Reason, Society and Religion: Reflections on 11 September from a Habermasian Perspective
Department of Philosophy, California State University, Sonoma, CA, USA
I have two main objectives in this essay: (1) to situate the events of 11 September within the context of the impact of modernization on religious consciousness and institutions; and (2) to suggest, albeit without adequate empirical support, that militant Islamic opposition to the West in general and the United States in particular is itself an effect of the peculiar path of modernization that has unfolded in the Gulf region of the Middle East over the last 200 years. To develop my argument, I draw upon Habermas's theory of social evolution. Since this strategy requires explaining the key components of that theory, I devote a good part of the article to this task.
The paper has five parts. In parts one and two, I criticize competing explanations of the events of 11 September from left, right and center. All these positions fail in one way or another to take seriously the religious significance of those events. In part three, I explain the six central dimensions of Habermas's theory of social evolution: (1) communicative rationality; (2) communicative action; (3) life-world; (4) system; (5) social typology; and (6) the systemic colonization of the life-world. In part four, I examine the relation between religion and modernity. In part five, I examine the modernization processes in the Gulf region of the Middle East. Empirical evidence tentatively suggests that such a process has been one-dimensional, focusing on systemic complexity to the detriment of the communicative rationalization of the life-world. Such evidence also indicates the existence of widespread systemic colonization of the life-world. If the empirical data are correct, then we can explain the emergence of extreme militant Islamic fundamentalism as an effect of a retarded development of those socio-political structures necessary for the realization of communicative rationality.
Apparently it can be downloaded for free from here. At least I did.