Ekonomi, politik, civilitet: Ett handlingsteoretiskt bidrag till diskussionen om marknad, stat och civilsamhälle


  • Rolf Å Gustafsson Karolinska institutet


Economics, politics and civility - towards an action-theoretical discourse on market, state and civil society

In the recent Swedish debate on the welfare state a controversy has arisen over the potentials and pitfalls of the market, the state and civil society. It is argued that there is a tendency to hypostatize this triad. The article sets out to show that the difficulties this raises can be counteracted by inserting an action-theoretical frame of reference into the debate. Three main alternative frames of reference are considered: rational choice, Weberian sociology and Habermas’ communicative action. These are analyzed from the perspective oftheir contextualizing and autonomizing potentials, i.e . in terms of how they relate actorsto their social context, and how they handle the problem of voluntarism. It is shown that rational choice theories - basically relevant to the economics of scarce resources - face insurmountable difficulties when confronted by the utilitarian dilemma formulated by Parsons in the late 30s. Weber can be associated with an analytical approach to politics - focusing on binding decisions taken by legitimate source of authority - but his approach still fails to resolve the problem of human agency and autonomy. At this point, a crucial distinction is made between primary and secondary feedback in models of action. It is argued that Habermas/Schluchter, in their interpretation of Weber, implicitly make such a distinction. This opens up a socio-political dimension in models of action. Nevertheless, in the Weberian case, the agent is still regarded as a rule-follower, and the intersubjective foundations of value systems remain a puzzle. The significance of the theory of communicative action lies in its attempt to handle the problem of civility, as formulated by Ferguson and Tönnies; the human being is regarded as a rule-maker. It is misleading to regard the state, the market and civil society as alternative entities or arenas for social welfare activities. It is more fruitful to focus on the analytic concept of civility as a necessary precondition for political and economic measures designed to enhance autonomy.




Referera så här

Gustafsson, R. Å (1993) ”Ekonomi, politik, civilitet: Ett handlingsteoretiskt bidrag till diskussionen om marknad, stat och civilsamhälle”, Sociologisk Forskning, 30(4), s. 3–32. Tillgänglig vid: https://sociologiskforskning.se/sf/article/view/18646 (åtkomstdatum: 27 september 2021).