Communicative Competence and Iterativity: Linkages between Diversity and Subjectivity
The understanding that aspects of the self are performative that were once understood as essential is an important aspect of postmodern critical theory. Such understandings are emancipatory in that they liberate individuals and groups from roles in society that are seen as inherent because of gender, sexual preference, race, or other traits. As many critical theorists have argued, the characteristics of the self are iterative in that their repeated enactment is what makes them seem to be inherent, when they are in fact performative, constructed by the needs of society as well as by various psychological forces.
An understanding of the nature of identity as performative, this paper argues, is an important aspect of democratic communicative communities as defined by Habermas. Such communities -- in which all participants in community are free to speak, free to question, and in which all contentions are subject to dialectic methods of inquiry from the others in the group -- are a necessary component of an emancipatory society. I argue in this presentation that, in addition to the traditional notions of communicative competence, at least some understanding of the iterative and performative nature of the self is a requisite for truly democratic communication, and that such an expansion of the notion of the constitutents of communicative competence is a logical necessity for the act of communication in a Rawlsian sense, one implied by the psychological process of abduction inherent in the development of intersubjectivity.
Keywords: Habermas, Rawls, Iterativity, Communication
Dr. Mark D. West
Professor, Mass Communication Department, University of North Carolina at Asheville