II.4 Conceptual Architecture of Social Science according to Habermas in View of Broadening the Set of Basic Concepts of Economics


In the wealth of his publications Habermas has made many  important contributions to a fundamental renewal of the con­ceptual architecture[1] and the set of basic concepts guiding  social scientific research (Van Doorne 1982).  My focus will be on this fundamental infrastructure only,  that is, on a part of Habermas’s work. However, I consider it to be of crucial importance for his researchprogram as a whole, although this might get lost of sight due to the fact that Habermas since a good number of years has moved into the direction of  rather ‘applied’ research with regard to law, democracy and discourse ethics within  the contemporary tension-laden setting of state and society.

His conception concerning the selected topic has undergone a number of  changes  over the years. In my presentation I will forego these chan­ges. Therefore I articulate Habermas’s position in these matters as it stands since the mid-seventies, unchanged, in my opinion, as to its basic characteristics. I am in  substantial agreement with Habermas’s  project concerning the foundations of a theory of society. Nevertheless, it is my critical reception and  reconstruction of Habermas’s project, and  I hope that they may prove to be a fruitful extension of his project as well.

In the first section I will introduce sketchily the major aspects of Habermas’s view concerning the conceptual architecture of social scientific research, because it is otherwise impossible to determine the level of analysis on which the articulation of the set of basic concepts is situated . Then I will present in a provisional way the set of basic concepts which, according to Habermas,  are required to ensure the plausibility and the relevance of social scientific research. (In chapter I-7 I will go into a close examination of this set of concepts scrutinizing the relevant writings of Habermas.) In the following, short section , I will in general terms indicate how the means of a specific mathematical model of interaction offer the possibility to define the basic concepts of Habermas’s theory of society in an unambiguous manner and how their structural coherence can be articulated. (It is chapter I-8 in which this work effectively will be done.) And in the last secti­on , I will present a couple of reasons indicating that Haber­mas’s conceptual architecture and the set of basic con­cepts he proposes, can be made relevant for problems today’s economic science is facing. It is hoped that a modeled version of Habermas’s architectural and categorical framework will foster communicati­on and argumentati­on concer­ning the basic concepts of today’s economic scien­ce[2].

  1. Conceptual architecture and basic concepts

The conceptual architecture of Habermas’ theory of society[3]  

In Habermas’s view, scientific work always has to fulfill a double function: first, to generate testable and relevant empirical knowledge for the approach of problems that arise in our coping with the complex reality of everyday life and that cannot be handled within the limits of everyday practice[4]. And, second, to theoretically justify the plausibility and explanatory power of the presuppositions and assumptions that determine the process of scientific knowledge acquisition (see Van Doorne (1982: 82-96) and Van Doorne, Vromen (1989: 98-102). It is necessary to distinguish care­fully between these two functions of social scientific re­search. Each requires its own kind of discourse with the application of specific rules and criteria for the validi­ty of arguments brought forward[5]. For example, in economics with regard to the sector of business activities, an investigation of transaction costs in a specific case, requi­res different concepts and assumpti­ons then game-theoretic modeling and analysis of its implications and results. nd theory-formation, I will call the first kind of discourse the empirical-scien­tific form of con­cept- and the second the recon­struc­tive-scientific form[6] . Ac­cor­ding to Haber­mas, the two forms of concept- and theo­ry-formati­on are not self-contained, they have to be conside­red as mutual­ly depen­dent approaches, stylized[7] into different directions given predominant preoccupations and they are of equal importance for a scienti­fic discipline that claims to be a social scien­ce.

Closely related with this issue of the double-sidedness of scientific work is the question: how to con­ceptua­lize the relationship between these two main forms of theo­retical­ly steered activi­ties. And the fur­ther unavoida­ble question: how to conceptualize the relati­onship of each of these two scien­tific approaches with the every­day social reality we are living in. It is this reality that itself is characterized by complex features selectively put into focus by each of the two scientific approaches. There is nothing wrong with being selectively focusing as long as there can be given good reasons to do so. These questions are matters of architecture, and  with Habermas I consider their articulation and the development of an adapted conceptual framework as part of a (general) theory of society.

The main subject of Habermas’s theory of society is communication, that is in my understanding[8], specifically human social interaction, first of all, interactions between persons. But, as we will see in chapter I-7, the concept social interaction comprises as well interactions between action-domains, pertaining to a particular society or  to society at large. Against this background scientific work is seen as a specialized form of social interaction within the specific societal domain of science. In the three chapters I-6, I-7, and I-8  published here, I limit myself to a reconstruction of the conceptual framework of Habermas’s general theory of society with regard to the social sciences and their relation with society at large .

Habermas defends the view that defining empirical research-objects in the social sciences presupposes practical common knowledge (a ‘know-how’) about the characte­ristic structure of social interactions in everyday situations. The object-definition guiding the selective approach 0f research transforms an everyday social problem into a scientific problem. The transformation has two sides: it is an abstracting move with regard to a host of particularities relevant in everyday practices, as well as a selective, discipline-specific approach, commanded (however implicitly) by general assumptions about what is constitutive for social interactions and about what makes them work. In Habermas’s view these assumptions themselves have to be justified. This can only be done through a theoretical reconstruction of the ‘know how’ about what constitutes social interaction and about how it works, always implied in every non-arbitrary definition of a scientific object. Of course, a theoretical reconstruction of this kind has to apply as well to the interactions involved in the empirical-scientific transformation of societal problems and to the interactions involved in theoretical reconstruction itself. Thus, the two main forms of scientific interactions within the domain of science, the empirical and the reconstuctive, have to be measured against the (recon­structed) structural features of that pre­sup­posed practical common knowled­ge or know-how (‘Vorverständnis’ in German)[9].

According to Habermas, it is a fundamental precondition for social relevance to safeguard the interconnection[10] of  the two forms of theory formation with everyday social interactions and with each other. As will be shown in chapter I-8 , it is possible to fulfill this requirement in terms of conformity of the conceptual structure of the three to be differentiated contexts of social interaction, each of which, as we will see in chapter I-7, requires its own language. My interpretation and elaboration of Habermas’s concept leads to the following schema (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Interdependent  contexts of social interaction

Figure 1 offers an overview of three contexts of social interaction relevant for the domain of social science. They result from the distinction of scientific interaction from and against everyday interaction in the first place, and from the further distinction, with regard to the scien­tific interaction-domain itself, of the two existing main contexts of scientific research: empirical research and reconstructive research. I share Habermas’s conviction that diffe­rentia­tion in theory-formation goes astray without complemen­tary efforts at inte­gration. In the scheme this conviction is expressed by the introduction of two perspectives of analysis, not only a differen­tiating perspec­tive, but  an integrative perspec­tive as well, regarding respectively each of the two main contexts of scientific interac­tion. These short notes about the conceptual architecture of Haber­mas’s approach allow to indicate that the conceptual framework for a general theory of society he has developed, is a form of reconstructive-scientific theorizing and modeling. It is develo­ped from the integration perspective on the highest level of abstraction[11].

As we will see, the distinctions introduced in the scheme are a matter of primordial importance for the social science of economics. The major setbacks in today’s econo­mic theory-formation and modeling seem to be caused by the muddling of the two forms of scienti­fic interaction at the one hand, and their splitting up[12] at the other. E.g., empi­rical economics aiming at social relevance and mathemati­cal econo­mics aiming at theore­tical rigor and proof are neglecting each other instead of comple­menting and sustaining each other.

The basic categorical framework of a theory of society

Not only the architecture of Habermas researchprogram has undergone significant changes. This is also the case with the categorical framework.[13] Habermas has been de­ve­loping for the purpose of his theory of society[14]. What I am after is the reconstruction of what Habermas in his theory of society considers to be the set of basic concepts and their interdependent framework that is necessary and sufficient to understand and explain the constitutive features of a social interaction situation and the performance of social interactions. Habermas is in search of an explanatory model for the social sciences. It should be emphasized in advance that such a  model can not refer directly to concrete phenomena of  social interaction. It is a reconstruction of the general structural conditions which have to be fulfilled if we want to speak of social interaction. The analyses of the­se general structural conditions and their modeling in terms of a conceptual framework take place, as already noted, within the con­text  of reconstructive-theoretical research. In several publications Haber­mas has been working on it. In chapter I-7  I will follow closely the representative parts of Habermas’s early writings on this topic. For now I just mention the set of basic concepts that Habermas has proposed in his first attempts to develop ‘a formal pragmatics’ (1975-a, pp.13 and following; 1975-b, p. 332 and in parti­cular pp.337-3

Figure 2: the general action system[15]

With regard to the structure of the interaction-field of man, Habermas distinguishes four action sectors: (1a) external nature, (2a) internal human nature, (3a) society and (4a) the sector of language. With respect to the action competences in tune with these four action sectors he states that an actor should be able to (1b) act goaldirected, to (2b) self-expression, to (3b) communicative action and to (4b) language use. Concerning the reality relations which interconnect the different action sectors and the different action competences Habermas distinguishes (1c) the relation of objectivity, (2c) the relation of subjectivi­ty, (3c) the relation of normativity and (4c) the relation of intersubjectivity. Finally, taking into account the implicit validity claims that actors mutually bring forward, Habermas distinguishes four claims: (1d) a claim to truth, (2d) a claim to  veracity, (3d) a claim to rightness and (4d) a claim to comprehensibility. These intuitively made distinctions are not proposed in terms of acquired insight, but as basic presuppositions which we need, according to Habermas, in order to be able to account for our thin­king, acting and speaking. The meaning-, action- and reality-values of those distinctions still have to be made plausible in an empirically controled manner.

  1. On the need for modelling the structural categories

I have assumed in  my dissertation (Van Doorne (1982)) that the set of catego­ries presented in Figure 2 is adequate for the definition of the structural features of social interaction as such. I will argue in favor of this assumption , and I will do so by making use of mathematical means.  Given the complexity of Habermas’s con­cept,  it is difficult  to get a clear picture of the structural coherence ( if there is one) of  the in figure 2 enumerated basic categories.  Almost twenty years ago I came across a model used  by the mathemati­cal economist Ruys in his inaugural lecture on rational behavi­or[16]. In discus­sing it with him I surmised that the characte­ristic features of the model were interpreta­ble in terms of the coherence of the reality relations at the center of Habermas’s concept. Ever since I have been wor­king toge­ther with Ruys to really find out whether the axioms defining the formal interaction model could be interpreted such, that we could match his (tripolar) mathemati­cal model of interacti­on structures with the con­ceptual struc­tures of Habermas’s theory of social inter­action. With the help of the mathematical tools offered by the model I have been able to identify and to recon­struct, by modeling them, the set of reality relations (objectivity, normativity, sub­jectivity and intersub­jectivity ) as the conceptu­al core of Haber­mas’s theory of so­cie­ty. And only by doing so, I could make a reconstruction of the implicit rules according to which Habermas has been defining all the structural components put together in the schema of Figure 2.  And I could specify in what way and in what sense (according to his concept) they are contribu­ting to the construction of social reali­ty. In this respect, and in this sense only, my interpretation and reconstruction of Habermas’s theory of society is ‘preconditioned’ by the mathematical model used.  I leave the discussion of my reconstruction to chapter I-8.

  1. Relevance of Habermas’s conceptual framework for economics­

 In the search of my colleages and myself  to make Habermas’s theory of society fruitful for economic science we have become aware of the fact, that indeed there is a strong con­vergence of our con­cerns with overall concerns of Haber­mas’s theory of socie­ty. To mention just a few: to get rid of the dilemma of the individualistic versus collecti­vistic preeminence in social theorizing (inclu­ding economics); to go beyond the modern subject-centered philosop­hy with its concept of autono­mous man, underlying much of contemporary social science and promoted strongly by the concepts of ‘social choice’ and ‘game theory’; to find new ways of inter­relating conceptually the ever more drifting apart domains of social science; the search for post-metap­hysical concept-forma­tion, that is, of defining concepts not in terms of reference to preexisting ontological entities, but in terms of their mutually defining, linguistically articulated, inter­rela­tions and the pragmatic role they playlaying empha­sis upon inter­sub­jective interac­tion as source of worldmaking.

Against this background, I will give in this last section a couple of reasons for adapting the view that research designs in line with Habermas’s design of the concep­tual architecture of social scientific research, can help to overcome problems endemic in economics . And how the use of his con­ceptual frame­work may help to broade­n the range of basic concepts economists are using .

Conceptual architecture in  economics is deficient

There are problems regarding the scientific status and texture of economic science which, at least partly, are due to a lack of a clear articulation of the architecture of economic scien­ce. In argumen­tative exchanges among economists concerning the ob­ject, goal and function of economic science either conflation occurs of the two contexts of scientific interacti­on, or a splitting up in two not any more related theoretical approa­ches. In many cases it is not at all clear whether the basic concepts of economic science are empirically or analyti­cally styled con­cepts. As will be argued, the rela­tionship be­tween theoretical con­cepts of the two kinds and of each of those kinds with concepts operative in everyday inter­ac­tions, is at the heart of disagreements.

Business economics

Interviews with business economists  (see Van Doorne and Vromen 1989)[17] make visible a highly ambivalent picture of business economics as a scientific (sub)discipline. At the one hand, in the diffe­rent subdis­cipli­nes of busi­ness econo­mics there appears to be little or no room for the prac­ti­cal expe­riences and interacti­ons of everyday life, given the fact that they do appear in the economic discourse from its start only in as far as they already have been theore­tically trans­for­med into ‘empirical data’, fit­ting the orde­ring schemata of the concep­tual framework of (mai­nly neo­clas­sical) economics. At the other hand, when asked explicitly about the scientific status and texture of what they are doing, a good number among the scholars interviewed dis­tin­guish between the object of their (sub)disci­pline as experienced and observed  in everyday life (the experiential and the observational), and the theo­retical object of it[18]. Although they have learned to make this distinction, it certainly is not common practice to work with it. Rough­ly speaking, one can say that the scholars (prac­titioners in the different subdi­cipli­nes of busi­ness economics) fall into two groups: those who opt for safe­guarding the social relevan­ce of the scientific work they are involved in, and those who are almost exclusively concerned with main­taining high stand­ards for the justi­fication of scientific constructions with suppo­sedly explana­tory power.

The first group wants to prevent the experiential object as it is known to us through everyday practices, from disappea­ring out of view in the scientific approach and object defini­tion. From this perspective, it is unacceptable that the price one has to pay for scientific theory formation should be the loss of the social recognizability of the problem defini­tion. The questi­on is whether this group is succeeding in making it plausible to colleagues with the other preference, that the preemi­nence given to the rele­vance issue does not, or at least not ne­cessarily, operate at the expense of the other side of the scientific task: the theoretical justification of the approach chosen.

The second group attaches great importance to the correctness, rigor, and consistency of scientific explanatory strategies. This group is quite sensitive to the prestige that a scholar may gain within today’s ‘main­stream’ economics by building, on a high level of abstraction, explanatory con­structions. They seem prepared to pay the price that the theoretical construc­tions developed do not relate in any systematic way to the relevant problems encoun­tered in busi­ness practices.

In terms of a theory of science the viewpoint of the first group can be articulated by conceptually distin­guishing and relating the experiential/observational object and the empi­ri­cal-scientific ob­ject respectively.  However, the empirical-scientific concepts are not approp­riate for the un­der­stan­ding and articu­lation of the viewpoint taken by the second group. For the theoretical justifica­tion of (partial) theo­ries in business economics, theory formation that only goes back and forth between the experien­tial and empirical object falls sho­rt[19]. The empirical-scientific object definition, being tied up to the expe­rien­ces and observations of con­cre­te busi­ness practi­ces, is not suited for the kind of general and formal proposi­tions which have to be made in the framework of theoretical explana­tion.

The con­cepts the second group uses are best called ana­lyti­cal. This is precisely why the first group is reluc­tant to accept the kind of theory for­mation pro­posed by the second group. The analyti­cal concepts developed by this group are considered to be in­adequate for the theore­tical arti­culati­on of what really is at stake in econo­mic interaction. Accor­ding to the partisans of the first view, these concepts do not do justice to the mate­rial defi­nition of the empirical object of econo­mics.

In terms of the existing architectural ideas in economic science there seems to be a deadlock. A conception allowing to interconnect systematically the two kinds of theoreti­cal registers and the two different concerns of relevance and theoretical strength, is not availa­ble. It is in view of this ambiva­lent and embarrassing situa­ti­on that I am plea­ding for a new look at the architectu­ral pro­blems of economic science. What can be in this respect the contribution of Haber­mas’s concep­tion ?

Economics as a science of society ?

Muysken (1985) has charac­terized this unresol­ved dilemma (business) economists are facing, as the aftermath of a clash be­tween what he calls a Marshalli­an and a Hicksian para­digm of science (see note 10). According to Muysken, what is at issue here is the nature of the relati­ons­hip of axioma­tically generated presup­positi­ons with every­day expe­riential and observational reali­ty. In the Hicksian view, it does not matter whether the theoretical presuppositi­ons relate in any recognizable way to the expe­riential and obser­va­tional chara­cteristics of day to day prac­tices. In the Marshallian paradigm, on the contrary, it is a prerequisite for scientific acceptability.

As to this specific question there is a noteworthy address by March (1978) to the general assembly of the Ameri­can Econo­mic Asso­ciation, that is certainly not outda­ted. In his over­view of the deve­lop­ments in choice and decisi­on theory in the six­ties and seventies, he makes an inventory of the pro­blems that, in his opinion, require an expansion of the narrow dominant concept of rationality[20].  Further on I will come back to that. His main argument is based upon the pre­sence in everyday choice behavior of as­pects of intel­ligen­ce for which there is no place in the con­text of scienti­fic theory-formation. He believes that a scien­tific theory that does not allow serious consideration of such aspects should be challenged. The pre­sence of intelli­gence in the everyday behavior of people has to be accepted as a constraint on the con­structive freedom of scientific investigators[21].

It is not immediately clear though, that, in his view, this should have consequences for the conceptual architecture of economic science, in the sense for example, of the here proposed diffe­rentia­ti­on of three different contexts of interacti­on. Howe­ver, look­ing closer at his critique, this is what is needed. Let me explain why.

We are back again at the issue of the ‘nature’ of the relati­onship between axio­matically generated presuppositi­ons and the expe­riential/obser­vational reality of everyday life. And we are back also at the opposition of a Marshallian and a Hicksi­an appro­ach. Both approaches suffer from the lack of conceptu­al means for an elaboration of the two kinds of scientific acti­vity such that their difference as well as their interde­pen­dence, in relation with the reality of everyday life, are main­tained and supported with arguments.

I claim that with the help of Habermas’s conceptual framework a solution can be found for this task in the following manner. In order to achie­ve along theoretically sound lines the arti­cula­tion of the formal object of economics as a scien­ce of socie­ty, it is necessary to assume that there is a non-arbitrary relation between the for­mal object to be desig­ned and the empirical object at the one hand, and between the empiri­cal object and the experienti­al/observational object of every­day economic interac­tions at the other. In support of this view, I take into account the previ­ously mentioned limits upon the freedom of construction of economists which, according to March, are set by the pre­sen­ce of intelligent everyday choice behavior. March does not make use of the distinc­tion I make between the empi­rical-scien­tific and the recon­structive-scien­tific deter­mina­tion of the object. He just contends that the articu­lation of the formal object of econo­mics should reckon with the material characte­ristics of the object in everyday social interacti­ons. But March’s address of 1978 has nothing to offer in terms of new conceptual means for assuring the link and for broade­ning the rationality concept. How can it be done ?

Translated into the Habermasian architecture of social re­search design, March’s contention can be under­stood as meaning the follo­wing. A direct non-arbitrary relation has to be secured be­tween the expe­rien­tial/observational object of economics and the empirical-scientific object of this discipli­ne, as well as a direct non-arbitrary relation between the empirical-scientific and the formal (that is, the reconstructive-scientific) object[22]. This does not say, howe­ver, that the rela­ti­on between the formal object of econo­mic scien­ce and the experiential object is itself a direct one. I have argued elsewhere that this can be only an indi­rect relati­on[23].

How can this phasing of objects (as I like to call it) be realised ? My (Haber­masian) point of departure is, that the three objects of econo­mic science, each of which is tied to one of the three main inter­action contexts distinguished in the beginning of this chapter , are irre­ducibleand, at the same time, inter­dependent. And, as I will argue in chapter I-8, a non-arbitrary interde­pen­dence can only be guaran­teed by ensuring the stru­ctural conformity of the three different ob­jects and their linguistic, context-sensitive embeddedments . And this structural conformity of the three objects of economic science can only be reached through assigning to reconstructive-scien­ti­fic theory formation and the formal object definition as its product, a mediating function with regard to the rela­tion of the other two interaction contexts and of their objects. The formal object of economic science is, in this view, a hypo­theti­cal non-essentialist  re-construction of the struc­tural features of economic interactions in real life situa­tions. It means claiming, that indeed economic interactions of everyday life can be under­stood and explained with the help of the conceptu­al framework desig­ned and modeled for that purpo­se. This is one side of its meaning and function. But there is another side to it. It is also claiming, that the same con­ceptu­al framework conditi­ons the rele­vance of empiri­cal-scien­tific research in economics ( be it heuristic, herme­neuti­cal or expe­rimental) through serving as its star­ting point, its integra­ti­ve per­spec­tive and its conceptual resour­ce.

Within a Habermasian perspective things are even more complex. When it is assumed that economics is a social science, that is, a science about social-economic interactions in today’s societal setting, then the basic concepts of economic science should , in the reconstructive-scientific context, be tied to , and in concordance with, the basic categories of a theory of society.

The categorical framework of economics is then considered as an empiri­cally informed specificati­on of the general categori­cal framework of the theory of society. And, thus,  the categorical framework of economics can be articula­ted in terms of a discipline-specific conceptual model (see Figure 1: the two levels within the  reconstructive-scientific context). In as far as econo­mic, that is,  do­main-speci­fic inter­acti­ons are concer­ned, this discipline-specific conceptu­al frame­work is laden with the claim to offer a theo­reti­cal recon­struction of the struc­tural featu­res that, accor­ding to the intuitions of competent econo­mic ac­torsdetermine the materi­ality of econo­mic inter­acti­ons in real life situations. Their competence expres­ses itself by distin­guis­hing the domain-specific inter­actions of economics from other kinds of social interacti­ons and their respec­tive do­mains. It is the task of empirical-scienti­fic research to probe the plausi­bili­ty of these claims.

All this may not make forget that, in the recon­struc­tive-scien­tific con­text, all the operati­ve con­cepts of social inter­action, the general as well as the discipline-specific, are analytical, but now in a somewhat different sense then before. By no means they represent ascertained in­sight. In effect, they are concepts void of any parti­cular refe­rence to con­crete actual inter­ac­tion situa­tions. However, the analy­tical con­cepts are not purely analy­ti­cal, that is, formal only, because their design and their coherence are the expression of the claim that those concepts theore­ti­cally recon­struct structu­ral fea­tures that, accor­ding to the intui­tions of competent ac­tors, deter­mi­ne the specific materia­lity of (different kinds of) social inter­actions. And it is only in permanent interaction with a broad spectrum of empiri­cal-research projects and lear­ning from what happens in real life situa­tions, that this conception may gain plausibility.

Broade­ning the range of concepts used

There is an apparent need of, and a continuous demand for, new cate­gories in order to complement the set of basic categories under­lying today’s mainstream economics (see -to name a few-Blaug (1997), Etzioni (1988), Har­greaves Heap (1989 and 1998­), Kapp (1961), Lekachman (1976), March (1978), Noor­derhaven (1997).

In the Haberma­sian conception of social scientific research as sket­ched above, it is assumed that the structu­ring features of social interaction are the same for every social interac­tion in whatever societal context. And therefor, are relevant for the constructive activities of concept-formation and theory-design in the field of  social theories. As indicated before, arguments have to be developed which can make this assumption plausible on the conceptual, methodological and empirical level of argumentati­on.

One can interpret parts of Habermas’s writings on universal pragmatics as the beginnings of an operationalization of the outlined formal framework. In particular his theses about rationality and about processes of rationalization are of this kind. Linked up with them is his concept of rationality claims (see the schema in Figure 3[24]).

Figure 3: rationality claims

In this schema Habermas presents, from the perspective of inter­acting actors, the different aspects according to which actors can claim to be rational. What does this mean for the interpretation of the rationality aspects econo­mists usually take into consideration? On the premises of Habermas’ theory one can argue that in current economic theory only rationality aspect 2 (actors claim to have de facto maximized the efficiency of means used for a given end) comes into the picture, and that the other five aspects are left out. And even with this interpretation one may easily disag­ree, because in today’s economic theory the terminology used suggests to a naive audience an action-theoretical approach, and the words used seem at first sight to refer to everyday experiences and notions of economic behaviour. However, on reflection it beco­mes evident that the meaning of the economist’s concepts is theory-immanent and refers to the constructions the economic theorist makes from a non-interactive, outsider‑perspective of observable events that do not have any longer specifically social characteristics. The interconnectedness of reasonabili­ty and rationality[25] is completely lost out of sight within standard economic theory.

In their (1983) Van Doorne and Vromen have analyzed the rationality concept of the traditional theory of consu­mer behavior and the ratio­nality concept of the (older) choi­ce- and decision-theory. Both con­cepts of rationali­ty are resem­bling each other in that they ascribe rationality to behaviour wit­hout taking into account the action perspective and reasons of the actors concerned. It is March’s presidenti­al adress (1978) in which he makes an assesment of the field of choice- and decision theory, that serves them as point of refe­rence. On empirical and theoretical grounds March criticises the basic assumptions of this tradition, and the main thrust of his critic is directed to the missing link between the rationality concept and the concept of reasonableness ( March speaks of intelligence) as it functions in daily life, and to the onesidedness and reductive character of the former concept as it is used in economic science. With regard to this topic, I like to conclude this section with a reference to the very inspiring book of Hargreaves Heap. His ‘Rationality in Economics’ (1989) takes up the challenge to broaden the conceptual framework of standard economics. And an influential source for his work appears to be Habermas’s ‘Theory of Communicative Action’. In a recapitulation Hargreaves Heap formulates the two objectives of his book as follows: ‘One is to reveal the centrality of rationality assumptions to economic analysis: to bring out how they generate different types of explanations and prescripti­ons in economics. The other is to advance the claim of the often neglected procedural and expressive ratio­nality assump­tions: they need to be taken more seriously than is presently the case’[26].  A comparison of the new con­cepts he is proposing with the conceptual differentiation of rationality claims by Habermas (compare the scheme in Figure 3) shows striking similarities between Hargreaves Heap’s procedural and expressive rationality and Habermas’s rationality aspects of rightness and veraci­ty. Hargreaves Heap continues and states: ‘Procedural and ex­pres­si­ve ratio­nality are a testament to our social and histo­ri­cal location, and our self-conscious reflec­tive capacities. They are, quite simply, an indispensable source for the pro­ject of explanation and prescription in economics.’[27]


  1. Given its connotation of structuring activity,  I use the term‘architecture’for Habermas’s  design of social science as  a complex whole of forms and levels of argumentation. Habermas himself is using this term in the same sense, for example (Habermas (1986, p.49 and 200; 1990,p.139 and 145). In his (1997) and (1999) he makes ample use of this term.  And I will use the term ‘framework’ for the set of basic concepts.
  2. From a different angle James Johnson (1993) has tried to stimulate productive interaction between game theorists and the research tradition of ‘critical theory’ , exemplified for him by Habermas’s theory of communicative interaction.
  3. In the case of Habermas’s researchprogram it is appropriate to use the term ‘theory of society’ instead of ‘social theory’ for two reasons. First, Habermas is aiming at the reconstruction of basic concepts of which he claims that they are underlying all specific social theories and anyone of them. This means that his analysis moves on a higher level of abstraction. And second, he claims that the general concepts which are part of his reconstruction, are not only constitutive for the twotheoreticalapproaches he distinguishes, but for all kinds of social interaction and for all societal domains.
  4. In society the expectation is living that scientific research is able to fulfill this function. In particular, hopes are inve­sted in interdisciplinary cooperation (see Van Doorne and Ruys (1988),p.1-14).
  5. In this respect, the Habermas of the seventies  distances himself from the approach exemplified by his ‘Knowledge and Human Inte­rests’ (Habermas (1971), in German (1969)). He makes convin­cingly clear, that trying to fulfill this double function  in just one and the same context of argumenta­tion leads to vicious circularity ( as was the case in his 1969 book and in his ‘On the Logic of the Social Sciences’ (Habermas (1990), in German (1967)).
  6. By using the terms empirical-scientific and reconstructive-scien­tific, I transfer and adapt freely the terminology that Habermas makes use of for distinguishing within the field of philosophy ‘(self)refl­ec­tion’from ‘(rational) reconstruction’,  to all disciplines in the field of social research. Concerning this for Habermas’ work im­portant distinction see Van  Doorne (1978 a and 1978 b). As to philosophy I consider, for example, business ethics as a branch of practical, self-reflec­tive philosophy directly aiming at social enlightment and orienta­tion. It is also within the empirical-scientific context, that the competi­tion between ‘stre­ams’ of social theories has to be situated. Among others: the rivalry between ‘critical rationa­lists’ of Poppe­rian signature and ‘critical theorists’ of ‘Frankfurt-school’ lineage. This context has to be distinguished from the context of  the formal recon­structive branches of philosophy. In my understanding of it, Habermas’ formal prag­matics does belong here. Its aim is reconstruction and justi­fication of the basic categories structuring everyday and empirical-scientific interaction-situations alike.
  7. Stylized, I say, to make clear that the grouping of scientific interactions into two differentiated forms is not an absolute one. It is rather drawing a line on a continuum of scientific approaches. All are compounds in which general/generalizable framing aspects and particular, empirically specified/specifiable aspects come together. The distinction of two main groups follows the emphasis laid upon the first or the second group of aspects, which is taken to be indicative for the priority given to one of the two functions of scientific interaction. Where to draw the line between the two main groups is a  context-sensitive matter, dependent, among other things, on institutional and socio-psychological indicators.
  8. See on this website (Kritische notities en voorstellen bij Habermas’grondslagenonderzoek. De dubbelzinnigheid van het begrip ‘communicatief handelen’ [1986]) with the added introductory note, in which I give arguments for my understanding of the for Habermas’theory of society crucial  concept ‘communication’.
  9. Compare for a good understanding of the German concept ‘Vorverständnis’ my II-7 on this website:Begrippelijk kader voor een analyse van de relatie van economie en recht.
  10. It is why Habermas calls theorizing and model-design in the context of formal-pragmatic analysisreconstruction. This point of view will extensively be documented in chapters I-7 and I-8. Here lies precisely the point where, according to Muysken (1985), the ‘Marshallian’ paradigm of economic scien­ce clashes with the ‘Hicksian’ paradigm. I will come back to that in the last section of this chapter.
  11. Quite often Habermas uses instead of ‘reconstructive’ as equivalent terms ‘universal-pragmatic’ and ‘formal-pragmatic’. As far as philosophy is concerned I have to add, that in  Figure 1 only its formal-pragmatic part, aiming at scientific justification, is mentioned. The practical-theoretic part aiming at social relevance (e.g. business ethics)  is left out.  In my view it is a form of empirical-scientific interaction. In the very interesting introduction of his (1999) Habermas embraces the term ‘reconstructive’ wholeheartedly as fitting quite well the pragmatic and evolutionary perspectives of his work of the foregoing decades.
  12. See (Blaug (1997)), and the many references given there.
  13. My presentation here of Habermas’s conceptual framework is only a concise summary of what I have elaborated at some length in my dissertation (Van Doorne (1982) and in a couple of papers (van Doorne (1984, 1986). I have given there my personal account of these categories, that is, I follow Habermas’ presentation of his concept as close as possible, but where I could not agree I have argued there (and elsewhere) against some decisions Habermas makes concerning the categorical framework. There are ambiguities in his writings on the categorical framework due to the fact, that Habermas himself sometimes ‘conflates’ (as Alexander has called it (1984) the two main contexts of theoretical analysis. I have argued elsewhere (see Van Doorne (1986)) that this is even the case with the  for his researchprogram central concept of ‘communication’, respectively ‘communicative’. The meaning of this concept differs dependent upon the context of its use: within the context of formal-pragmatic theorizing about social interacti­on its meaning is, so I have argued, equiva­lent with ‘coordi­nated action’, whereas in the context of empirical theorizing it is the counterpart of the concepts ‘instrumen­tal action’ or ‘stra­tegic action’. Today (2011) I believe that it is more adequate to say that the meaning of the concept communicationas a reconstructive conceptis equivalent with ‘specifically human social interaction’ (see note 8).
  14. There are several good books in english on the catego­ries constitutive for his conception of society and of social interaction (see Wellmer (1974), McCarthy (1978), Geuss (1981), Ingram (1987), White (1988), Outhwaite (1994) among others.
  15. I limit myself in this chapter to the categories that are basic for Habermas’s theory of societyafter the shiftthat under­went his categorical framework in the mid-seventies. That is, after what rather loosly, has been called ’the linguistic turn’ in philosophy. I will come back to this shift in chapter I-7. Not everybody has noticed, that, in the case of Habermas, this shift goes together with the quite important introduction of the distinction of two main contexts of theory-forma­tion: the empirical and the formal-pragmatic (see section 1.)
  16. The terms used in Fgure 2 are not in every instance the same as in Habermas’s Figure in (1975-a, verso of p.8). His own terminology is not always the same and sometimes not free of ambiguity. I have chosen for terms that in my opinion are the most adequate to express what Habermas intends to say.  I am more concerned with the internal consistency of Haber­mas’s position than with exegetic accuracy.
  17. See Ruys (1981)
  18. Van Doorne and Vromen (1989), p.105-109, report on a series of inter­views they have held with a number of business economists of the Dutch university departments of economics at Rotterdam and Tilburg.
  19. In Dutch departments of economics the dis­tinction between the ‘experiential and observational’ object , and the theoretical object quite often was in­troduced by refering to one of the many editions of Bouma’s very influentialLeerboek der Be­drijfseconomie(1982) . According to Bouma, this distinction is linked to the distinc­tion be­tween an inductive and an axioma­tic-deducti­ve object approach. He sti­pulates that both approa­ches in business economics are irredu­cible; that they are comple­menta­ry; and that it is irresponsible in social as well as in scien­tific terms to be satisfied with an axiomatic-deductive appro­ach alone (compare Kastelein (1987), p. 74-82).
  20. Using Robbins’ terms (1935, 2nd ed.) one could say, th­at amate­rialobject defi­ni­tion stands in the way of a formal object defini­tion.
  21. See note 9
  22. He expli­citly includes the conception of ‘boun­ded rationali­ty’ in his critical analy­sis .
  23. See Van Doorne and Vromen (1983).
  24. Van Doorne and Gielen (1981) have shown that for this architectural construction, implying three distinct forms of interaction, support can be found in W.Kapp (1961).
  25. See Van Doorne (1986), p. 86-88. The schema of  Figure 3 is reproduced from Van Doorne (1985), p.274. Compare Habermas (1976a), p.259. I have left out the speech act functions and I have differentiated the validity claims in what I have called the aspects of design and of realization. For the meaning and the use of these two terms I refer to  (Van Doorne, 1986), p. 146 and to chapter I-7.
  26. In everyday life interactions, reasonableness is a multidimensional quality crite­rium we use when we judge our own or other people’s behavior. Rationa­lity is mainly spoken of in a research fra­mework for the social sciences. For instance, ‘rational behaviour’ is a key notion in economics as well as in sociology and political science. It is not a quality criterium dependent on interactive judgement, but a one-dimensional, externally applicable criterium concerning the adequacy of behaviour.
  27. Hargreaves Heap (1989), p.208