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Life-World, Intersubjectivity and Culture

Contemporary Dilemmas


Edited By Elżbieta Hałas

This volume commemorates Richard H. Grathoff’s (1934–2013) contribution to interpretative sociology. Reconsidering the legacy of social phenomenology, it demonstrates the usefulness of concepts such as life-world, milieu and symbolic transcendence in the studies of sociocultural transformations.
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Introduction (Elżbieta Hałas)


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To this day, phenomenology stimulates critical reflection upon the condition of cultural and social reality, as well as the role of the subject’s direct experience. The “life-world” (Lebenswelt), a concept introduced by Edmund Husserl (1859–1938) in place of the previously used term “natural world,” proves of key importance in this regard. In the modern, diverse world, the existing structures of cultural knowledge are becoming increasingly problematic; more and more normative challenges appear, whereas (often century-old) institutions and accepted forms of sociation are proving weaker, and individuals find it increasingly difficult to understand themselves. In the face of all this, it becomes all the more important to recall and critically examine the theory of intersubjectivity and social consensus. Thus, the life-world as a concept requires rethinking. Incidentally, its presence is extremely conspicuous in modern social theory, even though the phenomenological movement initiated by Husserl, with whose work this concept is most often associated, no longer influences the social sciences as strongly as it once did. However, Anthony Giddens was mistaken when, in the mid-1970s, in his famous work New Rules of Sociological Method: A Positive Critique of Interpretative Sociologies (Giddens 1976) he stated that phenomenological philosophy was at death’s door. Giddens remains a critic of phenomenology, especially of the limitations of its version developed by Alfred Schutz (1899–1959), who based his work on the program formulated by Husserl. However, at the same time Giddens expresses appreciation for Schutz’s contribution to the problem of...

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