Habermas and the Meaning of the Post-Secular Society: Complementary Learning Processes

Habermas and the Meaning of the Post-Secular Society: Complementary Learning Processes

Michael R. Welton (Department of Educational Studies, Athabasca University, Athabasca, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/ijavet.2014100104
OnDemand PDF Download:
No Current Special Offers


This essay argues that if social justice is to prevail in our world, we must understand the post-secular nature of our globalized society as a prerequisite for moving beyond “might is right” to national and international relations that heed all voices towards evidence-based interaction. Our post-secular world and postmetaphysical world-orientation requires of us complementary learning processes. This exploration engages Habermas' thinking post-secularity as the framework for the pedagogical project that replaces the speechlessness of violence with the building of the conversable world.
Article Preview

1. Introduction: The Shredding Of The Conversable World

In his impassioned essay, “Faith and knowledge,” Jurgen Habermas (2005) contrasts the speechlessness of violence with communicative action. “Faced with a globalization imposing itself via deregulated markets, many of us hoped for a return of the political in a different form—not in the original Hobbesian form of the globalized security state, that is, in its dimensions of political activity, secret police, and the military, but as a world-wide civilizing force. What we are left with, for the moment, is little more than the bleak hope for a cunning of reason—and for some self-reflection. The rift of speechlessness strikes home, too. Only if we realize what secularization means in our post-secular societies of instrumental reason and destructive secularization” (p. 328). The “fatally speechless clash of worlds” is already present malevolently in the world. The negation of speech or communicative action shreds the world into little tattered pieces. But mumbled speech or unwillingness to try very hard to be conversable is also part of the problem we face in our world.

Our times are excessively and extraordinarily uneasy. Thoughtful pundits smell World War III in the acrid air: their mood is dark, sarcastic and tinged with nihilism. The Obama regime appears to be willing to face off with Russia, risk war in the European theater through precipitating the Ukrainian crisis (Mearsheimer, 2014), pressing NATO troops to the Russian border and engineering insane forms of sanction on selling goods to Russia. Yet again in the dark summer of 2014, Israel has massacred approximately 2,500 citizens, including many women and children, and smashed up the infrastructure of schools, businesses and hospitals. The Gaza is an open-air prison of no escape. We have watched planes, tanks and warships bomb and mutilate territory occupied by the Israeli state itself, leading us to imagine that this would be similar to the Canadian state bombing First Nations reserves. And in September, 2014, the US appears willing to violate international law, national sovereignty and borders to make war against ISIS in Syria. The US is in quite the predicament: they want to overthrow both the Assad regime in Syria and crush ISIS fighters there and in Iraq. Enormous international suspicion clouds US intentions in the Middle East. During his visit to Korea in August, 2014, Pope Francis said: “Today we are in a world at war everywhere. A man said to me, ‘Father, we are in World War III, but spread out in small pockets everywhere. He was right,’ Francis said at the time (Russia Today, September 13, 2014). The rift of speechlessness courses through these situations. Who can sleep well at night?

Indeed, the entire Habermasian project of shared citizenship and communicative action as legitimate ground for evolving learning processes appear to be in jeopardy. The ideology of “war on terror” renders us mute before power and money. Terrorism is a communicative pathology that leads us to “become alienated from each other through systematically distorted communication” and “not recognize each other as participating members of a community” (Habermas, as cited, Borradori [2003], p. 35). In this essay I want to argue that this recognition of each other—the precondition for parties to learn something new—requires that we grasp the post-secular nature of our globalized society. This focus on naming our world as post-secular may help clear the pathway for breaking the rift of speechlessness and beginning the hazardous pedagogical journey of “mutual perspective-taking” (ibid., p. 37). Hazardous, because it takes place in a geo-political world of degrading discrimination, violence, social inequality, pauperization and marginalization. For readers of IJAVET, I must point out that I am not delving into the details and pedagogical procedures of complementary learning processes. I want to establish only that these processes are required of our global civilization once we understand we live in a post-secular world in the first place.

Complete Article List

Search this Journal:
Open Access Articles: Forthcoming
Volume 10: 4 Issues (2019)
Volume 9: 4 Issues (2018)
Volume 8: 4 Issues (2017)
Volume 7: 4 Issues (2016)
Volume 6: 4 Issues (2015)
Volume 5: 4 Issues (2014)
Volume 4: 4 Issues (2013)
Volume 3: 4 Issues (2012)
Volume 2: 4 Issues (2011)
Volume 1: 4 Issues (2010)
View Complete Journal Contents Listing