or cultures. The first guarantees that the evaluation is not carried out with a mathematical, abstract and worse still, self- assertive reason in opposition to experience, feelings, empathy and desire. And the second safeguards that cognitive achievements and instrumental-technical progress are not the only criteria for judging and consequently, that other, non-cognitive, dimensions of Being have already gained a status at least equivalent to the one granted to cognition or technical control. Knowledge and rationality are broader terms than cognition and calculation. The cognitive relation to the world of existing things is just one kind of relation to the world. The rationality of worldviews should not be measured only in terms of our relation to the objective world but also in terms of our relation to the social and subjective worlds ( Habermas, 1991, 45).

True, a culture is often considered less rational than an other one when its logic is framed by its worldview in such a way that it does not allow for cognitive development. This becomes obvious if we consider the knowledge of a society that views medicine and healing as dependent solely on magic spells. It appears to us cognitively less rational if we compare it to the knowledge of the body and its efficacy in a society where culture is uncoupled from nature so that the mythical-magical element loses its links to natural/causal necessity. [Alternative medicine based on a particular knowledge of nature and the body that does not resemble the Occidental knowledge is a different issue and I would not equate it with magic]. But there is a possibility that this society might be more advanced and rational with respect to interpersonal relations within it than the one that progresses cognitively. Even if that is not the case, still, the non-rationalized culture does not lack logic or possess a different logic or different ways of reasoning. The potential for rationality is always there where a communicative competence demarcates ordinary language from non-articulated, non-differentiated sound. '[A]lthough they may be interpreted in various ways and applied according to different criteria, concepts like truth, rationality, or justification play the same grammatical role in every linguistic community' (Habermas, 1992, 138).

To summarize, we may discern certain formal properties a culture must have if rational action orientations are to be possible at all. These are the possibility of raising differentiated validity claims, the possibility of a reflective relation to itself (absence of dogmatism), the possibility of cultural objectivations (e.g. higher-level validity claims related to different spheres of experience) and an uncoupling of purposive-rational from communicative action. But the difference in the degree of rationalization should not be mistaken for a difference in dispositions and properties of human beings; the actual must not be identified with the potential. It is not only empirically provable but also politically necessary to consider all societies and cultures as equally endowed with logic and potentially with rationality. Otherwise we fall prey to a subtle racism or tribalism or we abstain from any evaluative/normative judgements and thus fall prey to a politically inoperative relativism. Of course, self-reflection forces the universalistic account of reason to consider its own origins as well as its own limits. The modern world is well ahead in terms of technical progress but it can be by far superseded by other cultures when it comes to other more subtle relations to norms, nature, sexuality, corporeality, care and so on.

What enables western rationality to conceive universal validity claims when it is not legitimate for itself to impose its own understanding on other cultures and have more than particularistic claims? Is this not a paradox related to our own position in our culture? This paradox can be resolved, I believe, as soon as we understand our worldview as a plurality of different and often divergent elements and recognize the Other within. We should see the conception of universalism as related to that modern understanding of the world that is indeed based on general structures of rationality but it is only one achievement of our self-reflection and it is often tarnished by other aspects of our worldview. Due to the latter, 'modern Western societies promote a distorted understanding of rationality that is fixed on cognitive-instrumental aspects and is to that extent particularistic' (Habermas, 1991, 66). Moreover, if rationalization appears as a learning process, it is more likely that it will not take the form of a continuum, and it will not be without disruptions and regressions. It is also possible that it will not have the anticipated or desired effect (66-7). Modernization should have been understood as a result of such a rationalization and not as another term for denoting rationalization as such.

Rationalization and the Critique of Weber

As early as 1968, Habermas postulates that in order to reformulate what Weber called 'rationalization', one should overcome the subjective approach that Parsons shares with Weber and couch one's problematic in the categorial framework of work and interaction. Work as purposive- rational action (instrumental and strategic) realises defined goals under given conditions but interaction refers only to communicative action or symbolic interaction (Habermas, 1987, 91). When rationalization is associated with instrumental action it generates a growth of productive forces and extension of technological control, and when related to social interaction it generates extension of uncoerced communication (Habermas, 1988).

The Habermasian shift to language that took place later gave to his challenge of Weber's categorial framework and the basic premises of traditional social theory a more substantive form. It offered the conceptual tools for a clearer redefinition of different rationalities and a deeper critical examination of Weber's distinction of value spheres, description of rationalization and its connection to modernization. [At the same time, it signified a departure from a Marxist explanation of social evolution, for it is rationalization rather than social conflict as such that paves the way to social change and development.] A critique of Weber's theory from a Habermasian point of view, concerning those issues of reason that are relevant to the aims of this article, can be summarized in the following points. The first is the narrowing of the concept of reason, the second refers to the lack of unity of reason and the irreducibility of value spheres, the third to the omission of selectivity and counterfactuality, and the fourth to the Weberian paradox.

Habermas criticizes Weber's pessimistic diagnosis of an irreducible separation and antagonism of value spheres and the consequent incompatibility of the corresponding validity claims. As soon as different cultural value spheres gained autonomy, they became closed structures, independent from each other for their justification or currency. So Weber laments the fact that with religions and mythical world interpretations having lost their all- encompassing character, the grounds for a coherent and unifying legitimation disappeared; for instance the beautiful is no longer the good and the true is no longer the beautiful.

However, he fails to see, according to Habermas, that these spheres, without losing their independence and equal status vis--vis each other, can be prevented from being absolute and non-permeable totalities, only if we see the rationalities corresponding to them as moments of argumentative reason. The latter should not have been given up to irreconcilable, closed and self-referential modes of reason. 'The unity of rationality in the multiplicity of value spheres rationalized according to their inner logics is secured precisely at the formal level of the argumentative redemption of validity claims. Validity claims differ from empirical claims through the presupposition that they can be made good by means of arguments' (Habermas, 1991, 249). If we do not presuppose a unity achieved through argumentative rationality we are left with the cumbersome issue of how to maintain the universalism of criteriology, or, in other words, how it is possible for reason to critique itself (the so-called paradox of reason).

The paradox of reason is caused by an incomplete transition from unity and totality to a dialectic reconciliation of the whole with symmetrically differentiated particularities. The rationality of only some of the autonomized cultural spheres (e.g., nomological sciences) is anchored in domains of law, art, and morality, thus overshadowing and suppressing their own intrinsic mode of rationality. Symptoms of a one-sided rationalization are the ostensible identity of modernization and systematization in modernity, the penetration and reification of the lifeworld by subsystems like the economy and the state, and the collapse of parts of the communicative stock of the lifeworld due to system imperatives. Weber saw in his diagnosis of loss of freedom, identity and meaning a paradox of reason, because he himself unconsciously adopted and theoretically pursued what had already occurred in practice regarding reason: an alteration of its meaning. 'In the transition from cultural to societal rationalization, the Weberian concept of rationality, which is, in any case, tailored to purposive-rational action', became narrow (221). Weber used the purposive rationality of entrepreneurial activity as it is institutionalized in the capitalist enterprise as a springboard for investigating and explaining societal rationalization (218).

In contradistinction to what Weber believed, the types of rationality complementary to the strategic one have co- determined the Occidental process of rationalization, although they themselves misunderstood 'their role and nature by associating themselves with the perspective [...] of a rationality of means and ends' (Apel, 1993, 42- 3). Non-strategic modes of thinking and acting appeared as strategic and misled Occidental self-understanding. A reformulation of notions developed within modernity and associated with reason (e.g. autonomy, solidarity, and human rights), would accomplish their redemption from their strategic function in the framework of another paradigm. They would have to be dissociated from strategic rationality and redeemed from their servile role.

This domination by strategic and purposive rationality - which ironically was not only Weber's diagnosis but apparently his own snare - resulted in a selectivity. A selective pattern of rationalization occurs 'when (at least) one cultural value sphere is insufficiently institutionalized'. The marginalized component of the given culture lacks any structure-forming effect on society as a whole. As a result, '(at least) one sphere predominates to such an extent that it subjects life-orders to a form of rationality that is alien to them' (Habermas, 1991, 240). Had Weber proceeded further along the lines of his own assertions about the differentiation of value spheres and had he observed this selectivity of rationalization (a) he would have not missed the counterfactual element of reason, and (b) he would have not over- dramatized the so-called Weberian paradox.

Weber started immediately from the actually existing and dominant Occidental forms of rationality, instead of taking into account the counterfactually projected possibilities of a 'rationalized lifeworld' (222). Where Weber went wrong according to Habermas was in the hasty connection of purposive rationality with societal rationalization process. He did not view 'the historical profile of this process against the background of what was structurally possible' (233). Weber did not see the kind of modernization that occurred as just one of the possibilities opened by a rationalization of worldviews.

What is important for my argument is that Habermas's critique of Weber proves that a worldview may proceed toward a post-conventional, universalistic, and rational account of validity without exploiting the possibility opened by a comprehensive, context-sensitive, but universal reason and without pursuing the possibilities this opens for humanity. Hence such a worldview ultimately legitimizes the pathologies and crises the system generates at the levels of personality, society, and culture. Thus, one may acknowledge that Occidental rationalism had and has a potential for the redemption of universal validity claims without simultaneously assuming that it really succeeded in that. Furthermore, we may still believe in this potential without assuming that the actual route the West takes is higher than non-western counterparts at all levels or that this potential is not available to other cultures. The obvious benefits of such accounts of rationalization for a multicultural education render the former a candidate for theorizing the latter effectively.

In short, Occidental rationalism evolves selectively and emerges as one- sided, partial, and even tyrannical. Social integration and preservation of social lifeworlds become more problematic, the more the inflated subsystems of economy and the state anchor in and reify these lifeworlds marginalizing whatever does not conform to their imperatives. One mode of reason, then, de-institutionalizes, excludes, marginalizes, and expands at the expense of, other modes of reason. The practical outcome is the suppression of difference at a social level, when minority groups, or race, class, gender/sexual preference movements are bereft of access to and effective participation in public life. It is precisely this deprivation that is mirrored in many Western curricula. Criticisms of Weber from a Habermasian point of view show that the problems caused by a selective rationalization can be confronted by a more comprehensive and encompassing rationalization. Consequently, we see once again, that modernization as a historical phenomenon is not, and should not be, identified with rationalization as such. Reason as the totality of its manifestations is not complicit with what its partial and one-dimensional application (among other causes) has produced.

For Habermas, 'rationalization means overcoming [...] systematically distorted communication in which the action- supporting consensus concerning the reciprocally raised validity claims [...] can be sustained in appearance only, that is, counterfactually' (Habermas, 1984, 120). Problem-solving argumentation and consensual resolution of conflicts is dependent on the rationality of the social agents. If this is true, then any attempt to explain social development 'with reference to a dynamic of social struggle that is structurally located within the moral space of social interactions' (Honneth, 1991, xvii) presupposes a reference to a logic of rationalization. Honneth identifies two Habermasian approaches to the problem of social evolution, i.e., one that examines the relation between systems and lifeworlds with aid of an account of rationalization, and one that emphasizes 'the dynamic of social struggle'. In response to Honneth's consideration of the second approach as more promising, I would defend the former as indispensable to the latter. Habermas's sociology has to rely at least equally on a recuperation of reason and on the dynamics of social interaction in order to propound not only a description but also a critique of Occidental societies. For, the dynamics of social interaction can be politically promising only via teleology, i.e. that metaphysics that ignores the normative neutrality of the concept of dynamics as such and 'loads' it with an ethical destiny. To retain political promise without teleology, one cannot but find recourse to the critical force of a rationality that in its multidimensionality encompasses practical reason and ethics.

Reason Revisited

Now let us combine the findings of each section into a demand for a particular concept of reason and examine how Habermas's theory can meet this demand. To be able to compare alternative cultural patterns and make political or existential choices accordingly without prioritizing one's own from the start, one needs a notion of reason that is both immanent and transcendent. It must be immanent qua context-sensitive and situated and transcendent qua capable of self-critique and other-oriented assessment. To promote the possibility for fruitful and unassimilating exchange among cultures we need a conception of deliberative reason that allows for a dialogue that goes beyond compromise. To achieve a critical outlook with regard to hegemonic tendencies of the Occidental modernization we need a conception of rational self-reflection that is capable of discerning between acts based on strategic rationality and acts based on communicative rationality and acknowledge the normative priority of the latter.[3] In a nutshell, we need a reason that is not limited to technological and scientific progress.

Admittedly, all these issues cannot be tackled within the space of an article thus I shall confine myself to a general outline of how Habermas and his associates promote research in this direction. However, two points should be raised in advance. The first can be better illustrated if we examine how this definition of rationality differs considerably from the one Niklas Luhmann employs. In fact, Luhmann terms 'reason' what Habermas seems to term alternatively 'reason' or 'rationality'. For Luhmann, '"reason" always refers to human capacity, and the capacity that makes reason a distinct phenomenon is always a human capacity'. But as he argues, we should look to criteria that can be applied to systems, whether they are social systems or psychic systems. 'The term "rationality" is better adapted to this task' (Luhmann, 1993, 221). Whereas for Luhmann rationality is more significant than reason, Habermas is more interested in the human capacity to reflect on the world and one's conditions of life.

The second point concerns the fact that seeing reason as a human disposition does not amount to seeing reason merely as an organ. Habermas avoids the naturalism that is sometimes associated with a conception of reason as a species-specific property. 'The achievements of the transcendental subject have their basis in the natural history of the human species.' Isolated from its context, this thesis could engender the misunderstanding that reason is an organ of adaptation for human beings just as claws and teeth are for animals. But this is not the only function it serves. The human interests that have emerged in humankind's natural history, with which Habermas has associated the knowledge-constitutive interests, derive both from nature and from the cultural break with nature. In this way, for him, 'knowledge equally serves as an instrument and transcends mere self-preservation' (Habermas, 1987b, 312).

Moreover, on Habermas's account, rationality refers to the disposition of speaking and acting subjects to acquire and use fallible knowledge. Hence it differs from an abstract self-referential and minimally informative sense of rationality. In Apel's words: 'We must distinguish the logos of reason as such, i.e., the self-reflexive logos of argumentation or of discursive rationality from the non-reflexive "abstract" logos of logico-mathematical rationality' (Apel, 1993, 46). And Wellmer (1992) suggests that we take as our paradigm of rationality not logical deduction or algorithmic calculation, but the rationality of a good dialogue where the new way in which an argument is presented may be constitutive of its force with respect to an old problem.

Given those two points, a broader conception of rationality is not only manifestly and programmatically announced in Apel's and Habermas's works but it follows indeed from their epistemological, ontological and anthropological assumptions. What has to be further examined is how this conception of reason relates to science and technology - therefore implicitly to the historical development of the Occidental culture.

Apel frequently deplores the pathological intrusion of science and systems like economy and state to the lifeworld. But he believes that a monism emerging from a strict separation of science and hermeneutics and the one-way dependence of the former on the latter is a mere inversion of the polarization encouraged by positivism and scientism and thus is just as untenable as an unmitigated dualism. Habermas would agree with Apel and would also maintain that science can take on an emancipatory task. Habermas and Apel suspect any privileging of either kind of reason and defend a complementarity between understanding and explanation (therefore: humanities and sciences).

Overall, despite the fact that some issues around the relation of reason and science are contentious even within the second generation of Frankfurt School thinkers, what matters in the present discussion is the following. The Habermasian conception of reason allows for a critical reconsideration of the directions of the scientific mode of rationality and questions the worshipful insistence on its proclamation a ground for the prioritization of the West over other lifeworlds. Therefore it provides a further basis for a solid justification of the claim for changes in the curriculum such that divest the scientific worldview of the monolithic primacy it has been granted in education.

Let us turn, then, to the relation of human beings to their world and how the critique of modernization, science, and technology enables the theoretical accommodation of the significance of other aspects of existence. This is a necessary venture, if one wishes to justify the promotion of a cognitive and a cultural curricular pluralism and multidimensionality in education.

Apel remarks that modernity set the logos of classical metaphysics in the service of the propositional representation of facticity in abstraction from the pragmatic dimension of speech. There has been a deliberate separation of the representational functions of speech from those of a pragmatic nature. The exclusion of the latter from the philosophical domain of thought and their relegation to the domains of poetics and rhetoric severed reason from its relation to practice. The communicative and self-expressive functions of speech and the validity claims corresponding to the rationality of these functions continued losing their prestige along with their philosophical relevance in modern times (Apel, 1993, 38).

The rehabilitation of those aspects of our relation to the world that modern accounts of the human excluded or underestimated broadens rationality and has a crucial implication for the possibility of rational critique. Reason itself can in principle provide the means for criticizing itself because reason as a whole is always more comprehensive than its particular manifestation - activated whenever a certain critique takes shape. And this more encompassing conception of reason presupposes, among other things, an account of the ontogenetic and phylogenetic development of human beings that differs from the one assumed by the psychoanalytically influenced early Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School.

Rationalization seen by Georg Lukacs as reification in 'exchange-value' (or wage-labour) is reworked, complemented with the concept of alienation, and expanded by Adorno and Horkheimer. The aim is firstly to explain the phenomenon of reason itself concerning the subject and the species, and second to diagnose and criticize the pathologies of western societies. Reason provides the means for a vulnerable being to subordinate nature and serve its desire for self-preservation. However, this reason is instrumental since it objectifies the world and reifies other humans in order to make them more manipulable. It is a subjective rationality because it serves the subject's ends and survival. And this occurs at the expense of the individual's inner world of unconscious desires and instincts and the reconciliation of human beings with their external world. The myth of Ulysses is interpreted magnificently by Horkheimer and Adorno in terms of the anthropology described above (Papastephanou, 2000). This anthropology assumes that subjective or instrumental reason is a survival mechanism from the very beginning of societies and cultures. Modernization is just one stage in the evolution of reason.

At first sight, the ideas of the early Critical Theory seem conducive to the task of uncoupling modernization from rationalization. But the advent of civilization appears in Critical Theory inexorably connected with the reifying power of reason from the start. What was launched as a critique of positivism, capitalism, liberalism and their ontological assumptions was then extended to reason wholesale. Such critique of reason, however, points automatically to an 'other' of reason, perhaps a reason once again, only this time opposed to the subjective one. However, Horkheimer and Adorno do not have the conceptual means to offer an account of this reason because whatever they say will be said by means of subjective reason (since it is the only one they recognize anthropologicaly-psychoanalytically). 'The critique of instrumental reason, which remains bound to the conditions of the philosophy of the subject, denounces as a defect something that it cannot explain in its defectiveness'. It does so 'because it lacks a conceptual framework sufficiently flexible to capture the integrity of what is destroyed through instrumental reason' (Habermas, 1991, 389). The critique promoted by the early Critical Theory, ensnared in its own presuppositions of a reifying reason, becomes disarmed and ineffective. It can only allude to an Other of reason; it can only point to it sometimes as reconciliation, at other times as mimesis (Papastephanou, 2000).

What appears as a paradox is not due to reason itself, but due to the premises of the theory of reason the first generation of Frankfurt School thinkers (Horkheimer, Adorno, and Marcuse) employed. According to Habermas, the first generation remained trapped in the philosophy of consciousness and was unable to rework the notion of the subject, the notion of knowledge and reflection, and consequently, the notion of reason. The subject is related to a world of states of affairs and this relation is established one-sidedly as only cognitive. A paradigm of intersubjectivity rehabilitates precisely those other aspects of our relation to the world that offer us a standpoint for criticizing the excesses of subject-centered reason.Reason is enriched with more dimensions and allows for a critique of reason within reason. In this way, the merits of Adorno's critique of instrumental reason are rescued and transferred to a fresh paradigm of thought, one that does justice to non-cognitive aspects of life without tarnishing reason wholesale.

The concept of communicative reason that in Habermas's theory comes to supplement purposive rationality can be articulated plausibly after having rehabilitated the non-cognitive but still rational aspects of thought. Reason is not meant to apply simply to truth-intentions, or to truth of objects, or to truth of norms individually and in a narrow sense. 'Rather, reason should reveal the unity of the moments of reason separated out in all three Kantian critiques: the unity of theoretical reason with practical/moral insight and the critique of judgment' (Habermas, 1992b, 101). Apel, Habermas, Wellmer (1992) and others whose work draws upon a pragmatic philosophy of language attempt to find a third way for achieving this unity without harming the plurality and freedom gained with the distinction between the manifestations of reason. That requires more than a rehabilitation of our threefold relation to the world. It needs a reformulation of those basic assumptions of the first generation of Frankfurt School that are mirrored in their interpretation of the myth of Ulysses and which happen to be shared by many thinkers from different philosophical traditions. Knowledge, reflection, self-preservation and human interests are some of the ideas in question. However, what matters for the argument of the present article is that without a rehabilitation of the threefold relation to the world, one is not in a position to criticize the Occidental conception of rationalization. Nor can one forward a demand for cosmopolitan education, and enrich taught materials with values that facilitate such objectives.

Conclusion: Rationalization and Sociology of Education

The aim of this article has been to establish a relation between the identification of modernization and rationalization of worldviews and the one-sided and prejudiced treatment of Otherness and suggest a disconnection of them. This does not mean, of course, that as soon as we reject this identification ethnocentrism will vanish, or that it represents the only theoretical basis of Occidental arrogance. What I hope to have shown is that, given that the identification can be incriminated for some of the self-centredness observed in our lifeworlds, its rejection may enhance more multiculturally sensitive sociological perspectives. Hence I have interpreted Habermas's theory here to this end arguing that it does justice to claims of qualitative symmetry and non-qualitative difference among civilizations.

Having explored the theory and displayed how it can be made compatible with a critical multiculturalism, it is time now to strengthen this claim by discussing how it avoids ethnocentrism. To accomplish this via negativa defence, I borrow Nussbaum's account of the vices 'that any good education for global understanding will need to combat' (Nussbaum, 1997, 118). She distinguishes them into descriptive and normative. The former concerns the understanding of other cultures and the latter their evaluation. Both wrong alterity either by misinterpreting it or by misjudging it. Descriptive vices comprise chauvinism and romanticism. The former 'consists in recreating the other in the image of oneself, reading the strange as exactly like what is familiar' (118). It presupposes a lack of real knowledge and engagement with the otherness that it thus assimilates. With regard to the communicative action theory presented here as incompatible with xenophobia, we should say that despite its being closer due to its universalism to this vice than any of the rest that Nussbaum discusses, yet it does not fall prey to it. That is because of its dialogical core, which would discourage any consistent defender of it to form an opinion about another culture (taking here the position of an ideal co-subject of discourse) without real (direct or mediated) exposure to it. Descriptive romanticism signifies the conception of another culture as 'excessively alien and virtually incompatible with one's own, ignoring elements of similarity and highlighting elements that seem mysterious and odd' (124). Given our discussion of the dipole rationality vs irrationality of otherness in the first part of the article, we see that communicative action theory is not susceptible to this vice since its idea of potential universal validity claims functions protectively on this particular point.

The normative vices include chauvinism, Arcadianism, and skepticism. A normative chauvinist 'judges that her own culture is best, and that insofar as the other culture is unlike it, it is inferior' (131). Again, a matter of consistency is raised for communicative action theory. If an advocate of this theory wishes to be consistent to its gist, s/he cannot overlook its actual critique of the Occident and the potential one it initiates via the rehabilitation of modes of being other than those prioritized by Occidental societies. Consistency secures in this case the avoidance of the negative effects of chauvinism. Arcadianism being a glorification of the non-West presents the other as a 'reverse image of whatever is found impoverished or constraining in one's own culture' (134). Habermas's theory can avoid it precisely due to its universalism blocking the tendency to exoticize the Other and interpret its difference as mystical non-rationality. Finally, normative skepticism refers to the suspension of any judgement or evaluation of other modes of life (136). It is evident that it presupposes an impossibility of comparability of cultures and an incommensurability, i.e. an absence of criteriology or rational yardstick for critiquing cultural patterns. We have already seen how Habermas rejects this view thus we may conclude safely that his theory does not suffer from this normative weakness.

These vices often appear combined and ground surreptitiously educational stances. Nussbaum's diagnose is very illuminating. 'Many contemporary attacks on "multicultural" education go wrong through a similar combination of descriptive and normative error' (Nussbaum, 1997, 132). If we agree with Nussbaum and attribute to those vices the inadequacies of theories shaping educational policies regarding world citizenship,[4] we realize that those theories capable of avoiding them at least at the level of framework and paradigmatic assumptions are necessary tools to a politically correct sociology of education. They can even expand and radicalize the cosmopolitan demand Nussbaum puts forward. For, all these negative attitudes to otherness can neither be attributed only to non-teaching other cultures nor can they be remedied simply by inserting appropriate modules in educational settings. What is also needed is the realization that when we talk about other cultures we talk about societies and we implicitly know it. Thus if we do not change our ways of interpreting societies and their developments, i.e. our sociological grasp of society and its rationalization, we shall not achieve the desired intercultural sensitivity and the ability for self-critique it presupposes.

The discussion of rationalization with regard to the assessment of worldviews in the present article by no means aims to oversimplify the problem of the ethnocentrism of Occidental self-understanding. But what it has accomplished is a suggestion that cultures considering themselves as rationalized should first turn to themselves, to assess their own qualitative standards before measuring the value of other cultures according to their dominant monolithic ideological attachment to a truncating notion of rationality. And it has shown that for this suggestion to be more than spectatorial, gestural or condescending what is required is a different conception of what is rational. What is also required, is a solid justification of it, a critique of old but still widely held theories of rationalization, and an enrichment of our ways of rationally relating ourselves to our world. Sociology of education can act as a 'linchpin' combining the socio- theoretical material provided by its tradition with the educational practical field of endeavour, which offers itself as a touchstone of the pertinence of each social theory. Hence what has also been attempted here is the exploration of an example precisely of how sociology of education can introduce an alternative conception of rationalization and defend it as an underpinning to the educational claim for multicultural directions of learning.


1 This also explains why I take the relevance of rationalism to educational modes of treating cultural difference for granted.

2 We shall return to her account, which involves a list of normative and descriptive vices in the conclusion.

3 As Habermas rejects prelinguistic foundations, the priority of communicative over strategic rationality is dissociated from 'needs' or 'drives' or 'consciousness' and is located in human interaction within a society (Papastephanou, 1997).

4 As she writes, 'Allan Bloom, for example, asserts that "only in the Western nations, i.e. those influenced by Greek philosophy, is there some willingness to doubt the identification of the good with one's own way." This inaccurate description neglects rich critical traditions in many non-Western philosophical cultures and, of course, the everyday critical rationality of most human beings in all places and times. On this shaky basis Bloom then judges the West to be superior and the non-West to be not worth studying' (132).


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