SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online

vol.17 issue1The Potential of “Frankfurtianess” of Habermas in Organizational StudiesStudents’ identities in rural areas: a study based on Bourdieu’s and Althusser’s concepts author indexsubject indexarticles search
Home Pagealphabetic serial listing  

Services on Demand




Related links


Cadernos EBAPE.BR

On-line version ISSN 1679-3951

Cad. EBAPE.BR vol.17 no.1 Rio de Janeiro Jan./Mar. 2019 


Communication that constitutes and transforms subjects: communicative action in Jürgen Habermas, dialogical action in Paulo Freire and Organizational Studies

Luís Fernando Silva Andrade1

Valderí de Castro Alcântara1

José Roberto Pereira1

1 Universidade Federal de Lavras / Departamento de Administração e Economia, Lavras - MG, Brazil


This essay presents contributions by Jürgen Habermas and Paulo Freire for the constitution of critical-reflexive subjects and the implications in the teaching-research-extension processes in the field of Organizational Studies. We show that intersubjectivity and dialogicity are conditions for the understanding between subjects and it is precisely through these conditions that the subjects are constituted, in a process that is dialogical, pedagogical and political. Freire and Habermas offer elements to deconstruct dominant instrumental logic and provide the basis for the reconstruction of unprecedented-viable possibilities of ways of organizing and managing. Therefore, this article highlights the importance of Organizational Studies to broaden the focus of teaching-research-extension possibilities and directs them to a communicative and dialogic engagement, beyond the borders of universities. This reconstruction indicates that researchers participate in different public arenas, debate and build public problems, processes of resistance, visibility, and dramatization of problematic issues. Observing the contributions of Freire and Habermas, Organizational Studies as a field cannot be limited to developing a critique, from a distant point of view: it is necessary to co-participate, co-act, co-operate and co-construct with its public.

Keywords: Constitution of the subject; Intersubjectivity; Communication; Dialogue; Organizational studies


Este artigo apresenta contribuições de Jürgen Habermas e Paulo Freire para a constituição de sujeitos crítico-reflexivos e suas implicações nos processos de ensino/pesquisa/extensão no campo dos Estudos Organizacionais. Mostramos que intersubjetividade e dialogicidade são condições para o entendimento entre sujeitos e é justamente por meio delas que ocorre sua constituição em um processo que é dialógico, pedagógico e político. Freire e Habermas oferecem elementos para desconstruir a lógica instrumental dominante e fornecem bases para a reconstrução de possibilidades inéditas/viáveis de formas de organizar e gerir. A partir disso, este artigo destaca a importância dos Estudos Organizacionais ampliarem o foco das possibilidades de ensino/pesquisa/extensão e direciona-os para um engajamento comunicativo e dialógico, ultrapassando as fronteiras das universidades. Essa reconstrução indica aos pesquisadores que participem de diferentes arenas públicas, do debate e da construção de problemas, em processos de resistência, da visibilidade e dramatização de questões problemáticas. Nos caminhos de Freire e Habermas, os Estudos Organizacionais não podem apenas desenvolver uma crítica à distância: é preciso coparticipar, co-agir, co-operar e coconstruir com os públicos em que se engajam.

Palavras-chave: Constituição do sujeito; Intersubjetividade; Comunicação; Diálogo; Estudos organizacionais


En este ensayo se presentan contribuciones de Jürgen Habermas y Paulo Freire para la constitución de sujetos crítico-reflexivos y sus implicaciones en los procesos de enseñanza-investigación-extensión en el campo de los Estudios Organizacionales. En el caso de Freire, la intersubjetividad y dialogicidad son condiciones para el entendimiento entre sujetos y es justamente por medio de ellas que ocurre su constitución en un proceso que es dialógico, pedagógico y político. Freire y Habermas ofrecen elementos para deconstruir la lógica instrumental dominante y proveen bases para lareconstrucción de posibilidades inéditas/viables de formas de organizar y gestionar. A partir de eso, este artículo destaca la importancia de que los Estudios Organizacionales amplíen el foco de las posibilidades de enseñanza-investigación-extensión y las dirijan hacia una participación comunicativa y dialógica, que sobrepase las fronteras de las universidades. Esta reconstrucción indica a los investigadores que participan de diferentes arenas públicas, del debate y de la construcción de problemas, en procesos de resistencia, de la visibilidad y dramatización de cuestiones problemáticas. En los caminos de Freire y Habermas, los Estudios Organizacionales no sólo pueden desarrollar una crítica a distancia:es necesario coparticipar, coactuar, cooperar y coconstruir con los públicos con que se comprometen.

Palabras clave: Constitución del sujeto; Intersubjetividad; Comunicación; Diálogo; Estudios organizacionales


The possibility of subject formation is a topic discussed in the works of both Jürgen Habermas and Paulo Freire, authors usually studied in relatively different fields who, however, present prolific possibilities to the Organizational Studies through their approximations and complimentary aspects as critics. This article focuses on the possibility of understanding, through these authors, the formation of the subject and its implications for the Organizational Studies. The formation of communicative subjects with reflective capabilities is proclaimed as a dialogical, pedagogical and political process. Despite the relevance of these issues for the field of Organizational Studies, matters such as subject, emancipation, reflection, engagement and criticism are no longer considered central for several perspectives on the field.

We support the importance of focusing on the discussion about the formation of the subject, especially when several approaches mention its “death”, thereby causing loss of hope in the emancipatory potentials for transformation and change (CUNHA and FERRAZ, 2015), considering that emphasizing the formation of the subject (always relational) also means arguing on behalf of the possibilities of emancipation and critical engagement. It is our argument that, within the field of Organizational Studies, this article may direct the perspectives on teaching-research-extension where several publics co-participate in the possibilities for the formation of reflective subjects. Within the field of Administration, this is important because the curriculum may emphasize a citizen-subject or only a reproducer of the hegemonic management in the field. Evidently, we are aware that the processes of teaching-research-extension in the university do not determine the formation of the subjects, but, however, they certainly contribute to the process.

Reflecting on the aforementioned elements, we sought to answer to the overall question:

  • How can Habermas’s Theory of Communicative Action and Freire’s Theory of Dialogic Action contribute to understanding the formation of critical-reflective subjects?

And, more specifically:

  • What are the implications of the notion of critical-reflective subjects for the processes of teaching-research-extension in the field of Organizational Studies?

Therefore, this theoretical essay presents the contributions of Jürgen Habermas and Paulo Freire to the formation of critical-reflective subjects and their implications on the processes of teaching-research-extension within the field of Organizational Studies.

Attempting to do so: a) reconstructive dialogues were built (PAES DE PAULA, 2015) between specific concepts form Freire and Habermas, which emphasize the inter-subjective character of the formation and transformation of subjects; b) we argue that Freire and Habermas contribute to the shifting from the paradigm of the philosophy of consciousness to the philosophy of language paradigm and are therefore important to the construction of a dialogical theory of the social subject (MORROW and TORRES, 2002); c) we demonstrate the contribution of these concepts to the field of Organizational Studies, especially to areas marked by communication, dialogue and engagement with different publics; and d) these theories give foundation to a notion of “Public” Organizational Studies, in the sense that researchers engage with different actors and social groups and seek to make public and co-develop knowledge, beyond the frontiers of the University.

In order to reach the proposed goals, this article presents the notion of symbiotic-dialectical approximations regarding key concepts form the authors that contribute to the understanding of the formation and transformation of critical-reflective subjects - arguing that they are formed inter-subjectively and dialogically. The idea of symbiotic-dialectical approximations originates form Andreola (2000), who conceives the existence of convergent and complementary aspects between Habermas and Freire, but also several differences, some irreconcilable (MORROW and TORRES, 2002; ZITKOSKI, 2003; PITANO, 2008; POLLI, 2013). Therefore, we do not attempt to level the propositions of Habermas and Freire (who speak from different social-historic, political and epistemological contexts), but only to pursuit the idea that, together, the two offer more potential for understanding and interpreting than individually.

When referring to Freire, Andreola (2000) indicates the importance of avoiding “crews” and “gangs” and seeking “bridges” built on dialogue. This notion is relevant in the scope of this article and to the field of Organizational Studies. The procedure adopted is coherent with the perspective of Paes de Paula (2015) on rethinking the Organizational Studies, considering that it attempts to overcome the notion of incommensurability on behalf of epistemic reconstructions, given that each knowledge, taken individually, results in cognitive incompleteness.

The discussion of Habermas and Freire is coherent with the procedure of communicability between different perspectives that the author defends. Therefore, by choosing communication and dialogue, as Habermas and Freire do, there are epistemological gains and benefits for the practices, academic and otherwise, in viewing that it is possible to establish communication between different understandings and knowledge. Habermas (2012a, 2012b) and Freire (1984, 2001) demonstrate this well, since they were always interested in a practice guided by communication and critical thinking.


In this section, we briefly present the situation of the references to Freire and Habermas in the field of Organizational Studies. This presentation is made seeking to show the contributions of these authors and the possibility of further exploring these contributions to the field.

Overall, Habermas is more referenced in Organizational Studies than Freire. Regarding Freire, an important reference comes from the work of Misoczky, Moraes and Flores (2009), which indicates Freire’s thought as liberation as a process, inserted in fights, social movements and linked to popular organizations, different form hegemonic/capitalist organizations. Thereby, Paulo Freire proposes not only critical theory, but also a critical pedagogical practice leading to freedom.

Freire is also mentioned in the discussion regarding the education of administrators. Maranhão and Motta (2007, p. 3) affirm that: “the Administration student needs to distance himself from a naïve or astute consciousness and evolve into a critical consciousness (Freire, 1984), through which one will be able to reflect, dialectically, on one’s professional practice”. Along the same lines Lopes, Maranhão and Mageste (2008) propose the discussion of the critical pedagogy in order to rethink the teaching of Organizational Studies.

The work of Paulo Freire has also been guiding studies on Social Management focused on human emancipation. Justen (2016), considering Freire’s appointments, signals that discussion, autonomy e participation are key categories to think the development of emancipatory public policies. Freire is a reference for thinking democratic and dialogic management practices (JUSTEN, 2016).

Alcântara, Valadares, Macedo et al. (2016) discuss ways of overcoming the views of organizational science that close the possibilities of praxis and show Paulo Freire as an important author for different forms of engagement in the context of Organizational Studies. In summary, it is evident that the work of Paulo Freire has been contributing to the studies on organizations and management, in both public and private sectors, taking into consideration the importance of processes that promote conscientization in public policies, social movements or academic training.

Habermas, in turn, show greater insertion in the field of Organizational Studies and Social Management. In the 1990s decade, the works of Serva (1997) and Tenório (1998) reference Habermas in the fields of Organizational Studies and Social Management, respectively. According to Serva (1997, p. 112), “Habermas developed one of the deepest studies on rationality of the present times”, which is very useful for the study of organizations. Tenório (1998) proposes that Habermas is important for the criticism of instrumental rationality, offering communicative rationality as a reconstructive alternative.

Vizeu (2005, p. 11) argues “a portion of the work of Habermas - more specifically his theory of communicative action [...] has frequently been used as an explanatory reference in the field of organizations”. The author considers Habermas fundamental in overcoming the view of instrumental rationality and moving towards communicative rationality and rational reconstruction. After over 10 years, Lara and Vizeu (2017) discuss Habermas’ legacy as Frankfurtian and present advancements in the articulation with the field of Organizational Studies. They advocate “Habermas’ thought should be studied in Organizational Studies alongside Frankfurt School Critical Theory, with possibilities of advancements on research over organizational communication, discourse and ethics, reinforcing the political role of the organizations in society” (LARA and VIZEU, 2017, p. 1).

Paes de Paula (2013, 2015) signals the importance of the work of Habermas through the discussions about knowledge and interest. From that, according to Paes de Paula (2013, p. 523), “the scientific theories should unfold into technically applicable knowledge, but also into a knowledge that guides practical activities, both oriented by an emancipatory interest”. Couto and Carrieri (2017) discuss the relevance of a Habermas for the field of organizations targeting language interactions form the lifeworld, close to the discussion of Vasconcelos, Pesqueux and Cyrino (2014).

The final conclusion was that Habermas is discussed in the field of Organizational Studies but with little appropriation, as clarified by Lara and Vizeu (2017). Which also can be noticed in the review of Habermas in Organizational Studies done by Cruz, Silva and Garcia (2016, p. 12): “it was observed that, overall, the work of Jürgen Habermas still is seldom used or seldom exploited in the academic production within the field of Organizational Studies”. Internationally, Rasche and Scherer (2014) state that the researches on organizational communication, epistemology, business ethics and the role of political actors receive contributions from Habermas. However, the discussion of Habermas’ ideas within the scope of Organizational Studies remains limited. The same happens with the work of Freire.

It is worth noting that within Organizational Studies there are limitations (critics) to the contributions of Habermas (VIZEU, 2005; RASCHE and SCHERER, 2014; COUTO and CARRIERI, 2017). To this, the work of Paulo Freire can be used as a counterpoint (PITANO, 2017) or applied as a learning process seeking to overcome cognitive gaps (PAES DE PAULA, 2015). The second option is the one adopted in this article. After all, for Couto and Carrieri (2017), despite the criticism, Habermas has great applicability in the study of organizations and management.

Finally, the positions of the two authors are references for what Cunha and Ferraz (2015) call fight against irrationality in the field of Organizational Studies. Freire and Habermas, with their due disagreements, have in common with several Brazilian Organizational Studies the defense of “the infinite potential of the self-constitutive process of human kind” (CUNHA and FERRAZ, 2015, p. 193).


In this article, we demonstrate the existence of common and divergent points in the social theories of Habermas and Freire (divergences will be presented in the end of this section). The points in common revolve around the understanding of inter-subjective communicative actions and relationships (OTTO and FOURIE, 2009). According to Morrow and Torres (2002), both rupture from the philosophy of consciousness, given that inter-communication and inter-subjectivity are primary characteristics of the cultural and historic world, amenable to transformation through the practices of subjects who dialogue. Chang and Jacobson (2010) state that Habermas’ Theory of Communicative Action and the works of Freire are sensible to the democratic processes and to emancipation. Otto and Fourie (2009) consider that the two authors present as common points the understanding of the action as inter-subjective, the conceptions of democracy and the criticism against capitalism.

Habermas (2012b) seeks in the language pragmatics and the interactionism of G. H. Mead elements for the construction of the notion of inter-subjectivity, of the subject/subject relation. For Pádua (2009, p. 108), the author also seeks in the philosophical hermeneutics and in psychoanalysis the notion of “inter-subjectivity as a condition for the possibility of constituting the self”. For Morrow and Torres (2002), it is visible that Paulo Freire is also guided, though through different means, by this change from subject/object to subject/subject, moreover, fore these authors, the fundamental convergence between Freire and Habermas is the proposition of a practice centered on mutual recognition and communicative dialogue.

Based in authors such as E. Husserl, J. Austin, L. Wittgenstein e G. H. Mead, Habermas takes language as a hallmark of human practices: “as historic and social beings we have always found ourselves in a linguistically structured world” (HABERMAS, 2004, p. 15). Stemming form different paths, to Freire (1984, 2014) the linguistic medium in the dialogic process is in the vocabulary of the elements that form the culture, in the scope of a given historic context. In Freire, according to Cooper, Chak, Cornish et al. (2013), the inter-subjective recognition is a central aspect of the dialogue and, if Habermas presents as criteria the pretension of truth, normative correctness and veracity, Freire presents other pretensions, such as lovingness, humility, faith, trust, hope and critical thinking.

Therefore, the dialogic is a necessary condition for historicity and an ontological characteristic of social life. The contrary of the dialogical action, the anti-dialogical, is also an interesting point of convergence between the two authors (noted the due differences, in Habermas the colonization of the lifeworld and social pathologies). To Freire, domination is exerted by the environment through the anti-dialogical action, characterized by an oppressor/oppressed relationship, in which the reification of men/women takes place. The anti-dialogical action is marked by conquest, division, manipulation and cultural invasion and is markedly oppressive. Therefore, according to Freire, it is not simple to achieve a truly mutual dialogue because social relationships are hierarchical and affected by different interests (COOPER, CHAK, CORNISH et al., 2013). However, according to Freire, the overcoming of anti-dialogical action cannot be achieved using its elements, but only through dialogical action, between subjects whose critical consciousness is mutually improved through communication. Somehow similarly, Habermas (2012a, 2012b) seeks to escape form the theoretical and practical ties of the instrumental rationality through the understanding of the communicative rationality.

The term used by Freire, critical transitivity, means the transformation of an anti-dialogic action, though dialogical education, with responsibility and sociopolitical engagement. Freire considers that this critical transitivity is a characteristic of the authentic democratic regimes. In Habermas, this search is seen in the change of paradigm and in the proposition of non-violent social changes (ANDREWS, 2011). Regarding violence, it is important to consider that both authors are against this possibility. Freire (2014, p. 36) explores this well in the Pedagogy of the oppressed when dealing with the situation of farmworkers: “rare are the farmworkers who, promoted to foremen, do not become stronger oppressors of their old fellows than the boss himself”. This means that liberation cannot happen unilaterally, given that the oppressed internalize the modus operandi of the oppressor, education is the organic element of social transformation (CALBINO and PAES DE PAULA, 2012). In Habermas (2004, 2012a), it is necessary to notice that autonomy cannot be reached individually, but only as a collective, cooperative and inter-subjective project.

Habermas’ diagnostic also approaches oppression (in the context of Germany’s late capitalism). Habermas (2012b) talks about the imbalance between the lifeworld relationship (culture, personality and society) and the system (State and market), which has the reification of the relationships as a side effect. What Habermas calls colonization of the lifeworld is the replacement of the social instances coordinated through common language by systemic mechanisms - money and bureaucracy (ANDREWS, 2011). Along with colonization, pathologies such as social anomy, alienation and reification appear, in other words, the destruction of the communicative instances.

At his point, a few words about the school within this context are suitable. Habermas (2012b) places education (educational process) in the lifeworld, but understand that it suffers with the juridification (HABERMAS, 2012a), i.e., the intervention of monetary and bureaucratic means in the space of symbolic reproduction. To Habermas, inside the schools communication must be the coordinating mechanism of the actions (very much in consonance with Freire): a “communication that creates norms and values, beginning now between parents, teachers and students” (HABERMAS, 1983, p. 102). In turn, the juridification implies the coordination of those actions performed by other means, which lead to objectification. Even if Habermas changed in the 1990s decade, his diagnostic of the juridification, in the case of Brazil, is still very coherent, according to Hermann (1999) and Zitkoski (2003). For instance, Hermann (1999) states that the pedagogical actions started to be controlled by instrumental rationality.

We believe that Freire would agree with the diagnostic of Habermas (1983) that education is being managed in a coercive way (systemic-bureaucratically) without due consideration to the elements of validity and communicative freedom. However, Paulo Freire would go further. With the concept of lifeworld, Habermas separated the communicative instances of power (HONNETH, 1993). Therein, the school/education would be local instances free from these relationships - here, Freire aids to repair this diagnostic by considering that the school is the instance of the class struggle itself - Freire does that from a Marxist-Gramscinian perspective (SCOCUGLIA, 1999). Therefore, with Freire it is possible to more broadly politicize Habermas’ concept of the education/school. The Organizational Studies should reflect upon this politicization of the educational space, since it often reproduces false neutrality both in the University and in Science, as criticized by Alcântara, Valadares, Macedo et al. (2016). Finally, Freire considers that the problems faced by education are not restricted to the linguistic dimension, but parts of broad movements of globalization and neoliberalism.

Summarizing, Morrow and Torres (2002) present a parallel between Freire and Habermas (Box 1), which we complemented with information provided by Scocuglia (1999).

Source: Elaborated by the authors.

Box 1 Comparison box between Freire and Habermas 

As previously emphasized, it is also important to “give a voice” to the divergent aspects, presented by authors such as Morrow and Torres (2002), Chang and Jacobson (2010) and Polli (2013), most importantly: a) the differences in the sociocultural contexts where the texts were developed, Habermas speaks form Germany and Freire from Brazil and Latin America (DUSSEL, 2000); b) the fact that Freire, unlike Habermas, does not abandon the idea of social classes and class consciousness - however, “Freire does not admit in his work ‘class warfare as the engine of history” (SCOCUGLIA, 1999, p. 35); c) Freire’s subjects are socially concrete (oppressed) and Habermas makes a generalization as citizens in a democratic State (PITANO, 2008); and d) according to Dussel (2000), Freire’s ethics-critics includes the material dimension in opposition to the moral-formal character of Habermas.

Despite the differences, Pitano (2017, p. 118) comes to the conclusion that they do not preclude the adoption of both authors as reference and that, in order to do so, it is necessary to adopt a few precautions, the most important ones being: “a) avoiding their complete detachment form the contexts that they worked upon and b) considering the concreteness of the focused social reality, having in mind immediate contradictions”. Thus, there are differences and critical issues between both authors. In this article the differences are seen as learning opportunities, from one author to the other, without suppressing the alterity of their works.


Firstly, it is certain that both Freire and Habermas conceive social subjects as moral and practical beings, capable of making ethical judgments, being rational and dialoguing sincerely (PIETRYKOWSKI, 1996). However, both also emphasize that those capacities are hampered/limited by hegemonic ideas, class struggle, anti-dialogical actions (Freire) or distorted communications, colonization of daily life and social pathologies (Habermas) - constituting, therefore, potentials: viable and possible, but not easily realizable (PIETRYKOWSKI, 1996). Within the scope of the studies on management and organizations, several initiatives form Organizational Studies (VIZEU, 2005) and researches within Social Management (TENÓRIO, 1998; ALCÂNTARA, 2015) show that organizations constrain through bureaucracy, discipline and control over communicational liberties and potentials of the subjects, especially those marked by hierarchy, violence and relationships of domination. However, there are resistances present in these processes, part of which takes place through discourse - through communicative potentials that every social subject has and cannot be eliminated by the systemic means.

In order to illustrate, Figure 1 displays the formation of the subject in relation to “the worlds”, adding Freire’s categories. In this schema, we present Habermas’ lifeworld, the references to the objective, subjective and social worlds, the pretensions of validity (truth, normative correctness, sincerity), and the relation with the system (not present in the original figure). From Freire, we present conscientization (criticism) overcoming naivety, the dialogical ways of action and democratization, as well as the anti-dialogical, considering, on one hand, the possibilities of public deliberation, and on the other hand, the colonization of the lifeworld - granted that both emancipation and domination are experienced, without fatalism - as reinforced by Freire. We warn that the proportions of Figure 1 have no theoretical relationship. It was our intention to illustrate the relationships and to visualize the theoretical categories.

Source: Elaborated by the authors.

Figure 1 Formation and conscientization of the subject in its relationship to the worlds 

Before presenting the discussions over Figure 1, we note that the subjects (S) represented are citizens (Habermas), diverse concrete social subjects (Freire). This article brings diverse possibilities, such as: researchers of Organizational Studies, teachers, students, different publics and actors form organizations, social movements, companies, citizens, workers, a diversity of subjects who often are our “objects” of research. Hereinafter, we remind that the interactions do not take place in a vacuum: each interaction is inserted in concrete socio-historical relationships, social class relationships (to Freire), different potentials for the “use of language” and different social, economic and symbolic capitals (to Habermas), which form a broad context of the daily and organizational communications. The interaction is an important condition: the communicative rationality “is not located on the subject, but it is inter-connected to him, fostered by daily communicative practices” (PÁDUA, 2009, p. 109).

We illustrate the lifeworld showing that it “is formative of the understanding as such and how formal concepts form a system of reference over which an understanding is possible” (HABERMAS, 2012b, p. 231). Therefore, it involves (background) the subjects 1 (S1) and 2 (S2) in a communicative relationship mediated by language (in which alterity should be maintained). This lifeworld is formed by inter-subjectivity and dialogicity. Inside it, subjects raise acts of speech, exteriorizations (communicative acts) AC1 and AC2 and, in a communicative process (communicative action), make reference to the subjective, objective and social worlds. Therefore, their actions may be judged on their pretensions of validity (within a democratic context), namely: sincerity (subjective world), truth (objective world) and legitimacy or normative correctness (social world). According to Freire, trustworthiness and lovingness (not represented in Figure 1) are also elements of the dialogue (PIETRYKOWSKI, 1996). Thus, this process needs to follow pretensions of validity, but also of recognition, in the sense that Freire (2002, p. 36), especially emphasizes that the dialogue cannot be guided by discrimination: “the prejudiced practice of race, class or gender offends the substantivity of the human being and radically denies democracy”.

It is important for the Organizational Studies to take into consideration those issues. A great deal of the General Theory of Administration manuals disregards those elements by: a) emphasizing a view of instrumental management and bureaucratic organization; b) emphasizing the format of the companies; c) emphasizing the individual roles of managers and entrepreneurs capable of “creative destruction” and d) emphasizing control, efficiency and performance as criteria and guidelines of organizations. The aforementioned elements erase matters raised by Freire and Habermas, such as: understanding, communication, dialogue and solidarity.

Considering those limitations, the processes of teaching/research/extension in the field of Organizational Studies greatly benefit from those authors in order to: a) problematize the existing literature on management and organizations; b) criticize hegemonic theories and practices; and c) presenting new ways, paths and possibilities for discussing, building and reconstructing management and organizational processes. These authors call attention to the notion that new ways of teaching and new practices cannot be guided by the same ways of rationality and action (instrumental, anti-dialogical), and should, thereby, rupture with the current paradigm moving towards communicative action and dialogic action, which have an open character (critical view), non prescriptive and, thus, can be built by the subjects and their lifeworld. It is worth noting that Figure 1 indicates that the Organizational Studies cannot focus their studies on organizations from the State or the market (both in the sense of the bureaucratic-managerial organization) but should occupy all of the spaces presented, namely, civil society organizations, lifeworld, social movements, cultures, organizational processes, communications, subjective worlds and inter-relations and tensions between the spaces mentioned.

We display on Figure 1 the dynamic, the integration and the conflicts between the lifeworld and the system, represented by the highlighted large arrows, indicating the influence of the system (colonization, bureaucratization, etc.) in the lifeworld (Habermas) and the anti-dialogic action and its processes of conquering, dividing, manipulating and culturally invading (Freire). In this context, change is possible because the flows presented in Figure 1 are not unilateral: the lifeworld also influences the system, reinforcing the dialogic action of Freire, as well as the formation of public opinion and the deliberation in Habermas, which, together, contribute to the democratizations of the spaces of political decision and of life in society, whether inside the organizations, in social movements or in different practices of organization.

We consider the interaction between the subjects in the lifeworld (Jürgen Habermas) and the conscientization (Paulo Freire) to be complimentary for the understanding of the formation of the subjects in their critical transitivity, possible reach of a critical consciousness that overcomes naivety, in the sense of overcoming discriminations, inequalities and naturalized ideologies. Based on Freire (2014), the conscientization, as a historical commitment process, takes place through the communication between the subjects (S1 e S2) within a given sociocultural context. Given the experiential and non problematic character (HABERMAS, 2012b) of the supply of experiences found in the lifeworld, the process of conscientization turns to the transformation of the horizons of the lifeworld itself - as seen in the connection between the lifeworld and the conscientization on behalf of overcoming naivety, indicated by arrows sin Figure 1 (expansion of the critical capacity). With Freire and Habermas, we indicate that the lifeworld can abandon the mythical structures, marked by several kinds of violence (prejudice, discrimination, sexism, etc.) and other ideologies that distort alterity in order to walk towards the communicative rationality of critical thinking and temporariness of knowledge. Transformation is possible because, for Freire, the world is humanly created and, therefore, is open to debate and change (COOPER, CHAK, CORNISH et al., 2013). This process, however, is not easy and it is pervaded by several challenges and limitations - critical education is one of the ways to broaden the possibilities (HERMANN, 1999).

From these conceptions, the Organizational Studies and its several publics must position themselves symmetrically in order to, while interpreters, researches “renounce the superiority of a privileged position […] because they see themselves involved in the negotiation of meaning and validity”” (HABERMAS, 1989, p. 43). In a process of dialogic education, in the sense emphasized by Paulo Freire, any sense of superiority is lost (including the academic who is critical of the organizations) in benefit of the process of reciprocal criticism. Burawoy (2006) recalls that the feeling of superiority might emerge like a pathology form those who get involve with different publics - which may lead to a banking education, “where students [social subjects - publics] are the depositary and the educator [researchers] the depositor (CALBINO and PAES DE PAULA, 2012, p. 434). This possibility is present in the critical studies themselves if they start to prescribe how the actors should act, eliminating their alterity. Habermas (1989, p. 43) establishes as guidance that, in the process of understanding, interpreted in this article between scholars and different publics, “there is nothing that permits to decide a priori who has to learn form whom”.

Discussing organizational studies, Czarniawska (2005) states that researchers may engage critically, however, this choice does not grant them moral superiority over the actors involved. Paulo Freire always insisted on that when dealing with the relationships between technical-scientific knowledge and knowledge from the experiences: “What is intended with dialogue, in any hypothesis (be it regarding a scientific and technical knowledge or an ‘experiential’ knowledge), is the problematization of the knowledge itself in its unarguable relationship to the concrete reality in which it is generated and over which it actuates, in order to better understand it, explain it, transform it” (FREIRE, 1984, p. 34). When discussing the Critical Management Studies, Spicer, Alvesson and Kärreman (2009) consider the process of engaging in criticism and at the same time doing so with the social actors without imposing worldviews on them is a difficult and tense process, marked by contradictions.

For that reason, the perspectives of Freire and Habermas cannot be put into practice without researchers performing “political acts” such as, for instance: providing information and strengthening the subaltern public spheres, bringing visibility to issues (BURAWOY, 2006), building the praxis of resistance along with certain publics (MISOCZKY, FLORES e BÖHM, 2008) and defending the democratization of the spaces of society (FREIRE, 2001; HABERMAS, 2012b). Freire and Habermas invite to rethink democracy, whether as a way of living (Freire) or as deliberative processes (Habermas). For this reason, Freire always defended a “true democracy”, a democracy that goes beyond converting “analphabets into voters” (FREIRE, 2001). A democracy lived by men and women who do not perpetuate inequalities and asymmetries, not coined in the ethics of the market, as criticized by Freire (2000), but in the ethics of dialogue and discourse (HABERMAS, 2004).

The democratic matter is also summoned to think the democratization of the relationships between State, market and civil society, the democratization of the social processes of work, the democratization of the certainties not yet problematized in the lifeworld (ALCÂNTARA and PEREIRA, 2017) and the democratization of the relationship between researchers and their publics. This democratization, different form any liberal or aggregate view, moves through the participation and the deliberation, therefore, inevitably, through communication and dialogue. Thus, it has a relationship with mutual recognition, which is an important condition for the academic debate and, broadly, for the formation of the subjects.

These concepts demonstrate the importance of the Organizational Studies broadening the focus of the possibilities of teaching/research/extension to the lifeworld, overcoming the emphasis on bureaucratic organizations and starting to study movements, processes and practices of organization (MISOCZKY, FLORES and BÖHM, 2008), i.e., engaging with and experiencing the different lifeworld of the publics. Freire and Habermas contribute to this because, besides offering elements to deconstruct the dominant rationale, they present basis for the reconstruction of unprecedented viable possibilities. This reconstruction invites the Organizational Studies to a communicative and dialogic engagement recommending that researchers participate in different public arenas, debates and in the construction of problems and of the visibility and dramatization of problematic issues. In the ways of Freire and Habermas, the Organizational Studies cannot develop criticism from a distance: it is necessary to co-participate, co-act, co-operate and co-construct with the publics to whom they are engaged. These processes contribute to the formation of critical-reflective subjects, both researchers and different publics-actors. Critical-reflective subjects are not formed individually in a subject-object relationship - they are formed in the relationships of inter-subjectivity and dialog city between subjects-subjects.


The inter-subjectivity and the inter-communication are primary conditions to communication and the dialogue between subjects (social actors, citizens, publics) and it is exactly when mediated by them that the formation of the critical subject in a process that is dialogic, pedagogic and political. The learning character of the communicative acts also becomes important to the conscientization, here treated as an advancement (always temporary) in the consciousness about the provision of un-problematized knowledge to the lifeworld.

We also present the difficulties of this process, discussing the anti-dialogic action in Freire and the colonization of the lifeworld by the system in Habermas. It is our argument that the unveiling of the structures and actions that seek to dominate and restrict the formation of critical-reflective subjects is essential for to the transformation process. We are able to critically think about cases where the communicative structures begin to be externally coordinated by bureaucratic means (another rationality). This issue can be the object of Organizational Studies performed in social organizations, councils, participatory arrangements, social movements, substantive processes of organization, collective actions, with the purpose of identifying its development and its resistance against the process of juridification. Such environments are often colonized by mercantile and state rationales, centered as described by Habermas (2012b), on the medium of money and administrative-bureaucratic power. From the points of view of Freire and Habermas, Organizational Studies researchers can engage in processes of problematization and criticism of these processes and are also able to make public these situations in the universities and in the public spheres of the media.

The conceptions of dialogue and communication in Freire and Habermas guide issues that are relevant to think education, research and extension in the field of Organizational Studies. The vision of both authors implies that the Organizational Studies should raise criticism against instrumental views, marked by the market as a central element, but not only raise criticism: it is necessary to overcome the theoretical-criticism and reach a practical-theoretical-criticism (PAES DE PAULA, 2015). In doing so, instead of a criticism restricted to the university, a new praxis is necessary, neighboring the propositions of Alcântara, Valadares, Macedo et al. (2016). Thereby, it is necessary to advance dialogically and communicatively beyond the frontiers of the university (criticism among peers) and to engage with different publics - as emphasized by Misoczky, Flores and Böhm (2008) in the case of the relationship between social studies and the Organizational Studies.

Misoczky, Flores and Böhm (2008, p. 182) show that this is possible to be done reflecting and making visible “those processes of organization of resistance and class struggle that tend to be ignored by the contemporary organizational discourse”. This leads to a conception of “engagement of the researchers with the popular movements, as well as to reflections that question and concretely affect their organizations” (MISOCZKY, FLORES e BÖHM, 2008, p. 182-183). These implications recall the possibility of thinking the relevance of the “public” Organizational Studies, with a construction of knowledge, dissemination, reach and validity guided by the access to/of different publics - in an inter-subjective and dialogical way with the different publics. As discussed form Burawoy (2006), this vision directs towards a process of mutual learning among the subjects of teaching/research/extension in the field of Organizational Studies and the subjects/publics. Contributing to the visibility of non-hegemonic organizational publics, i.e., reaching beyond managers, entrepreneurs and prominent businessmen. Through this process we also become subjects by raising and bringing the debate and problematizing troubling and public issues.

The focus of this perspective is not only on “bringing” or “translating” academic knowledge to the publics, because Freire and Habermas demand a search for building together - “a dialogue between students and ourselves, between students and their own experiences, between students themselves and, finally, a dialogue between students and the publics outside the university (BURAWOY, 2006, p. 17), among others. In which space this process of interaction and construction with the publics begins? According to Burawoy (206, p. 17): “we begin where they are, not where we are”.

Finally, within the scope of the Organizational Studies, the discussions of Freire and Habermas converge to a notion of reflective knowledge not only academic, but also marked by different ways of construction and mutual recognition with different publics. Through this point of view, knowledge should be communicative, dialogical and based on the possible understandings between researchers and the publics. The legitimacy of this knowledge is built upon the relevance, not only academic and evaluated by peers in blind review, but in the look that recognizes and is recognized in the “face” of the publics. A relationship marked by alterity, which demands responsibility towards the other.


Finally, we appoint possible continuations that would further this article:

  1. Exploring methodologies of teaching/research/extension for the field of Organizational Studies from Habermas and Freire, taking into consideration the already existing ones, such as the Research-Action and the Quick Participative Emancipatory Diagnostic;

  2. Developing ways of teaching/research/extension within the scope of the Organizational Studies that really allow for the co-production of the knowledge and practices discussed in this article;

  3. Deeply discussing the ontological and epistemological questions that the works of Habermas and Freire raise for the Organizational Studies; and

  4. Developing reconstructions between technical, practical and emancipatory interests (PAES DE PAULA, 2013; 2015), having in mind the development of “Public” Organizational Studies.

In summary, new theories, practices and praxis can explore other approximations and distances between Habermas and Freire, such as reading Freire from/against Habermas and reading Habermas form/against Freire (and advancing from the gaps left by both).


ALCÂNTARA, V. C. Mundo-da-vida e sistema: o lócus da gestão social sob a abordagem habermasiana. 2015. 421 f. (Mestrado em Administração) - Universidade Federal de Lavras, Lavras, 2015. [ Links ]

ALCANTARA, V. C.; PEREIRA, J. R. O locus da gestão social no contexto das inter-relações e tensões entre mundo-da-vida (lebenswelt) e sistema (system). Organização & Sociedade, v. 24, n. 82, p. 412-431, 2017. [ Links ]

ALCÂNTARA, V. C. et al. A solution through praxis? Reflections about the ivory tower metaphor and the indissociability between theory and practice in organizational studies. Revista de Administração da Mackenzie, v. 17, n. 5, p. 15-35, 2016. [ Links ]

ANDREOLA, B. A. Carta-prefácio a Paulo Freire. In: FREIRE, P. Pedagogia da indignação: cartas pedagógicas e outros escritos. São Paulo: Unesp, 2000. p. 10-15. [ Links ]

ANDREWS, C. W. Emancipação e legitimidade: uma introdução à obra de Jürgen Habermas. São Paulo: Unifesp, 2011. [ Links ]

BURAWOY, M. Por uma sociologia pública. Revista Política & Trabalho, v. 25, p. 21-41, 2006. [ Links ]

CALBINO, D.; PAES DE PAULA, A. P. Herbert Marcuse, Paulo Freire e a economia solidária como alternativa emancipatória. Revista de Ciências Humanas, v. 45, n. 2, p. 425-447, 2012. [ Links ]

CHANG, L.; JACOBSON, T. Measuring participation as communicative action: a case study of citizen involvement in and assessment of a city’s smoking cessation policy-making process. Journal of Communication, v. 60, n. 4, p. 660-679, 2010. [ Links ]

COOPER, M. et al. Dialogue: bridging personal, community, and social transformation. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, v. 53, n. 1, p. 70-93, 2013. [ Links ]

COUTO, F. F.; CARRIERI, A. P. Habermas, the conceptual debates about public-private-social spheres and the communicative action in organizational theory. Revista de Administração, Contabilidade e Economia, v. 16, n. 3, p. 827-844, 2017. [ Links ]

CRUZ, E. S. T.; SILVA, E. A. F.; GARCIA, A. S. Habermas e os estudos organizacionais no Brasil: delineando tendências e críticas por meio de uma revisão integrativa. In: SEMINÁRIOS DE ADMNISTRAÇÃO, 18., 2015, São Paulo. Anais… São Paulo: Universidade de São Paulo, 2015. p. 1-16. [ Links ]

CUNHA, E. P.; FERRAZ, D. L. S. Marxismo, estudos organizacionais e a luta contra o irracionalismo. Organizações & Sociedade, v. 22, n. 73, p. 193-198, 2015. [ Links ]

CZARNIAWSKA, B. En teori om organisering. Lund: Studentlitteratur, 2005. [ Links ]

DUSSEL, E. Ética da libertação na idade da globalização e da exclusão. Petrópolis: Vozes, 2000. [ Links ]

FREIRE, P. Ação cultural para a liberdade e outros escritos. 7. ed. Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 1984. [ Links ]

FREIRE, P. Conscientização: teoria prática da libertação, uma introdução ao pensamento de Paulo Freire. São Paulo: Centauro, 2001. [ Links ]

FREIRE, P.. Pedagogia da indignação. São Paulo: Ed. Unesp, 2000. [ Links ]

FREIRE, P. Pedagogia da autonomia: saberes necessários à prática educativa. 25. ed. Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra , 2002. [ Links ]

FREIRE, P. Pedagogia do oprimido. 58. ed. Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra , 2014. [ Links ]

HABERMAS, J. Para a reconstrução do materialismo histórico. São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1983. [ Links ]

HABERMAS, J. Consciência moral e agir comunicativo. Rio de Janeiro: Tempo Brasileiro, 1989. [ Links ]

HABERMAS, J. Verdade e justificação: ensaios filosóficos. São Paulo: Loyola, 2004. [ Links ]

HABERMAS, J. Teoria do agir comunicativo: racionalidade da ação e racionalização social. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 2012a. v. 1. [ Links ]

HABERMAS, J. Teoria do agir comunicativo: sobre a crítica da razão funcionalista. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 2012b. v. 2. [ Links ]

HERMANN, N. Validade em educação: intuições e problemas na recepção de Habermas. Porto Alegre: PUCRS, 1999. [ Links ]

HONNETH, A. The critique of power: reflective stages in a critical social theory. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1993. [ Links ]

JUSTEN, C. E. O Angelus Novus emoldurado à gestão social: reflexões acerca da construção de políticas públicas emancipadoras. Desenvolvimento em Questão, v. 14, n. 36, p. 135-157, 2016. [ Links ]

LARA, L. G. A.; VIZEU, F. A frankfurtianidade de Habermas e suas possibilidades em estudos organizacionais. In: COLÓQUIO INTERNACIONAL DE EPISTEMOLOGIA E SOCIOLOGIA DA CIÊNCIA DA ADMINISTRAÇÃO, 4., 2017, Florianópolis. Anais… Florianópolis: Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, 2017. [ Links ]

LOPES, F. T.; MARANHÃO, C. S.; MAGESTE, G. S. Pedagogia crítica: repensando o ensino de estudos organizacionais. Revista Eletrônica de Ciência Administrativa, v. 7, n. 2, p. 1-9, 2008. [ Links ]

MAGALHÃES, C. M. S. A.; MOTTA, F. M. V. “A importância do ato de ler”: leituras críticas na formação do administrador. Revista Eletrônica de Ciência Administrativa, v. 6, n. 2, p. 1-14, 2007. [ Links ]

MISOCZKY, M. C.; FLORES, R. K.; BÖHM, S. A práxis da resistência e a hegemonia da organização. Organizações & Sociedade, v. 15, n. 45, p. 181-193, 2008. [ Links ]

MISOCZKY, M. C. A.; MORAES, J.; FLORES, R. K. Bloch, Gramsci e Paulo Freire: referências fundamentais para os atos da denúncia e do anúncio. Cadernos EBAPE.BR, Rio de Janeiro, v. 7, n. 3, p. 448-471, 2009. [ Links ]

MORROW, R. A.; TORRES, C. A. Reading Freire and Habermas: critical pedagogy and transformative social change. New York: Teachers College Press, 2002. [ Links ]

OTTO, H.; FOURIE, L. M. Communicative action: the Habermasian and Freirian dialogical approach to participatory communication for social change in a post-1994 South Africa. Koers, v. 74, n. 1, p. 217-239, 2009. [ Links ]

PÁDUA, J. P. C. V. Constituição do sujeito e intersubjetividade: por um diálogo entre Habermas e Winnicott. Revista Direito, Estado e Sociedade, n. 34, p. 89-113, 2009. [ Links ]

PAES DE PAULA, A. P. Abordagem freudo-frankfurtiana, pesquisa-ação e socioanálise: uma proposta alternativa para os estudos organizacionais. Cadernos EBAPE.BR, Rio de Janeiro, v. 11, n. 4, p. 520-542, 2013. [ Links ]

PAES DE PAULA, A. P. Repensando os estudos organizacionais: por uma nova teoria do conhecimento. Rio de Janeiro: Ed. FGV, 2015. [ Links ]

PIETRYKOWSKI, B. Knowledge and power in adult education: beyond Freire and Habermas. Adult Education Quarterly, v. 46, n. 2, p. 82-97, 1996. [ Links ]

PITANO, S. C. Jürgen Habermas, Paulo Freire e a crítica à cidadania como horizonte educacional: uma proposta de revivificação da Educação Popular ancorada no conceito de sujeito social. 2008. 191 f. Tese (Doutorado em Educação) - Faculdade de Educação, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, 2008. [ Links ]

PITANO, S. C. Problematizando referências para a educação popular: Paulo Freire e Jürgen Habermas. Revista Sul-Americana de Filosofia e Educação, n. 28, p. 104-19, 2017. [ Links ]

POLLI, J. R. R. Freire, Habermas e o horizonte da emancipação. 2. ed. Jundiaí: In House, 2013. [ Links ]

RASCHE, A.; SCHERER, A.G. Jürgen Habermas and organization studies: contributions and future prospect. In: ADLER, P. et al. (Ed.). Oxford handbook of sociology, social theory, and organization studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. p. 158-181. [ Links ]

SCOCUGLIA, A. C. Origens e prospectiva do pensamento político-pedagógico de Paulo Freire. Educação e Pesquisa, v. 25, n. 2, p. 25-37, 1999. [ Links ]

SERVA, M. A racionalidade substantiva demonstrada na prática administrativa. Revista de Administração de Empresas, v. 37, n. 2, p. 18-30, 1997. [ Links ]

SPICER, A.; ALVESSON, M.; KÄRREMAN, D. Critical performativity: the unfinished business of critical management studies. Human Relations, v. 62, n. 4, p. 536-561, 2009. [ Links ]

TENÓRIO, F. G. Gestão social: uma perspectiva conceitual. Revista de Administração Pública, Rio de Janeiro, v. 32, n. 5, p. 7-23, 1998. [ Links ]

VASCONCELOS, I. F. F. G.; PESQUEUX, Y.; CYRINO, A. B. A teoria da ação comunicativa de Habermas e suas aplicações nas organizações: contribuições para uma agenda de pesquisa. Cadernos EBAPE.BR, Rio de Janeiro, v. 12, p. 374-383, 2014. [ Links ]

VIZEU, F. Ação comunicativa e estudos organizacionais. Revista de Administração de Empresas, v. 45, n. 4, p. 10-21, 2005. [ Links ]

ZITKOSKI, J. J. Educação popular e emancipação social: convergências nas propostas de Freire e Habermas. Reunião Anual da ANPEd, v. 26, p. 19, 2003. [ Links ]

[Translated version] Note: All quotes in English translated by this article’s translator.

Received: September 11, 2016; Accepted: January 23, 2018

Luís Fernando Silva Andrade - Doctorate student at Universidade Federal de Lavras (UFLA); Master in Administration by Universidade Federal de Lavras (UFLA), Lavras - MG, Brazil. E-mail:

Valderí de Castro Alcântara - Doctorate student at Universidade Federal de Lavras (UFLA); Master in Administration by Universidade Federal de Lavras (UFLA), Lavras - MG, Brazil. E-mail:

José Roberto Pereira - Doctor in Sociology by the Universidade de Brasília (UnB); Professor in the Department of Administration and Economics at Universidade Federal de Lavras (UFLA), Lavras - MG, Brazil. E-mail:

Creative Commons License Este é um artigo publicado em acesso aberto sob uma licença Creative Commons