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Open Access Publications from the University of California

New Horizons for the Individual Research Consultation: Critical Hermeneutics and Habermas’ Goal of Intersubjective Agreement


Critical hermeneutics is the theory of interpretation situated within an ethical trajectory that encourages an awareness of power differentials in communication. It emphasizes intersubjectivity, or that which is mutually agreed upon between two persons and has the potential to overcome the social injustices taking place within late-capitalism and infuse Individual Research Consultations (IRC) with mutually beneficial dialogue. As universities become more culturally diverse, librarians need to learn new ways to be inclusive and empower students to flourish as unique and individualized researchers. This article examines how Habermas' Intersubjective agreement attempts to end the isolation and warring of the structuralist and poststructuralist camps by taking the possibility of rational negotiation among responsible and autonomous individuals seriously. Habermas builds on Austin's speech act theory to develop the basic principles of common language and uses critical hermeneutics to expose mechanisms of control that inhibit intersubjective agreement. When librarians begin to embrace critical hermeneutics as a methodology for intersubjective agreement in the IRC, there exists a greater potential for librarians and users to come to a more robust level of satisfaction and accuracy in both source retrieval and in achieving the ALA's ethical goals for information literacy through a fusion of the modern and post-modern horizons.

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