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05/23/2023 - 05/23/2023 | Erkner

The Colonization of Lifeworld and System by Finance

Keynote Lecture by Prof. Manuel Aalbers (KU Leuven),
IRS Spring Academy on "Spaces of Financialisation and De-Financialisation"

“The Colonization of the Life World by the System” is a key concept in the sociology of Jürgen Habermas. To Habermas the lifeworld refers to informal social interaction and coordination by communicative and strategic action. The ‘modern’ interaction and coordination through bureaucracies and states (a la Weber) as well as through money and markets – together, the system – is, at least to some extent, a necessary response to deal with the surge in complexity in societal development. The process of colonization arises in modern capitalist societies as the instrumental and commodity logic of the capitalist systems comes to dominate relations in the lifeworld. Whereas to Weber, the paradigm of the system was bureaucracy, to Ritzer it was the fast-food restaurant, and to Castells the network. To me, it is finance. But at the same time, finance does not ‘simply’ colonize the life world, it also colonizes the system, the bureaucracy, the fast-food restaurant, the network, and so on.

In this paper, I mobilize Habermas’ concepts of lifeworld and system to shed new light on the process of financialization. Without necessarily providing a full Habermasian theory of financialization – indeed, I selectively borrow from Habermas’s idiom – I aim to use his concepts to come to a fuller understanding of what financialization is, but, by mobilizing the normative theory that Habermas proposes, also why many social scientists outside mainstream economics as well as activists and others see financialization as a problem of, rather than a solution to, the complexity of modern capitalist societies. Habermas argued that money and power – or, markets and states – should be “institutionally and motivationally anchored in the lifeworld” (Habermas, 1981/1987: 342), echoing Polanyi’s idea of the necessary embeddedness of markets in society. Likewise, one could argue that financialization is not only a ‘logical’ response to increased complexity, but also needs to be institutionally and motivationally anchored, or embedded, in both lifeworld and system.

Information on participating / attending:
Hybrid Event

Zoom Registration for Online-Participation:


05/23/2023 16:00 - 05/23/2023 17:30

Registration deadline:


Event venue:

Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space
Conference Room
Flakenstr. 29-31
15537 Erkner

Target group:

Scientists and scholars, all interested persons



Subject areas:

Economics / business administration, Politics, Social studies

Types of events:

Presentation / colloquium / lecture




Dr. Felix Müller


Presse- und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit

Event is free:


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