This essay examines the response of Habermas and Giddens to postmodern criticisms of modernity. Although Giddens and Habermas recognize that the "totalizing critique" of poststructuralism lacks a convincing analysis of social interaction, neither of their perspectives adequately addresses the postmodern themes of aesthetics, play, and cultural memory. Giddens and Habermas believe that these dimensions of social life are important; yet they remain underdeveloped in their approaches. This essay explores the theoretical consequences of aesthetics, play, and cultural traditions for social theory, drawing on the pragmatists, the psychoanalyst Winnicott, and early critical theory. The aesthetic and playful moments of experience must be recast in terms of social theory to avoid the solipsism so often characteristic of postmodernism. The essay ends by suggesting how the theories of Habermas and Giddens could benefit by a closer consideration of these issues.
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