I must admit, I have struggled my way through a number of the readings this semester. I have relied heavily on the class, in particular others interpretations of the readings, to better understand several theorists and traditions (Babe, the social-psychological tradition, etc.). But with that being said, the Habermas readings, particularly our class discussion, reminded me just how applicable all of this is to our everyday roles as communicators.
Sudersan hit it straight on the head when saying “amidst the ruins of many a social theory, Jürgen Habermas stands alone in his endeavor to bridge the vast void between theory and practice …” (Sudersan, 1998, 253). It is this bridge that allowed our class discussion to link to a variety of current events, such as the Ottawa shooting, Jian Ghomeshi and Ebola, and then bring the conversation back to Habermas.
For days after that class I drifted back to our conversation, particularly as more and more details emerged around Ghomeshi. A great deal of Habermas’ arguments were grounded in the concept of ideal speech, including everyone having a chance to argue and question, without the more powerful and prestigious having an unequal say (Gingrich, n.d.). In the Ghomeshi case, a number of the women have said that it is his power that originally stopped them from coming forward, including the fear of his power leading to online victim blaming. Social media also played a massive role in how this story unraveled. Even though a number of the alleged events took place before social media was a major player, Ghomeshi essentially broke the story himself on Facebook. By doing so, at the same time he garnered so much online attention that it made other victims realize “it wasn’t just me; I’m not the only one,” thus completely shifting public support towards his victims.
Habermas’ distinction between communicative action and strategic action can also be directly linked to a number of current events today. As Levine explained, Habermas described communicative action as trying to persuade someone else of the truth, where instrumental or strategic action is more about trying to get someone else to do what you want (Levine, 2012). This instantly makes me think about the communications surrounding Ebola. From the Canadian perspective, I understand why the government leads in this type of situation, but there is something about an elected politician instead of a medical expert being the spokesperson that doesn’t sit right. With Ebola, Federal Health Minister Ambrose has been front and center, with now Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Gregory Taylor, at her side. Federal Health Minister Aglukkaq handled H1N1 much differently, and was praised for stepping aside and letting the medical expert, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. David Butler Jones, become the trusted face Canadians could rely on. Politicians run a fine line between acting in their best interest and the best interest of this constitutes.
All in all a very interesting theorist, please feel free to comment on how you think Habermas links to the realities of today.
Bolkenius, M. (2014). Health Ministers discuss Ebola preparedness in Canada. Public Health Agency of Canada. Retrieved from http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?mthd=tp&crtr.page=1&nid=897289&crtr.tp1D=1
Ghomeshi, J. (2014). Dear everyone. Facebook post. Retrieved from: https://www.facebook.com/jianghomeshi
Gringrich, P. (n.d.). An Introduction to the Work of Jurgen Habermas. University of Regina. Retrieved from http://moodle233.msvu.ca/m23/course/view.php?id=3449
Kirkey, S. (2013). David Butler-Jones, Canada’s top doctor, stepping down a year after suffering stroke. Canada.com. Retrieved from http://o.canada.com/uncategorized/david-butler-jones-canadas-top-doctor-stepping-down-a-year-after-suffering-stroke
Levine, P. (2012). Habermas and critical theory (a primer). A Blog for Civic Renewal. Retrieved from http://peterlevine.ws/?p=9224
Solomon, E. (2014). Ottawa shooting: The face-to-face encounter that ended the attack on Parliament. CBC.ca. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/ottawa-shooting-the-face-to-face-encounter-that-ended-the-attack-on-parliament-1.2812802
Sudersan, P. (1998). Habermas and Critical Social Theory. Indian Philosophical Quarterly. (XXV, II), 253-264. Retrieved from http://moodle233.msvu.ca/m23/pluginfile.php/158173/mod_resource/content/1/Habermas%20%20Critical%20Social%20Theory.pdf