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Title: Discourse or dialogue? Habermas, the Bakhtin Circle, and the question of concrete utterances
Authors: Roberts, JM
Keywords: Active dialogue;Background language;Dialectics;Lifeworld;Universalism
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Springer
Citation: Theory and Society, 41(4), 395 - 419, 2012
Abstract: This article argues that the Bakhtin Circle presents a more realistic theory of concrete dialogue than the theory of discourse elaborated by Habermas. The Bakhtin Circle places speech within the “concrete whole utterance” and by this phrase they mean that the study of everyday language should be analyzed through the mediations of historical social systems such as capitalism. These mediations are also characterized by a determinate set of contradictions—the capital-labor contradiction in capitalism, for example—that are reproduced in unique ways in more concrete forms of life (the state, education, religion, culture, and so on). Utterances always dialectically refract these processes and as such are internal concrete moments, or concrete social forms, of them. Moreover, new and unrepeatable dialogic events arise in these concrete social forms in order to overcome and understand the constant dialectical flux of social life. But this theory of dialogue is different from that expounded by Habermas, who tends to explore speech acts by reproducing a dualism between repeatable and universal “abstract” discursive processes (commonly known as the ideal speech situation) and empirical uses of discourse. These critical points against Habermas are developed by focusing on six main areas: sentences and utterances; the lifeworld and background language; active versus passive understandings of language; validity claims; obligation and relevance in language; and dialectical universalism.
Description: This is the author's accepted manuscript. The final publication is available at Springer via the link below.
ISSN: 0304-2421
Appears in Collections:Sociology
Dept of Social Sciences Media and Communications Research Papers

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