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Edgar M. Cullen Prize Paper (J. Witt, J. Balkin, J. Resnik) (best paper by a 1st year student)


Jürgen Habermas concludes his landmark work, A Theory of Communicative Action, by reflecting on the world-historical moment in which it was written. In 1970s, Habermas saw pervasive administrative intervention into society in the developed, Western world. This intervention, in his view, threatened the integrity of the “lifeworld.” The lifeworld generates social stability and political legitimacy from a rich fabric of communication and shared understandings. The daily lives of private citizens, as they speak with friends and family, learn from teachers and peers, engage in common projects, and discuss politics, create a fund of meaning that gives purpose and resilience to society. Administrative power and economic rationality, by contrast, generate stability and legitimacy through the antiseptic media of coercion, incentives, cost benefit analyses, and the efficient allocation of risk and capital.

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