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Thread: Legitimation Crisis (Habermas)

  1. #1

    Default Legitimation Crisis in Ireland

    I strongly recommend a read of this enlightening little book (approx. 170 pages, depending on the edition) by Jürgen Habermas.

    There is more than whiff of legitimation crisis wafting around the Irish State at present.

    Dermot Ahern acnowledges, for example, that the threatened withdrawal of services by members of An Garda Síochána amounts to "a challenge to the authority of the State".

    Others might say that it is Mr. Ahern's own Government (together with its predecessors) that has been instrumental in inflicting catastrophic damage on the State and its authority.



    A small sample:

    A legitimation crisis can be predicted only if expectations that cannot be fulfilled either with the available quantity of value or, generally, with rewards conforming to the system are systematically produced. A legitimation crisis then, must be based on a motivation crisis—that is, a discrepancy between the need for motives declared by the state, the educational system and the occupational system on the one hand, and the motivation supplied by the socio-cultural system on the other. (LC, Part II, Ch. 6)


    Our present social/cultural/political/economic 'system' continues to systematically produce expectations (e.g. wealth, wellbeing, equality, fairness, happiness ...) which, increasingly, cannot be fulfilled either with the available quantity of value (e.g., appeals to 'patriotism' ring hollow; appeals to 'sacrifice' lack credibility when they come from those who do not experience most of the pain; appeals to 'decency', 'honesty'. truthfulness', etc., similarly lack effective systemic force) or with rewards conforming to the system (the illusion that the party would continue indefinitely has been shattered; everyone will not have the big house, car, holiday villa, etc., to which they were systematically encouraged to aspire).

    The result is a severe underlying systemic crisis.
    If this crisis is merely cyclical and temporary, like a curable illness, the party may eventually resume and the system itself will survive the crisis.
    If the crisis is more long term, it will begin to undermine the types of motivation whose absence would inevitably result in a crisis of legitimation. This, in turn, would lead to a search for an alternative system, a new social/cultural/political/economic paradigm (which will eventually produce a new set of expectations).

    Those who wish to preserve the present 'system' will feel obliged to do all in their power to stave off a terminal legitimation crisis.

    Those who desire an alternative 'system' may welcome an impending legitimation crisis. Their problem is that they have no way of knowing for sure what kind of alternative may emerge.

    Interesting times!


    .
    Last edited by Utopian Hermit Monk; 4th January 2010 at 02:48 AM.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Utopian Hermit Monk View Post
    I strongly recommend a read of this enlightening little book (approx. 170 pages, depending on the edition) by Jürgen Habermas.

    There is more than whiff of legitimation crisis wafting around the Irish State at present.

    Dermot Ahern acnowledges, for example, that the threatened withdrawal of services by members of An Garda Síochána amounts to "a challenge to the authority of the State".

    Others might say that it is Mr. Ahern's own Government (together with its predecessors) that has been instrumental in inflicting catastrophic damage on the State and its authority.



    A small sample:

    A legitimation crisis can be predicted only if expectations that cannot be fulfilled either with the available quantity of value or, generally, with rewards conforming to the system are systematically produced. A legitimation crisis then, must be based on a motivation crisis—that is, a discrepancy between the need for motives declared by the state, the educational system and the occupational system on the one hand, and the motivation supplied by the socio-cultural system on the other. (LC, Part II, Ch. 6)


    Our present social/cultural/political/economic 'system' continues to systematically produce expectations (e.g. wealth, wellbeing, equality, fairness, happiness ...) which, increasingly, cannot be fulfilled either with the available quantity of value (e.g., appeals to 'patriotism' ring hollow; appeals to 'sacrifice' lack credibility when they come from those who do not experience most of the pain; appeals to 'decency', 'honesty'. truthfulness', etc., similarly lack effective systemic force) or with rewards conforming to the system (the illusion that the party would continue indefinitely has been shattered; everyone will not have the big house, car, holiday villa, etc., to which they were systematically encouraged to aspire).

    The result is a severe underlying systemic crisis.
    If this crisis is merely cyclical and temporary, like a curable illness, the party may eventually resume and the system itself will survive the crisis.
    If the crisis is more long term, it will begin to undermine the types of motivation whose absence would inevitably result in a crisis of legitimation. This, in turn, would lead to a search for an alternative system, a new social/cultural/political/economic paradigm (which will eventually produce a new set of expectations).

    Those who wish to preserve the present 'system' will feel obliged to do all in their power to stave off a terminal legitimation crisis.

    Those who desire an alternative 'system' may welcome an impending legitimation crisis. Their problem is that they have no way of knowing for sure what kind of alternative may emerge.

    Interesting times!


    .
    +1
    "In [Ireland] a wife is regarded as a chattel, just as a thoroughbred mare or cow." Mr Justice Butler in the Irish courts. 'Traditional Marriage' in the 1970s.

  3. #3

    Default

    Habermas:

    Prior to its employment as a social-scientific term, the concept of
    crisis was familiar to us from its medical usage. In that context it
    refers to the phase of an illness in which it is decided whether or
    not the organism's self-healing powers are sufficient for recovery.
    The critical process, the illness, appears as something objective. A
    contagious disease, for example, is contracted through external
    influences on the organism; and the deviations of the affected
    organism from its goal state — the normal, healthy
    state — can be observed and measured with the aid of empirical
    parameters.

    We therefore associate with crises the idea of an objective force
    that deprives a subject of some part of his normal sovereignty. To
    conceive of a process as a crisis is tacitly to give it a normative
    meaning — the resolution of the crisis effects a liberation of the
    subject caught up in it.
    (LC, Part 1, Ch.1)


    It could be argued that the Irish State has never really functioned in a fully healthy manner. We could cite the ongoing 'Home Rule/Rome Rule' debate as one indication that something was never quite right, or we might discuss the fears of anti-Lisbon voters in relation to national sovereignty.

    However, even if we accept that sovereignty is threatened or limited by external forces (Rome, Brussels, or whatever), it is theoretically within the power of the members of the State to counter and correct such external threats by, for example, deciding to abandon a particular religion or renegotiate the terms of membership of the EU.

    Given the nature of today's global economy and culture, it is inconceivable that any State could, or would wish to, totally isolate itself from all external forces. It is usually a matter of deciding what is or is not an acceptable limitation on national sovereignty.

    The type of threat involved in a crisis of legitimation is different. Rather than threatening the system from without, it threatens it from within. As with many fatal medical conditions, the organism begins to attack itself.

    An example:
    Dermot Ahern asserts that the lawkeepers (Gardaí) cannot be seen to break the law, and that doing so amounts to an affront to democracy and a challenge to the authority of the State.

    Many may wish to ask him whether the same applies to the lawmakers. Even if their behaviour amounts to no more than a bending of the laws (e.g., by manipulating the rules governing travel expenses, by affording themselves all manner of financial and other privileges, by using their influence to protect friends or associates from the consequences of criminal activity, etc.), surely that too amounts to an affront to democracy and a challenge to the State's authority?

    If the people begin to lose confidence in the central organs of the State (especially the National Parliament), we are faced with a potentially very dangerous internal threat that may lead to the State organism beginning to attack itself from within and, ultimately, to terminal decline. The State simply cannot survive if a significant number of its members decide that, as presently conformed, it is no longer legitimate.

    It is one thing for the body politic to suffer a temporary head cold. It is something entirely different if it is suffering from life-threatening cancer!



    .
    Last edited by Utopian Hermit Monk; 9th December 2009 at 03:16 AM.

  4. #4

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    Compared to the growing crisis in the political system, the economic crisis is a distracting sideshow.

    The economic crisis leads to a reduced standard of living for many, and even hardship for some.

    The political crisis, if unresolved, could lead to a massive withdrawal of loyalty to the State itself.

    Habermas (LC, Part II, Ch.3) represents the main types of crisis as follows:




    He comments:

    A rationality deficit in public administration means that the state
    apparatus cannot, under given boundary conditions, adequately
    steer the economic system. A legitimation deficit means that it is
    not possible by administrative means to maintain or establish
    effective normative structures to the extent required.




    The gravity of the growing rationality crisis in our political system is self-evident.

    Much more serious is the fact that there appears to be a growing legitimation crisis (e.g., strike threat by An Garda Síochana (and, very probably following the Budget, other key components of the public sector), symptomatic of a profound disaffection; widespread 'grumbling' throughout all sectors of the population about the untrustworthiness of politicians, lack of fairness, impunity of corrupt bankers, developers, etc.).

    This crisis is aggravated by the lack of a credible alternative to the present Government. People may end up voting for Fine Gael and Labour in order to remove Fianna Fáil, but without any great conviction that similar patterns of unacceptable behaviour will not continue. Listening (reluctantly!) to debates in Leinster House, there is no evidence that any political grouping recognises the extent and gravity of the growing legitimation crisis.

    At best, the Opposition parties prescribe mild doses of aspirin, while what is needed is radical surgery.


    .

  5. #5

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    Leading Irish Politics discussion board:

    Thread on:

    Jürgen Habermas - Legitimation Crisis ( 4 replies {3 by the thread author}; 156 views )

    Paul Gogarty - 'F*** You' ( 237 replies; 13, 843 views )



    "You have disgraced yourselves AGAIN!"






    .

  6. #6
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    Very interesting contributions here.

    "It could be argued that the Irish State has never really functioned in a fully healthy manner."

    Why? Is it sick, or has it not fully matured (yet)?

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christel View Post
    Very interesting contributions here.

    "It could be argued that the Irish State has never really functioned in a fully healthy manner."

    Why? Is it sick, or has it not fully matured (yet)?

    I suggest that the Irish State is both sick and immature.

    Habermas' notion of legitimation is inseparable from the thesis that modern States are founded on the rule of reason (as opposed to inherited privilege, fear, superstition, or whatever).

    The rule of reason is an Enlightenment proposal, and is possible only in States which are populated by a sufficient number of individuals whose rational faculty is fairly well developed, i.e., individuals who are 'enlightened', or at least in the process of becoming rational(ised).

    Rational individuals will deem their State legitimate to the extent that its laws and procedures are perceived to satisfy the demands of reason. If the State is perceived to function on some other basis (e.g., favouring the interests of elites, or grievously offending against rules of 'fair play'), then rational individuals will withdraw their support, thereby provoking a crisis of legitimation.

    I believe the Irish State is sick, because some individuals and groups are consciously manipulating the organs of State power to further narrow sectional interests, against the common good.

    The absence of articulate public opposition to this abuse of State power indicates that the Irish State is also immature. A lot of people may feel a vague sense of outrage, but this is not based on any clear grasp of the fact that the rule of reason (and, hence, the legitimacy of the State) is being undermined by an unacceptable use of State power.



    .
    Last edited by Utopian Hermit Monk; 2nd January 2010 at 06:27 PM.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Utopian Hermit Monk View Post
    Leading Irish Politics discussion board:

    Thread on:

    Jürgen Habermas - Legitimation Crisis ( 4 replies {3 by the thread author}; 156 views )

    Paul Gogarty - 'F*** You' ( 237 replies; 13, 843 views )



    "You have disgraced yourselves AGAIN!"






    .
    Still though, you'd have to admit, the "Paul Gogarty - 'F*** You'" thread has far more substance to it than the pseudo-Intellectual posing on this one.

    *Joke...I just couldn't help it *

  9. #9
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    Thumbs up

    Good OP thank you v. much.
    I've been reading good ol' squashy-face since my college days; guy's awesome.

  10. #10
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    Question

    The type of threat involved in a crisis of legitimation is different. Rather than threatening the system from without, it threatens it from within. As with many fatal medical conditions, the organism begins to attack itself.
    To continue the analogy. If the body politic is suffering from a fatal crisis of legitimacy, how does an advocate of root and branch systemic change go about changing the system?

    Is it legitimate to follow Thoreau's advice and clog up the system with tax compliance protests?

    What is a legitimate means of bringing about systemic change?

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