Volume 5, 2013
Integrating Strangers into the Mainstream Society: A Phenomenological Perspective
In this paper, I argue that participation in face-to-face social groups can make a crucial contribution to the inclusion of strangers into the social life of liberal democratic polities. First, I critically assess Alfred Schutz’s (1964) phenomenological analysis of “The Stranger” within the context of his overall conception
of the “life-world.” I then argue that linguistic communication can only enable a partial integration of strangers into an alien group. This is due, I claim, to what
Schutz calls the “irreversibility of inner time,” i.e., the meta-structure of temporality which prevents outsiders from fully internalizing the structures of an alien
life-world. Nevertheless, I conclude that strangers can join small groups and associations and, by participating in face-to-face relationships and activities, integrate into the common life of these groups. Thanks to a pre-communicative interaction with the other members of these groups, strangers can grasp those more intangible elements of the groups’ cultural background which cannot be rationalized and communicated through language. Participation in the social activities of face-toface groups provides strangers with a starting point for gradually integrating into the mainstream society.