Reclaiming the Lifeworld

Pattern number within this pattern set: 
Benjamin Belton
Earthlight Design

With the near completion of the global spatial expansion of capitalism, the necessity for continued growth in capitalist consumption-based economic models has resulted in an emphasis on colonization, not of land, but of the lifeworld of the individual.


This pattern occurs in the context of its associated anti-pattern, "Colonization of the Lifeworld." which occurs as individuals and groups construct their self-identity through interactions with systems of information and the mass media. Although there may be nothing inherently wrong with the lifeworld being constructed from more global networked sources rather than local face-to-face ones, the economic interest to structure society around consumption, and the development of global markets raises issues around the corporate ownership of networked communication.


As the spatial expansion of capitalism reached its peak, the differences in nationality and culture that were often used as the justification for that spatial expansion through colonialism have been incorporated into a global economy. One result of this incorporation has been that those cultural differences are now internal to that economic system, with resulting irruptions of conflict within the global system. As capitalism enters its next stage – informational capitalism – the expansion of the economic forces of capital occur as a “colonization of the lifeworld” whereby economic forces penetrate ever more deeply into the everyday lives of people. The main conduit for this colonization is through mass media and information systems that support consumption as the means for construction of identity.


The anti-pattern raises is the possibility of cultural resistance to the colonization of the lifeworld analogous to the resistance that colonialism produced as capitalism expanded spatially. This resistance may manifest itself by the current emerging social and cultural conflicts surrounding issues of privacy, property, and individual autonomy within social relations. The synthesis of theoretical and practical perspectives for constructing a widely applicable approach to the analysis of individual and social relations with information systems and corresponding implications for information policy has not been explored.

What seemed to be an inherent counter-movement to this process (in the early days of the internet) – that the spread of communication networks also spread local awareness of the problem – seems to be diminishing with rise of corporate consumer-based networks, and the corresponding state calls for restrictions on peer-to-peer technologies.

One research approach to this problem would be to integrate the work of Habermas and Luhmann on system and lifeworld, with the methodological perspective of Johan Galtung (whose work claims that the sides of a triangle formed with 'data', 'theory', 'value' as its vertices form legs corresponding to the scientific activities of 'empiricism', 'criticism', 'constructivism'). Such a framework would give socially reposnsible scientists an analytical and methodological framework for addressing these issues.

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