Habermas in your bedroom
There is a phenomenon in psychology known as kitchen-sinking… namely, you and your beau are having some kind of problem, but can’t seem to bring up the issue directly. Thus, you discuss ‘everything but the kitchen sink’, as the phrase goes. This adds delays to mind-numbingly fantastic make-up sex, so please don’t do it. Once you actually have the talk you need to, try keeping Habermas in mind to ensure your discussion ends in moaning and groaning of a more pleasant variety (but promptly forget him post-discussion, unless a wrinkly old man with a cowlick is your kind of thing).
So what does Jürgen Habermas have to do with your relationship drama? Although this dude has opinions on just about everything, he has a rather interesting point in Struggles For Recognition (which is a comment on Charles Taylor’s Multiculturalism, if you’re at all interested in this sort of thing). Technically, he’s talking about how to deal with conflicts between two cultures, but lets see how it applies here. Habermas lays out the distinction between two terms that goes a bit like this:
Compromise - agreeing to the same thing for different reasons
Consensus – agreeing to the same thing for the same reasons
That may have been obvious to some of you (not me, but I’m obtuse). It brings up an interesting point, though. Compromising starts early in relationships and can be pervasive, and usually isn’t thought of as a bad thing until compromise starts to breaks down. However, if you take it Habermas’ way, you actually start running into trouble when consensus breaks down.
So what’s consensus about? Think the way you would on a jury. Taking an attitude towards consensus says that you and your honey-bunchkins are co-contributors in the search for truth. Even if you approach the problem from different angles (for example he/she/it thinks that giant fishtanks in your living room is a great idea, and for some strange reason you disagree), you both agree on the terms of debate. If you’re both committed to tackling the problem by rational discussion (eg. costs), then you at last start out with the presupposition that mutual understanding can be reached. That means that if you follow the process (meaning yes, you actually have to talk about it, oh my!) you can probably reach a consensus.
However, as soon as you assume your sweetymuffintop is nuts, you abandon a communicative attitude and adopt a strategic one. The point of compromise is an objective, not to understand an issue or each other. You may offer loverlumpelstiltsken a compromise of, say, building a fishtank toilet, but you have now basically set out to get what you want without truly respecting the point of view of the other. You may think you’ve solved the issue, but you’re actually just widening the divide. And I absolutely guarantee the sex won’t be nearly as satisfying.
Next time, think about what you’re trying to achieve… consensus or compromise. Wrinkly, cowlicked Habermas could hold the key to ending up in the bedroom, not the kitchen. In you’re into happy, healthy relationships (although I know some love the drama), then keep an eye out for compromise, because it’s not actually a sign of mutual achievement, but communication breakdown at its finest.
So, tell us about your last argument. Did you achieve a consensus or a compromise? Did it make you stronger or weaker as a couple? Test the theory and let us know how things, um, made out.
Filed under: proceduralism, understanding | 6 Comments
Tags: argument, bedroom, compromise, conflict, consensus, debate, discussion, diversity, fishtanks, german philosophers, habermas, kitchen, multiculturalism, politics, psychology, relationships, sink