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Habermas on Civil Society, Lifeworld and System: Unearthing the Social in Transformation Theory


by Ted Fleming — January 27, 2002

The debate as to whether transformative learning theory has an adequate social dimension has contributed to the clarification and development of the theory. But this debate has been, to a great extent, framed within transformation theory as outlined by Mezirow. Transformation theory frequently refers to the work of Jürgen Habermas as providing important insights that are foundational for the theory. This paper outlines some key ideas from Habermas that are crucial to unearthing the social dimension in transformation theory. Habermas, in outlining a critical theory describes society in terms of the state, economy and civil society. In civil society he sees both an antidote to the effects that the system world has on civil society and also the possibility that the system can be made more democratically accountable. This paper shows how transformation, theory by drawing on these ideas, has a social dimension.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: January 27, 2002
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10877, Date Accessed: 11/17/2017 12:42:47 PM

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About the Author
  • Ted Fleming
    National University of Ireland Maynooth
    E-mail Author
    Ted Fleming received an Ed.D. in Adult Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. He is the Acting Head of Adult Education at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. Professor Fleming's research interests include critical social theory, adult learning theory, adults returning to higher education, higher education policy, and early school leaving. Recent publications include College Knowledge: Power, Policy and the Mature Student Experience at University (with M. Murphy, 1998, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, MACE), Between common and college knowledge: Exploring the boundaries between adult and higher eduation (Studies in Continuing Educaiton, 2000), and Even Her Nudes Were Lovely: Toward Connected Self-Reliance at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, (with Anne Gallagher, 2000, Irish Museum of Modern Art).
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