Communication is central to Habermas' theory of social life. Why is agreement about the meaning of a "speech act" so important? Explain the concept of "definition of the situation," and how this relates to communication between actors.
According to Habermas, in communication, speech acts are necessary. The goal of them is to establish mutual understanding between social actors. Agreement over speech acts is so essential because of the fact that these speech acts are used in order to gain mutual understanding in the social world. If speech acts are not agreed upon, then mutual understanding in the social world cannot be accomplished. The definition of the situation is a set of socially defined characteristics of a situation and the appropriate ways to deal with and react to it. The definition of the situation is socially determined by speech acts. Through this, speech acts create an understanding amongst social actors of how situations should be interpreted and dealt with. Essentially, this creates the social reality. To actually reach a definition of the situation, there must be effective communication, whether through speech acts or otherwise, between social actors. The emphasis that Habermas makes here is that effective communication through speech acts and the definition of the situation must be made in order to create social reality.
Try to explain the concept of "lifeworld" in your own words. Habermas begins to define it on page 376-- What is a lifeworld, and what are its main components?
In basic terms, the lifeworld is the construct of the social reality in a specific situation. In a situation, it is the general meaning and construct. Through these, social actors navigate their way through establishing definitions and how they create solidarity. The lifeworld is one of the things that actors build their social understandings and relationships around. To create a lifeworld, there must be effective communication. If there is no effective communication, then speech acts and the definition of the situation cannot be established in a way that leads to the construction of a social reality, or a lifeworld. All social actors must come to mutual understanding in order to create a lifeworld. The tenants of Habermas' theory relates to Marx's theory of historical materialism. The difference is that with Marx, societal change is based on changes in the economic bases, while Habermas believes that societal change is based on the means and understanding of communication between social actors and within various lifeworlds. The main components of a lifeworld are normative, subjective, and objective. First, Habermas says that normative is "the totality of legitimately regulated interpersonal relations" (371). The normative part of a lifeworld is the social structure and the sets of norms for the given situation. These create a set of mutually understood standards that shape the creation of a lifeworld. The subjective part of a lifeworld is "the totality of experience to which a speaker has privileged access and which he can express before a public" (371). This speaks of the ability to personally interpret every experience through one's mind. It also includes the ability for an individual to express their personal interpretation of said experience. The objective portion of a lifeworld refers to "the totality of entities about which true statements are possible" (371). This takes the stance that there are objective truths in a situation. There are facts and an actually definite truth. So, not only can experience be evaluated through the subjective, personal experience, but it can also be evaluated through objective facts. The lifeworld is created through the evaluation of social norms, personal interpretation, and objective facts.