Political Sociology Revision

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Brief history of modernity

Adapted from Streeck & other places

Luther's 95 Theses: 1517.
Peace of Westphalia: 1648.
American War of Independence: 1775-1783.
Critique of Pure Reason: 1781 / 1787.
American Constitution: 1787.
French Revolution: 1789–1799.
Hegel is professor in Berlin: 1818-1831.
De la démocratie en Amérique: 1835 / 1840.
Communist Manifesto: 1848.
Das Kapital Vol. 1: 1867.

The organised capitalism of the 1950s and 1960s was an international response to the social devastations that were widely perceived at the time to have been caused by the unfettered operation of self-regulating markets in the 1920s and 1930s. Cf. "advanced capitalism / organised capitalism / late capitalism" (Habermas); "state capitalism" (Pollock); "late capitalism or industrial society" (Adorno). Cf. Miliband, Poulantzas, Laclau, Offe, Hirst.

The early Dahl is a representative theorist of the welfare state compromise: his classical pluralism draws on the republican tradition of stability in mixed governance, updated in light of the perceived extremism of both the capitalist and and communist modes of social integration, and informed by social-anthropological research into the empirical operation of democratic institutions.

Free trade was regulated under a system of fixed exchange rates (Bretton Woods) anchored by the US dollar's convertibility into gold at a fixed price. Fixed exchange rates were incompatible with free flows of capital.

The political economy of Fordism or Keynesianism, terms that were used almost interchangeably, was deliberately designed to reconcile capitalism with social stability. It allowed for a newly settled way of life for the generations that had been through the Great Depression and the Second World War. At its centre was a regime of social rights, generated by democratic politics, that was to take precedence over the mechanisms of the market: rights to a minimum level of income, freedom from poverty, a modicum of social and economic equality, equal access to education, and social security in periods of unemployment, illness, and in old age. Cf. Marshall.

By the 1970s, the Fordist promises of economic and social security and stability began to be gradually withdrawn. Increasingly, employers and governments urged workers and unions no longer to insist, in an ever more competitive world, on what now was denounced as the “rigidities” of a defunct old regime, and concede more “flexibility” in just every aspect of the employment relationship.

Workers must respond faster to market changes; bear a growing share of the costs of structural adjustment; accept more regional, occupational and in particular downward mobility; submit to “lifelong learning” and feel responsible for their own “employability”; give up security for “flexicurity,” which means accepting spells of unemployment hoped to be short due to effective support by the government employment agency; agree to increasing shares of pay being commuted into bonuses dependent on individual and collective performance; understand that there can be no family wage any more as employers can no longer pay for two when employing just one.

Cf. "Zumutbarkeit", what is acceptable, & Habermas's idea in LC about the risks of the administrative intervention in socio-cultural system --> public themeatization of boundary conditions.

The dissolution of the Fordist social order extended to the institutions and to the social structure that such institutions had supposedly been set up to support.

Obviously, flexible labor markets that are open to all cannot offer the same sort of security and stability as the labor markets of Fordism --> "liberationist" model. "Market pressure" model: Beginning in the 1970s, stagnant real wages and rising unemployment compelled households to supply more labour to the market to defend their accustomed standard of living.

Improving market access for “outsiders,” in turn, required that institutional protections of “insiders” were disabled at least in part, intensifying the spreading sense of uncertainty about the future. As opportunities for all sorts of “atypical,” flexible employment proliferated, so did the pressures on the standard employment relationship at the center of the employment regime. Unlike in the liberationist story, that is to say, where market participation clears the way to a desirable social life, in the economic pressure scenario markets are imposed rather than sought, with market uncertainties undermining the formation of stable social commitments or thwarting them in the first place, as the system of social rights invented in the postwar period to protect society from commodification gives way under the impact of marketization.

Ways of reconciling: (1) models blend, w/ "liberationist" the relatively more accurate towards the top of the income distribution & vice-versa; (2) "liberationist" model an ideological form of the "market pressures" model.

Where formal institutionalization of family relations carries with it obligations to mutual assistance that replace entitlements to social security benefits, modern welfare states may entail economic incentives not to enter into formalized family bonds.

Corporatist (?) programme of cultural re-education, teaching people to regard flexibility and uncertainty as individual challenges – as opportunities not just for economic prosperity but also for personal growth – rather than as violations of collectively achieved social rights. Cf. Habermas on administrative milking the socio-cultural system for legitimation points.

The tension between female labour market participation and the political expectation, inevitable for fiscal reasons, that families will bear the main share of the growing burden of care for the aged.

For a number of years now there has been a growing consensus, even among “conservative” parties like the CDU, that flexible family structures and employment patterns force the state to take responsibility for child rearing if children are what government perceives to be in the public interest.

State provision of free childcare, higher child allowances, a new family allowance for parents of newborn children, increased child supplements to social assistance and other benefits are currently about to transform child raising from a private to a public responsibility, well into the middle classes.

In both accounts of the co-evolution of flexible labour markets and of deinstitutionalized patterns of family life – the market opportunities as well as the market pressures account – marketization causes gaps in social structures and gives rise to collective dysfunctions that must be repaired at public expense.
Here as elsewhere, while private profit requires subsidization by a public infrastructure, the private problems caused by its pursuit need to be fixed by social policy. The logic seems remarkably similar to that of the current banking crisis, where the liberation of financial markets from traditional constraints and the progressive commodification of money have ultimately issued in irresistible pressures on the state to step in and restore with its specific means the social commons of stable expectations and mutual confidence.

In both cases, and perhaps generally, capitalism seems to imply a need for a public power capable of creating substitutes for social relations invaded by market relations and as a consequence becoming unable to perform some of their previous functions. There is of course no guarantee that such work of social reconstruction can always be done. Even where something is considered “functionally necessary” by social theorists or social agents, this does not mean that the political will and the economic resources can in fact be mobilized to procure it. In the case of family policy filling the gap caused by the destruction of traditional family relations due to the attractions and pressures of markets, the problem is for an already overburdened and indeed highly indebted welfare state to divert the necessary funds from other commitments.

Friday, December 26, 2008



Hirst: associational democracy
Mouffe: agonistic pluralism
Habermas: deliberative democracy

Schumpeter: competitive elitism
Truman: classical pluralism
Dahl: classical pluralism, polyarchy / neo-pluralism

Miliband: neo-marxism
Poulantzas: (structural) neo-marxism
Offe: neo-marxism / neo-pluralism

Schmitter: corporatism
Marshall: citizenship

Keywords 1: Political liberalism, comprehensive liberalism, polyarchy, value pluralism, de facto pluralism, classical pluralism, neo-pluralism, neutrality, perfectionism, multiculturalism, citizenship, identity, autonomy, difference, civil society

Keywords 2: Representation, democracy, plebiscitarian democracy, sovereignty, constitutionalism, parliamentarianism, underlying consensus, overlapping consensus, equality, civil / political / social rights, corporatism, tripartism, class, accumulation, governance

Keywords 3: republicanism, communitarianism, New Left, New Right, competition, welfare

Keywords 4: Arrow’s impossibility theorem, Pareto efficiency

Keywords 5: anomie, Fordist family, bureaucracy, postliberalism, organisational society, rule of law, decisionism,

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Antoine's notes on democracy and pluralism

Conceptions of Democracy

Platonic vs. Aristotelian traditions
- Platonic: seeks systemic order on basis of universal principles (“the Good”)
- Aristotelian: seeks organic balance which embraces pluralism and dissent within limits

For Plato, democracy (demos = many, cracy = power) was the rule of the mob and the ignorant over the educated and enlightened

Rousseau, the French Revolution and the general will (volonté générale): idea of general agreement of the community over the common good (Republicanism) but potential to authoritarianism and ‘tyranny of the majority’ (or even minority)

Aristotle: qualified defence of democracy, the polis is about the plurality of voices: “It is true that unity is to some extent necessary … but total unity is not. There is a point at which a polis, by advancing in unity, will cease to be a polis: there is another point, short of that, at which it may still remain a polis, but will none the less come near to losing its essence, and will thus be a worse polis. It is as if you were to turn harmony into mere unison, or to reduce a theme to a single beat. The truth us that the polis is an aggregate of many members.”

Liberal Pluralism and the Quest for Consensus

Premised on the lack of a final truth concerning the ‘good’ of the polity, liberal conception of democracy is that of pre-social individuals with their own personal interests and wants whose wishes are democratically aggregated. Thus civil society and state to provide a neutral sphere for expression of interests and find a consensus

Striving for more than compromise of aggregate private interests but still fundamentally consensual, Rawls and Habermas argue for “deliberative democracy” whereby political decisions are to be reached through a process of deliberation among free and equal citizens leading to a rational and moral outcome, producing a sense of justice (Rawls) or legitimacy (Habermas).

With liberal rights & protections of minorities, pluralism is impossible under republicanism. But for John Kekes: liberal societies are not as pluralistic as their defenders claim.

Liberalism recognises a private sphere to individuals deemed as autonomous entities that precede society but nonetheless elevate some procedural or substantive values as overriding values which cannot be violated or subject to democratic decision --> a necessity for pluralism or an obstacle to it?

For Marx, the liberal conception of the individual (and with it the presumed inalienable rights advocated by liberalism) is a product of the material base of society – contra liberalism, Marx affirms the primacy of the social over the individual.

“The failure of current democratic theory to tackle the question of citizenship is the consequence of their operating with a conception of the subject, which sees the individuals as prior to society, as bearers of natural rights, and either as utility maximizing agents or as rational subjects. In all cases they are abstracted from social and power relations, language, culture and the whole set of practices that make the individuality possible. What is precluded in these rationalistic approaches is the very question of what are the conditions of existence of the democratic subject.” (Mouffe)

Marxist critique of liberal democracy: political equality without economic equality is a sham (liberal individualism alienates humans from their social nature) but how to avoid the slide into authoritarianism?

Dissent and Agonistic Pluralism

Rescher advocates a pluralism that recognises the limits of rational argumentation and inevitability of dissent, thereby exchanging “the yearning for an unattainable consensus for the institution of pragmatic arrangements in which he community will acquiesce – not through agreeing on its optimability, but through a shared recognition among the dissonant parties that the available options are even worse.”

Laclau and Mouffe & “agonistic pluralism”: the ineradicable antagonism that the pluralism of values entails (see also Nietzsche/Weber & “warring gods”, Carl Schmitt & friend/enemy distinction)

“If we accept that relations of power are constitutive of the social, then the main question for democratic politics is not how to eliminate power but how to constitute forms of power more compatible with democratic values.” (Mouffe)

“The constitution of democratic individuals can only be made possible by multiplying the institutions, the discourses, the forms of life that foster identification with democratic values.” (Mouffe)

Hirst and Associative Democracy

Third way between collectivist state socialism and laissez-faire capitalism:
- shift away from state towards voluntary and democratically self-governing associations
- decentralisation of political authority
- economic mutualism (non-profit + cooperative firms)

“Associative democracy aims neither to abolish representative government not to replace market exchange with some other allocative mechanism, rather to free the former from the encumbrance of an over-extended and centralised public-service state and to anchor the latter in a complex of social institutions that enables it to attain socially desirable outcomes […] The conversion of public and private corporate hierarchies into self-governing bodies answerable to those they serve and who participate in them would thus answer to the greatest democratic deficits of our time – organisational government without consent and corporate control without representation.” (Hirst)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Antoine's notes on citizenship

Citizenship: rights and duties attached to membership of a defined society or political community (subject vs. citizen)

“Citizenship is status bestowed on those who are full members of a community. All who possess the status are equal with respect to the rights and duties with which the status endows” (Marshall)

Question of the substantive content of rights and duties + of those entitled to them (class, gender, race, age, mental fitness, etc.)

Marshall, Citizenship and Class

T.H. Marshall: 'Citizenship and Social Class' (1949):

3 elements of citizenship:
- civil: rights guaranteeing individual freedom (freedom of speech, thought, faith and association, right to property, equality in front of law and due process)
- political: rights to participate in exercise of political power as representative or elector
- social: welfare (provision of economic security and universal access to health, education and social services)

Formal equality of citizenship vs. informal inequality of socio-eco class - “it is clear that, in the twentieth century, citizenship and the capitalist class system have been at war” (Marshall)

State as mediator of social conflict arising within liberal democracies and welfare state as basis of inclusive social democracy

- methodological: evolutionist account, underplays political struggles in the gain of citizenship rights
- focused on British case, ethnocentric
- ‘top down’ account of citizenship
- no parallel theory of the state
- neglects other forms of inequality (gender, race, etc)

Citizenship, Identity, and Cultural Diversity

Challenge of multiculturalism and minorities to liberal theories of citizenship
Needs/demands of minorities (linguistic, religious, ethnic, etc.) which are not accounted for by standard liberal laws

3 approaches to citizenship and identity:
- liberalism (universalism)
- communitarianism (particularism)
- civic republicanism (Habermas’s ‘constitutional patriotism’)

Tension btw universal (negation of difference, imposition of foreign values) and particular (incommensurable gap between self and other, essentialism of cultures)

Formal (membership of a nation-state) vs. substantive (array of civil, pol, and soc rights) citizenship

Dual citizenship, supra/sub-national governance (EU), cosmopolitanism, human rights (international legal recognition of crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes, and humanitarian interventions)

Cultural/Identity Politics
  • Gender, ethnic, sexual orientation, religion, age (children, seniors), ability, etc.
  • --> not simply extension of rights to marginalised groups but reconceptualisation of citizenship in terms of the right to an identity (universal citizenship itself a form of group identity?)
  • Criticisms of identity politics: risk of social “balkanisation”, abandonment of class as central analytic concept
  • Moving beyond essentialism/constructivism in speaking of identity?
  • Is the formation of identity possible without processes of exclusion or ‘othering’?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Robert Dahl

Early work:
  • What is a majority? "The numerical majority is incapable of coordinated undertaking."
  • Agrees empirically w/ Schumpeter (competitive elitism): apathetic citizenry & opinion-making representatives, but reads a different significance. Lack of political involvement can be social capital - trust.
  • Substantive diversity better protects rights that constitutionalist guarantee supported by separation of powers.
  • Power in the USA disaggregated and non-cumulative: protean complex of shifting advantages.
  • Business organisatins, political parties, ethnic groups, religious groups, trade unions, NSMs, even government departments: competitive equilibrium in the long term.
  • Underlying consensus establishes horizon of politics.
  • The problematic of state power can be superimposed on individual group.
  • "Influence terms" taxonomise “A” getting “B” to do what “A” wants.
  • Critique from Bachrach and Baratz, 1962; Mouffe on struggle inscribed on hegemonies; Foucault on grids of intelligibility; Lindblom on controlled volitions & circularity (& cf. PSRPs). & ??
Recent work
  • Democracy requires effective participation; voting equality at the decisive stage; enlightened understanding; control of the agenda; inclusiveness.
  • Modern Western states are polyarchies, not democracies. Polyarchies have elected officials, free and fair elections, inclusive suffrage, rights to run for office, freedom of expression, alternative information and associational autonomy.
  • Threat to liberty has not been from equality (as de Tocqueville predicted) but from inequality produced by "liberty of a certain kind" -- namely, liberty to privately accumulate unlimited economic resources and organise production in hierarchically governed enterprises.
  • Truman: emphasis on overlapping membership.
  • Neo-marxists and post-marxists

Monday, May 26, 2008

Communitarianism vs. liberalism debate

Drawing on Aristotle and Hegel, Alasdair MacIntyre, Michael Sandel, Charles Taylor & Michael Walzer disputed Rawls' assumption that the principal task of government is to secure and distribute fairly the liberties and economic resources individuals need to lead freely chosen lives. Few accept the label "communitarian" w/o caveat.

Methodological claims about the importance of tradition and social context for moral and political reasoning

Liberal universalism vs. communitarian particularism.

Universalist presuppositions of Rawlsian liberalism, tempered in Political Liberalism & The Laws of the People.

Taylor and MacIntyre: moral & political judgement depend on the very interpretive dimension Rawls wants to abstract away from.

Walzer: such abstraction, even if metaphysically unproblematic, will fail to resonate in any thinking about actual distributions.

Recent East Asian "cosmopolitan-communitarian" arguments: cultural factors can affect the priority of rights; the justification of rights (cf. Walzer); & can provide foundations for distinctive political institutions & practices.

Taylor: overlapping consensus on human rights (agree on norms while disagreeing about why they are the right norms)

Debate over the self

Taylor and Sandel: Rawls' overly individualistic conception of the self. Self constituted in ties & commitments.

Unfair to accuse Rawls of endorsing atomism, though perhaps he does not give proper weight to constitutive non-chosen attachments etc.

Appearance of Heideggerean motifs. Background of everydayness.

"It is only when things break down from the normal, everyday, unchosen mode of existence that we think of ourselves as subjects dealing with an external world, having the experience of formulating various ways of executing our goals, choosing from among those ways, and accepting responsibility for the outcomes of our actions. In other words, traditional intentionality is introduced at the point that our ordinary way of coping with things is insufficient."

Cf. Habermas's lifeworld & (??).

Ought moral outlooks to be the product of individual choice?

Tacit social world orients individuals in moral space?

Conditions for autonomy rest on self-determination w/r/t what we value? Relationship b/w tacit "value" (?) & judgement disclosed in consciousness -- cf. ideology, false consciousness, critical theory, the human.

Autonomy = choice w/i unchosen framework.

Choice not intrinsically good? Deliberation not intrinsically good? Liberal answer (Dworkin?): principle of autonomy strengthens community; individuals following community-determined norms possess different moral & psychological content depending on whether they have the choice not to.

Constitutive attachments?

Policy-driven communitarian critique of de facto atomisation

"[...] political communitarians blame both the left and the right for our current malaise. The political left is chastised not just for supporting welfare rights economically unsustainable in an era of slow growth and aging populations, but also for shifting power away from local communities and democratic institutions and towards centralized bureaucratic structures better equipped to administer the fair and equal distribution of benefits, thus leading to a growing sense of powerlessness and alienation from the political process. Moreover, the modern welfare state with its universalizing logic of rights and entitlements has undermined family and social ties in civil society by rendering superfluous obligations to communities, by actively discouraging private efforts to help others (e.g., union rules and strict regulations in Sweden prevent parents from participating voluntarily in the governance of some day care centers to which they send their children), and even by providing incentives that discourage the formation of families (e.g., welfare payments are cut off in many American states if a recipient marries a working person) and encourage the break-up of families (e.g., no-fault divorce in the US is often financially rewarding for the non custodial parent, usually the father) [...]"

Habits of the heart. Communities of place. Communities of memory. Pyschological communities.

Et cetera.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Held on pluralism and Dahl

Key features of pluralism: government by minorities, constitutional resistance to faction.
  • Citizenship rights: one-person-one-vote, freedom of expression and association.
  • Constitutionalism, checks and balances, division of powers.
  • Competitive electoral system.
Classical pluralism vs. neopluralism

Who has power? Classic: diverse overlapping groups; neo: bias to corporate interests.
What is the state? Classic: a mediator; neo: the state, and even individual departments, have their own interests.
What is the nature of political resource? Classic: various, distributed, and fluid; neo: endogenously unequal.
Involvement of the citizenry? Classic: minimal enough to ensure stability; neo: goverment is not permeable to most citizens, apathy is compulsory.
Role of the international? Classic: by and large helps to uphold pluralist, free market societies; neo: dominated by multinationals and the particular interests of powerful states.

Early Dahl (1956)

For many contemporary societies, Dahl claims a deep underlying consensus, which effectively winnows down "politics" into an area of technics and details.

Dahl abstracts the constitutional form of so-called liberal democracies as "polyarchy." But for Dahl, the formal polyarchic constitutional content is trivial compared with the substantive social prerequisites of democracy. Early Dahl claims that these criteria are more or less met de facto.

Criticism: Dahl is surrendering "the rich history of the idea of democracy to the existent."

Criticism: Empirical research drew the idea of an underlying consensus into question. There seemed to be systematic ideological differentials with a significant class structure. The political polarisation during the 60s and 70s in Europe and the US was difficult to account for within the classical pluralist framework.

The classical pluralist analysis of power, as influence by A over B's action, was also criticised. Power was assigned a role previously belonging to representation. Cf. Henry Parker (the people and their parliament both are sovereign) vs. Thomas Hobbes (the body politic is so much a fiction it cannot even contract with the sovereign, only constitute itself as a fiction by contracts among its members). Cf. perhaps Sieyes, representation as constitutive of social relations. For the classical pluralists, de-juridified power in a well-behaved polyarchy could tick some of the same boxes because of overlapping membership, and the diversity, fluidity and transitivity of that power. Cf. balance of powers.

Bachrach and Baratz (1962): A's power may mobilise bias to establish / defend structures ("social and political values and institutional practices") of political process which exclude any issues whose resolution may frustrate A's interests. Cf. triangulation, social choice theory, Arrow's Impossibility Theorem, agenda setting, saliency theory (competition of emphasis), hegemony, transforming positional issues into valence issues, politics conducted in a register of morality (Mouffe).

Late Dahl

Dahl (1985): threat to liberty is not from equality (as Tocqueville suspected it would be) but from liberty of a certain kind - namely, liberty to accumulate unlimited economic resources and organise production in hierarchically governed enterprises. INEQUALITIES.

Corporate capitalism produces sharp inequalities in social and economic resources sufficient to undermine political equality and therefore democracy.

Furthermore: the capacity for Western goverments to act in the ways desired by many groups is systematically constrained by the requirements of private accumulation. Governments must ensure the prosperity of the private sector.

Democracy is embedded in a socioeconomic system which systematically privileges business interests. Dahl now argues that the normative content of democracy demands the priority of the right to self-government over the right to private property.

Political liberty requires democratisation of the workplace and a widespread system of cooperative forms of ownership.

Sectors of the state are locked into the interest structures of private corporations.

Some neo-Marxist theories of the state

Miliband (1969): the state is a crucial instrument in the maintenance of the structure of power and privilege inherent in capitalism, which routinely separates itself from ruling class factions.

Poulantzas: Miliband is humanist and subjectivist, reproducing bourgeois categories of thought. Direct participation of the capitalist class in government is unnecessary. The state is a condensation of class interests. It participates in class contradictions. It is nonetheless the subsystem which oversees the organisation of class fractions, and the political disorganisation of the working classes. It regroups the economically and politically marginal. The state bureaucracy and electoral leadership involuntarily construct national unity and simultaneous atomise the body politic.

Offe: the state is constitutively contradictory. The arbitration of interests is key to its legitimation, and tax revenue from a particular interest (accumulation), key to its material reproduction. Intervention in the economy is inevitable, yet it risks challenging the traditional basis of liberal social order.

The liberal democratic capitalist state (a) is excluded from accumulation; (b) is necessary for the function of accumulation; (c) is dependent on accumulation; (d) functions to conceal a, b & c.

The state is a reactive mechanism. Contra Miliband and Poulantzas, it is not functionally interlocked (in the long term) with the needs of capital. The manouevres of constellations may benefit the working class. The most vulnerable suffer.

Cf. Habermas in Legitimation Crisis.

Schmitter (theorist of corporatism) argues that at the very least, the validity of an unspecified number of voluntary self-determined categories is deeply questionable.

Some more on corporatism:
Financial liberalisation
Labour market liberalisation
Professionalisation and bureaucratisation of large sections of the labour movement
Contemporary corporatism: a system of interest representation organised into limited "singular, compulsory, hierarchically ordered" & functionally differentiated categories, licensed by the state to a representational monopoly.
Tripartite relation between state, employees and labour
Is tripartism displacing traditional political representative institutions? Extraparliamentary policy origins?
To be fair, it's mainly macroeconomic policy so far
It's also limited by the degree to which the trade unions produce a legitimate elite that is both amenable to corporatism

Final thoughts

Non-Marxists have come to appreciate the limits placed on popular sovereignty by massive concentrations of ownership of productive property. Vulgar marxism is marginalised, with few Marxist theorists arguing for the reduction of state activity to class categories.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Chantal Mouffe on pluralism and democracy

Liberal democracy is a regime, a distinct symbolic organisation of social relations. It results from the articulation of political liberalism (rule of law, separation of powers, individual rights) with democratic tradition of popular sovereignty.

Emphasising the fact of pluralism (Rawls) tends to obscure how pluralism constitutes the political dimension in modern democracies. It is an axiological principle we should celebrate and enhance.

Mouffe's postmodern gloss: "difference" must be construed as the condition of possibility of being. Then a radical democratic project informed by pluralism can be formulated.

Main forms of liberal pluralism start with de facto difference and look for procedures to make those differences irrelevant.

Valorizing all differences - anti-democratic, because it doesn't recognise that some (!) differences are constructed as relations of subordination.

Extreme pluralism, by refusing a "we," partakes in the liberal evasion of plurality.

After Derrida: social objectivity has "constitutive outside," traces of the acts of exclusion. Cf. Schmitt. Every identity purely contingent.

No social agent therefore can legitimately claim mastery of the foundation of society. Relations among agents are democratic only inasmuch as they (1) "accept" the particularity of their claims; which is also (2) "recognising" ineradicable power in their mutual relations.

Tacit institutional elaborations of these epistemological interventions? Or to do with subject formation, i.e. these "recognitions" are those of a subject for whom the Friend/Enemy distinction is an ineradicable feature of democracy, & who are reconciled to moderate viciousness as civic virtue?

"To negate the ineradicable character of antagonism and to aim at a universal rational consensus" -- this, supposedly, is the real threat to democracy. Mouffe ascribes it to Habermas. But cf. Habermas's (a) call for the defense of the lifeworld against systems; (b) sophisticated fallibilism (consensus, even were it "universal and rational," would not be incontrovertible); (c) rather impressive collection of rationality concepts (systems vs. lifeworld rationalization), whose qualitative distinctions rule out the kind of dogmatic idealism Mouffe is hinting at. Habermas's concepts for the analysis of rationality encompass greater difference than Mouffe's appeal to difference.

Cf. Hart: assume that each party has the discretion to provide “perfunctory” rather than “consummate” performance – we refer to this as shading – and that such behavior cannot be
observed or penalized by an outsider (e.g., a court).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Some notes on Hirst

Modern Western states are narrowly plebiscitarian "democracies" (cf. Schumpeter) wherein elites espouse roughly the same economic ideas (cf., say, Poulantzas).

Materialism -- the kind which involves having swimming pools and special shoes -- is the dominant but unsatisfying ideology (cf. Habermas on civil privatism and familial-vocational privatism. Fatalism and an orientation towards immediate gratification for low- and high-income demographics, acquisitive abstinence for the middle. Cf. food).

Social theory is attenuated. Your options are: postmodern ironism, rationalism / game theory, or a metadiscourse of concern for academic enquiry as such (wherein falls Political Sociology. The compulsory mixture of analytic and contintental styles creates a huge burden for a kid who is trying to trace connections between ideas simultaneously with interventions among authors. It does seem to force you into a historical narrative to resolve it all though). A retreat, anyway, from social generality into issue-specificity / identity-centrism.

Can we reason from existing institutions? Cf. Habermas on democratic incrementalism.

Associative democracy -- a third way between collectivist state socialism & laissez faire capitalism.

Contra utopianism:
  • Marxism's ideal of a stateless society without a complex division of labour is an unattainable "institutionlessism" which legitimated brutality as pragmatism, so.
  • Modern laissez-faire ignores issues of governance and institutions to purify markets ... its foci imaginarii is a social order sustained exclusively by production and transaction.
So far, not that far from the spirit of Keynes, Fordism and embedded liberalism. Why did this break down? Cf. Streeck.

Prevailing forms of governance are difficult to apply to de facto social conditions. One of associative democracy's strengths is to generate standards, not just coordinate action (cf. of course communicative reason vs. steering media).

The prevalent methods of governance are:
(1) hierarchy and imperative
(2) exchange and contract
(3) bargaining and deliberation

Central planning suffers where product mixes change rapidly and there is an emphasis on customization. We see a drive towards decentralisation, devolution and complex, multi-centred methods of monitoring product quality and productive performance.

The collapse of state socialism is connected with central planning's failure to address the increasing complexity and localization of social action. The audit explosion originated in the imperative first to protect then to replace administrative coordination of action.

Modern capitalism diverges from perfect competition inasmuch as it is characterised by large corporations, complex division of labour. Cf. "natural monopolies," monopolistic and oligopolistic competition & Habermas's "great concerns."

Weakly regulated markets are not always prosperous and efficient (let alone substantively egalitarian). With the marketization of labour, certain costs of social stabilisation are transferred to the state in the form of income maintenance, retraining etc. Typically the state has also been obliged to set up a powerful bureaucracy to counteract the very incentive structure created in these activities, policing illegitimate use of benefits and politely coercing the unemployed into seizing undesired opportunities. Streeck argues that the costs proliferate even into the category of biological reproduction, as "flexible" and uncertain work disincentivises child birth in key demographics. The structure of familial-vocational privatism coexists with a new ideology combining achievement orientation in the vocational dimension with fatalism in the familial.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Chantal Mouffe on citizenship

"Modern citizenship was formulated in a way that played a crucial role in the emergence of modern democracy. But it has become an obstacle to making it wider and more pluralistic." Postmodern citizenship: acknowledging the particular, the heterogeneous and the multiple.

What is it to be a citizen in a pluralistic society? How can individual and political liberty be reconciled? How many different communities can be accommodated in the political community? What conception of social justice will regulate their claims?

Liberal view of citizen as bearer of rights is inadequate.

Communitarians (Sandal) vs. liberals (Rawls) debate: "civic republican" idea of citizenship.

Civic activity, public spiritness and political participation in a community of equals: since the C19th, seen by liberalism as pre-modern or dangerous ("common good" implies totalitarianism: cf. Hayek). The "liberties of the moderns" require the renunciation of the "liberties of the ancients" (cf. Constant, & Berlin, Two Concepts of Liberty). Indeed some civic republicanists do want to renounce pluralism in the name of a substantive idea of the common good -- v. dangerous obv.

Skinner: synthesises individual & political liberty. Idea of a common good is a necessary condition for the enjoyment of individual liberty. Cf. Habermas.

"The defence of pluralism, the emergence of the individual, the separation of church and state, and the development of civil society, are all crucial elements of modern democracy. They require that we distinguish today between the domain of the private and the domain of the public, the realm of morality and the realm of politics. As a consequence, the common good cannot be conceived of in a way that implies the acceptance of one single substantive idea of the good life in all fields of society. It must be understood to refer exclusively to to the shared political ends of a democratic political community, i.e. the principles of freedom and equality for all. Citizenship concerns the way those principles are embodied in different institutions and practices, the way the political community is constructed."

Common good never actualised. Always debate over exact nature of citizenship.

Hurd's citizenship: voluntary acts of moral responsibility; privatised conception of citizenship that whisks away the notion of political community.

Democratic citizenship could provide the organising principle of a new politics of the left.

Feminist critique: Pateman. Generality and homogeneity of public sphere based on exclusion of women.

Transformation of public/private distinction so as not to relegate all plurality, all difference to the private?

New rights being claimed by women or ethnic minorities cannot be universalised? Expressions of specific needs which should be granted only to particular communities? (Cf. rule of law, decisionism).

Citizenship and social justice

Rawls' distributive justice. Defence of individual liberty, commitment to equality. Does not necessitate private property in the means of production (unlike Hayek and Nozick?). Citizenship as capacity to form, pursue & revise conceptions of the good (cf. autonomy). No place for community: precludes conceptions of the good life in which it is necessary to join with others beyond contract.

Walzer (Spheres of Justice) idea of justice. Egalitarian ideal not "simple equality" but "complex equality" -- diff. social goods distributed in accordance with a variety of criteria reflecting diversity of these goods and their social meanings. Different spheres of justice & different distributive principles: free exchange and need.

Democratic and pluralistic citizenship

Reverse-engineer concept of citizenship from democratic demands found in a variety of movements.

Democratic rights.

Welfare benefits shifted from assistance to the rights of citizenship.

E.g.: universal grants.

"A pluralistic and democratic citizenship is not concerned with indivudal questions of morality but with our obligations as fellow members of a political community"

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Marcuse on pluralism

Denunciation of the oppressive capabilities of the Welfare State thus serves to protect the oppressive capabilities of the society prior to the Welfare State. At the most advanced stage of capitalism, this society is a system of subdued pluralism, in which the competing institutions concur in solidifying the power of the whole over the individual. Still, for the administered individual, pluralistic administration is far better than total administration. One institution might protect him against the other; one organization might mitigate the impact o the other; possibilities of escape and redress can be calculated. The rule of law, no matter how restricted, is still infinitely safer than rule above or without law.

However, in view of prevailing tendencies, the question must be raised whether this form of pluralism does not accelerate the destruction of pluralism. Advanced industrial society is indeed a system of countervailing powers. But these forces cancel each other out in a higher unification -- in the common interest to defend and extend the established position, to combat the historical alternatives, to contain qualitative change.
    The countervailing powers do not include those which counter the whole.
They tend to make the whole immune against negation from within as well as without; the foreign policy of containtment appars as an extension of the domestic policy of containment.

The reality of pluralism becomes ideological, deceptive. It seems to extend rather than reduce manipulation and coordination, to promote rather than counteract the fateful integration.
    Free institutions compete with authoritarian ones in making the Enemy [cf. Schmitt, Mouffe] a deadly force within the system.
And this deadly force stimulates growth and initiative, not by virtue of the magnitude and economic impact of the defense "sector," but by virtue of thte fact that the society as a whole becomes a defense society. For the Enemy is permanent. He is not in the emergency situation but in the normal state of affairs [cf. Benjamin, Agamben]. He threatens in peace as much as in war (and perhaps more than in war); he is thus being built into the system as a cohesive power.

Neither the growing productivity nor the high standard of living depend on the threat from without, but their use for the containment of social change and perpetuation of servitude does. The Enemy is the common denominator of all doing and undoing. And the Enemy is not identical with acual communism or actual capitalism -- he is, in both cases, the real spectre of liberation.

Once again: the insanity of the whole absolves the particular insanities and turns the crimes against humanity into a rational enterprise.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Samantha on civil society


The concept of "civil society" plays a prominent role in articulating alternative modes of social organisation to that of the state-society relationship of the Keynesian welfare state.

But there are limits the usefulness of "civil society" to ground social criticism and articulate alternative visions.

"Civil society" does not capture the complexities of state-subject relations. It is based on a juridical account of power inadequate to the task of analysing modern strategies of goverment.

"Civil society" is tied, in the work of Habermas and others, to an understanding of criticism which contains rather than resolves the antinomies signified by the term "civil society." While basing criticism on "civil society" may have freedom-enhancing effects in certain contexts, it may also be a term which constrains our critical capacities by tying us to what we already are.

Genealogy of the concept

Civil society originally equated with political society.

Civil society "emancipated" from politics with the breakdown of feudalism. I.e. civil society was originally the product of the early modern European separation of state and society.

Eighteenth-century debates concerned the relationship between civic virtue and civil vitue in the context of newly emerging forms of private and commercial life. For writers of the Scottish Enlightenment (Hutcheson, Ferguson, Hume and Smith), "civil society" was a solution to the problem of resolving the tension between the one and the many, unity and diversity, of producing a vision of a unified social order and simultaneously recognising the autonomy of legal, moral and economic spheres.

They turned to the ideas of natural sympathy and moral affections to underpin accounts of a social order based on innate mutuality. This became the basis of the idea of civil society as a spontaneous order, a space of ethical interactions, not simply of market exchange.

[But also cf. Smith's invisible hand, & De Mandeville's "private vices, public virtues"].

Scottish Enlightenment thought: from Montesquieu, they took a modern notion of political freedom in terms of economic progress, social refinement and a balanced constitution. But various degrees of trust in the capacity of modern commercial society to deliver social progress: Adam Smith had considerable faith in it. Ferguson sought to revive the classical meaning of the civic and to balance modern political economy with republican elements.

Eighteenth century German reception of Scottish Enlightenment: civil society tended to remain within the jurisprudential tradition alien to Ferguson and was understood to mean "all political ties which form any kind of goverment." Ferguson's Essay on the History of Civil Society (1768) tended lose its civic activist implications. [Eh?]

With Hegel, "civil society" became a private sphere of trade and social interaction counterpoised to the public realm of law and goverment, the state.

Hegel's account of civil society as comprising the system of needs, the administration of justice and police [?] was a realm of conflict between particular interests in sharp opposition to the state; Hegel's philosophy resolved the tension between the individual and the community throught the subsumption of particular interests beneath the unfolding of the universal, and civil society lost its autonomy.

When Marx took the term civil society from Hegel he focused on civil scoiety as the system of needs, that is, on economic relations. This turned the traditional meaning on its head [?], locating civil society as the realm of individual egoism and self-interest, as "bourgeois society" and as something to be overcome. The Scottish Enlightenment meannig of "commerce" as social intercourse and communication as well as economic transaction as thus lost in Marx's focus on productive relations.

The question of the relation b/w state & society has been elaborated sociologically by Arendt, Bobbio, Habermas & others through a focus on citizenship and the welfare state. These accounts stress how during the 19th and 20th centuries, the bourgeois emancipation of society has been replaced by a reappropriation of society by the state in the shift from a constitutional to a social state.

[The post-war welfare state compromise is part of that reappropriation. Also cf. Adorno & Horkheimer on the dialectic of enlightenment. Cf. also Habermas's distinction b/w liberal capitalism and advanced capitalism].

These accounts suggest that a conflict exists between the protected and the participating citizen. How are we to understand the dynamic established by this conflict?

Two main approaches:

(1) Civil society sometimes refers to the realm of individualism which developed with the Enlightenment and the economic relations of capitalism (see MacIntyre, 1994), associated with the rule of law and markets. The coherence of civil society rests not on common language, conventions or territory, but on market exchange, the rule of law, impersonal means of communication and sometimes even coercive authority. Civil society is the closest of all human groupings to having no substantive purpose [cf. Weber, instrumental vs. value rationality, etc.]. These things are left to individuals and associations, the role of which is therefore enhanced.

(2) More commonly, civil society refers to the non-market, non-state sphere of "social life." Also separate from family. Civil society is the locus for the potential development of critical public spheres capable of generating resistance to forms of unaccountable expert authority and administrative power. Habemas: "the institutional core of 'civil society' is constituted by voluntary unions outside the realm of the state and the economy and ranging from churches, cultural associations, and academies to independent media, sport and leisure clubs, debating societies, groups of concerned citizens, and grassroots petitioning drives all the way to occupational associations, political parties, labour unions and 'alternative institutions.'" It sounds shit.

Habermas: Modern Social Relations, Juridification and the Dilemmas of the Welfare State

The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1989) plots the emergence of a "bourgeois public sphere" in eighteenth-century European society as a result of the rise of the modern state and the development of capitalist economic activity. On Habermas' account, the separation of state and civil society which developed with the growth of commerical life facilitated the emergence of a modern public sphere. Zines & Costa.

18th century civil society was the genuine domain of private autonomy that stood opposed to the state. Private people came together as a public. They engaged the public authorities in a debate over the general rules governing relations in the basically privatised but publicly relevant sphere of commodity exchange and social labour. The medium of this confrontation was without historical precedent: it was people's public use of their reason.

But there has been a progressive "refeudalisation" of the public sphere as a result of the emergence of commercial mass media and the welfare state. The former replaced critical public opinion formation with manipulation, the latter development transformed the form of the state from a constitutional to a social state and re-fused relations between state and society.

The functioning of the public sphere has shifted from that of rational debate to the negotiation of interests. [Cf. Schmitter on corporatism].

The welfare state has produced forms of clientelism and a bureaucratisation of everyday life, through which citizens become subjects whose consciousness is characterised by "generalised particularism."

In TCA, using the systems/lifeworld distinction, Habermas nevertheless identifies civil society as a privileged site for the redemption of modernity.

Purposive-rational action distinguished from communicative action. Former oriented to success, latter to understanding. Each form of action has its own separate process of rationalisation.

The modern lifeorld is a reservoir of "taken-for-granteds," replenished through communicative action. The lifeworld is defined as the private nuclear family and the public political sphere.

The concept of "system" refers to mechanisms of modern society that are uncoupled from the communicative context of the lifeworld and are coordinated through functional interconnections via the steering media of money and power. The system is defined as the modern economy and state administration.

Rationalisation of systems is as an increase in their bureaucratic complexity and steering capacity.

We can conceive of society as a system that has to fulfil conditions for the maintenance of sociocultural lifeworlds [?].

The lifeworld becomes mediatised to the extent that de-linguistified media of system integration are used to relate the system and lifeworld. This process occurs through the social roles of employee, consumer, citizen and client which crystallise around these exchange relations. [Cf. Bauman, ambivalence].

This mediatisation takes on the form of an internal colonisation when the delinguistified media of the system take over the essential symbolic reproduction functions of the lifeworld itself, thereby objectifying or reifying social relationships.

He elaborates this thesis in a more empirical mode as the "juridification of communicatively structured areas of action." Juridification refers to an increase in the preponderance of positive law. A web of client relations is spread over the private spheres of life. For example, legal intervention into social life through welfare policies.

The welfare state compromise is not about increasing the density of an already existing network of formal regulations, but rather legally supplanting a communicative context of action through the superimposition of legal norms.

A shift from the class-based explanation of Legitimation Crisis: major channels of conflict in modern capitalist societies arise from the selfdestructive consequences of system growth.

There has been a "selective" or one-sided rationalisation, so that the success-orientation of economic and administrative systems have come to domnate many aspects of the modern lifeworld.

There is a need to retrieve the potiential for rationality of pracitical and communicative activity. Therefore the possibility of an undistorted intersubjectivity "must today be wrung from the professional, specialised, self-sufficient culture of experts and from the system imperatives of the state and economy which destructively invade the ecological basis of life and the communicative structure of our lifeworld.

Guys, we need to erect a democratic dam against the monestarisation and bureaucratisation of life.

Habermas's recent work is an attempt to reconcile and move beyond the limits of liberalism and republicanism through a procedural account of law and democracy which combines liberal constitutionalism with associations in civil society forming "strong" and "weak" publics respectively.

Foucault: Governmentality and the Aporia of Modern Political Rationalities

In Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality Foucault develops the theme of biopolitics as an expression describing the general rationality of modern power. Biopower is used to designate what brought life and is mechanisms into the realm of explicit calculations and made knowledge-power an agent of transformation of human life.

The beginning of this period of the exercise of power over life is dated from the mid-seventeenth to the end of the eighteenth century, the period of the formation of the modern prison and concern over, and new knowledges of, population.

[Raison d'etat, priority of population over territory, Hobbes].

Two aspects: body as a machine to be made useful through discipline; supervision and regulation of the species body. A power whose highest function was "perhaps no longer to kill, but to invest life through and through."

Idea of the individual case history and the discipline of statistics emerge coevally.

These individualising and totalising forms of knowledge are made possible and linked by the development of the human sciences and by panoptic and confessional technologies as institutional sites for the emergence of the concern of the "sciences of man."

These forms of knowledge and power link the welfare of individuals with the nation state and forms of political rule in new ways.

In his work on governmentality (1979), Foucault links his general concern with biopolitics as a modern form of power over life to the question of political rationality, of "rationalities of rule" as specific forms of the conduct of conduct. Foucault defines government in a general way as "the conduct of conduct."

Governmentalisation --> techniques of rule emerging in the 16th century, developing as practices of government from 18th century. Shift from raison d'etat [state acts on population, there isn't civil society as such] to modern mechanisms of government, arguing that a new art of government is formed around the problem of population.

Within the recognition of population as an issue and the possibility of its management we see the emergence of a domain of the social and the development of a range of new techniques of government centred on regulating and surveying this domain. Central to this is "the welfare state problem"; the "trick adjustment between political power wielded over legal subjects and pastoral power wielded over live individuals." Juridical or "sovereign" forms of power (power as right, law, repression) distinguished from disciplinary or "normalising" forms of power (power as the capacity to organise, sustain and enhance life). The two are linked: the modern individual is simultaneously a citizen with rights, part of a juridical polity, and a subject of normalisation, part of welfare society. Indeed, the emergence of this nexus of govermental relations is accompanied historically by the development of modern notions of citizenship. In this way practices concerning the management of populations are linked with discourses of sovereignty which remain as their justification. The modern epoch is thus characterised by thtis heterogeneity between a public right of sovereignty and a polymorphous disciplinary mechanism. This analysis opens a space in which to consider liberalism as a mode of government and to explore the ways in which the welfare state and civil society are conjoined in modern society.

Liberalism, as a critique of state reason, involves a political and an epistemological revolution. With its emergence we see first, the idea of economy and society having natural laws, thus the liberal problem of the appropriate boundary between state action and inaction, where, secondly, this boundary is organised through the elaboration of methods of government by which liberty and security are linked, the rule of law and the idea of a realm protected against the state relying upon an ordering and management of social existence. Within liberalis, appropriate roles for the state are defined by reference to an already existing autonomous economy and society, the state's role being to secure the self-reproducing existence of these processes, enforcing "natural" processes with mechanisms of security through "social government."

From his specification of the relation of sovereignty, discipline and government Foucault concludes that we must see things not in terms of the substitution for a society of sovereignty of a disciplinary society and the subsequent replacement of a disciplinary society by a governmental one; in reality we have a triangle: sovereignty-discipline-government, which has as its primary target the populaion and as its essential mehanism apparatuses of security.

Modern liberal political rationalities combine the "city-citizen game" and the "shepherd-flock" game. That is, we are simultaneously citizens with rights produced through law, and subjects of discipline and normalisation produced through partnership and positive knowledge. The "welfare state problem" is that of reconciling "law" with "order", producing "the social" as a governed domain. This process involves a continual negotiation of the public and the private, achieved through the deployment of forms of normalising knowledge and expertise.

It is the tactics of government which make possible the continual definition and redefinition of what is within the competence of the state and what is not, the public versus the private, and so on; thus the state can only be understood in its survival and its limits on the basis of the general tactics of governmentality.

In this way of conceptualising relaionships, "civil society" is neither an ideological construct nor an "aboriginal reality", a natural given repelling government or opposing the state. Rather civil society is a "transcendental reality" at the interface of political power and the government of populations.

Civil society is a ground for a problematisation and for the development o a set of innovative techniques of government; it is both an object and an end of government. As a concept it collectively organises social experience and is a site of governmental organisation concerning the conduct of "autonomous" individuals.

As such, the term "civil society" encompasses the tensions between the natural and the managed within liberalism: it is not the point of their resolution. Thus, Foucault: "I haven't spoken about civil society. And on purpose, because I hold that the theoretical opposition between the state and civil society which traditional political theory belabors is not very fruitful" (Foucault, 1991).

[The "naturalness" of man is civil society.]

Specifying the Welfare State Problem

Habermas and Foucault raise similar concerns relating to the development of technical complexes of knowledge in the name of enlightenment and the accompanying scientisation of politics. Both focus on the implications of contemporary statesociety relations in the context of the development of modern welfare states. However, they frame these concerns in very different ways. Habermas analyses the welfare state in terms of state and society meshing through processes of juridification and colonisation; Foucault discusses the welfare state in terms of the aporia of law and order which this set of relations exhibits.

According to Habermas, the welfare state repoliticises the market and produces forms of clientalism. The welfare state is a central aspect of the monetarisation and bureaucratisation of the lifeworld. Welfare states were designed to produce and maintain social integration but have significantly failed in this task as their juridical-administrative form produces pathological effects by reducing or usurping communicative relations, replacing them with money and power.

In the face of this, Habermas suggests reaffirming the importance of procedures underpinning the constitutional state, coupled with a reinvigoration of the civil associations of the public sphere. This is given sustained attention in BFN. Habermas builds on his earlier analysis of the distinction between the system and the lifeworld to develop a propositional theory of la and democracy which he argues is capable of regrounding the legitimacy of the elfare state by forging closer links between the public spheres of civil society and the state. By briefly examining some features of this later argument, we can see how Habermas recognises but then overlooks important aspects of the welfare state highlighted by Foucault: its normalising character.

Habermas: the dilemma of the welfare state comprises a dialectic of empowerment and tutelage. Built into the very status of citizenship in welfare state democracies is the tension between a formal extension of private and civic autonomy, on the one hand, and a "normalisation" in Foucault's sense that fosters the passive enjoyment of paternalistically dispensed rights on the other.

However, the normalising dimension of welfare states slips from Habermas's account as he focuses on this process as one of juridification. For example, he suggests that we can divide the freedomenhancing from the tutelary aspects of the welfare state. "For the criteria by which one can identify the point where empowerment is converted into supervision are, even if context-dependent and contested, not arbitrary."

That is, Habermas suggests that we can separate legitimate from illegitimate law by examining its sources in relations to processes of democratic will formation.

Habermas suggests that the peculiarly ambivalent effects of the welfare state occur because of the inadequate insititutionalisation of the democratic genesis of law. Law, separated from its sources of validity in autonomous public spheres and the formal institutions of democratic legitimation, is "instrumentalised" and "deprived of its internal structure." The solution to the dilemmas of thewelfare state thus consists in further democratisation: "With the growth and qualitative transformation of governmental tasks, the need for legitimation changes; the more the law is enlisted as a means of political steering and social planning, the greater is the burden of legitimation that must be borne by the democratic genesis of law." In this way the undesirable effects of welfare-state provisions can be countered by a politics of qualifications for citizenship.

This formulation eclipses the tensions between juridification and normalisation such that legitimate law is theorised as banishing power. The constitutional state must evenly distribute political power but also strip such power of its violent substance by rationalising it.

This in turn rests upon the presupposition of a lifeworld that remains substantially free from power.

[Does it?]

For Foucault, the welfare is an expression of the combination of citizenship with subjecthood, legal ith normalising power, hich organised on the plane of the social through the 19th and 20th centuries, and which involves legal determinations of right as well as the development of a range of positive knowledges of the social domain.

Difficulty w/i Western political reason: how to reconcile law with order without subordinating law to order. [Cf. Schmitt, decisionism, the exception.] Scepticism about invoking a politics of resistance founded on the notion of civil society as independent of and opposed to the state. From this point of view, Habermas's critical theory is inadequate to the task of resistance to the increased codification and surveillance of life as this theoretical framework precludes the analysis of the problem of power at the level of government.

Lifeworld is positioned as an arena of potential autonomy and communicative rationality which persists despite the colonising tendencies of the system. Exhibited clearly in Habermas's formula for the solution of legitimation problems in the constitutional states of advanced capitalist societies. He grounds the legitimacy of lawmaking in the idea of spontaneous inputs from a lifeworld whose core private domains are intact. Legitimate law reproduces itself only in the forms of a constitutionally regulated circulation of power, which should be nourished by the communications of an unsubverted public sphere rooted in the core private spheres of an undisturbed lifeworld via the networks of civil society.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Habermas on religion

In LC, religion -> increased demand for discursive redemption of validity claims compared with myth
In TCA -> archaic mode of social integration

Approach of “methodological atheism.”
But “indispensable potentials for meaning are preserved in religious language.”
As a reflection on faith, theology must not renounce its basis in religious experience and ritual.
Philosophers must satisfy themselves with the “transcendence from within” given with the context-transcending force of claims to truth and moral rightness.

Duties of believing citizens to translate their religiously based claims into secular, publicly accessible reasons. Burdens of citizenship.

Audi: believers must support only laws for which they have sufficient public reason
Rawls: believers may introduce reasons for any comprehensive doctrine into debates about constitutional essentials, providing they are eventually translated
Habermas: the demand for translation, rather, pertains only to politicians and public officials with institutional power to make, apply, and execute the law.

Weithmann and Wolterstorff undo the neutrality principle that undergirds modern constitutional democracy, with its separation of church and state: the idea that “all enforceable political decisions must be formulated in a language that is equally accessible to all citizens, and it must be possible to justify them in this language as well”.

W/o background framework --> factionalism?

Dialogic translation: believers seeking publicly-accessible reasons, non-believers approaching religion as a potential source of meaning.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Samantha's notes on Habermas - society

Lifeworld and system: Habermas’s characterisation of modern society

The Public Sphere

The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962/1989) was Habermas's first published book; its themes are still relevant. This work reflects the emphasis of the early critical theorists - reflection on consequences of the rise of mass communication.

Habermas plots the emergence of a 'bourgeois public sphere' in eighteenth century European society. This a result of the rise of the modern state, the development of capitalist economic activity, the separation of state and civil society, the development of print media and the establishment of coffee houses in which open discussion of the issues of the day could take place. This period saw the development of the idea of society as separate from the ruler and of a public of private individuals debating the authority of the state through engaging in the 'public use of reason' (1989: 27). Habermas characterises c18 civil society as 'the genuine domain of private autonomy [that] stood opposed to the state' (1989: 12).

Habermas suggests that through the c19-20 there has been a progressive 'refeudalisation' of the public sphere, due to:

a. the emergence of commercial mass media - replaced critical public opinion formation with manipulation, so that the public sphere became another domain of cultural consumption;
b. the development of the welfare state - transformed the form of the state from a constitutional to a social state and re-fused relations between the state and society.

Result: critical potential of public opinion has been denuded - the public sphere has shifted from being an arena of rational debate to focus on the negotiation of interests.

a. is 'refeudalisation' an adequate way to think about the impact of mass communication on the conduct of politics?
b. in this account individuals are treated as though they are passive consumers - do audiences receive messages in uniform ways?

Legitimation crisis

Changes to capitalism in c20:
a. importance of research and technology as productive forces;
b. intervention of state into economy to ensure stability.

Habermas argues that Marx's account of historical materialism is one-dimensional; societies develop along two dimensions - purposive rational action and communicative action. Account of development of societies needs modification: state intervention to manage economy produces a logic of crisis displacement - economic crisis breaks out, state intervenes. Can become a crisis of the state, a rationality crisis. If this continues, becomes a legitimation crisis, people withdraw support. If this continues, motivation crisis - apathy.

Important idea: logic of crisis displacement. Conflict does not necessarily emerge as overt class conflict. Possibility for transformation: people make increasingly critical demands that society meet the claims of a universalist account of justice. Alternatively, new forms of legitimacy may be found within the system – via rolling back the state, appeals to family, etc.

To what extent is legitimacy required for the exercise of power?
Do states require active support or merely acquiescence?

The problem of 'colonisation'

With The Theory of Communicative Action (1981/1984 & 1987) Habermas changes his approach and develops his argument through an account of rationalisation. He posits two dimensions of rationalisation:

a. rationalisation of the system - economy and state - increasingly complex and bureaucratised, rationalisation as increased steering capacity;
b. rationalisation of the lifeworld - family and public political sphere - bearers of communicative action, rationalised through increased criticism and demand for rational justification.

Distinct tensions of modern era can be understood in terms of the intersection of a and b: a tends to impinge on b in ways that threaten the communicative rationality of the lifeworld with 'colonisation' (e.g. juridification and colonisation of the family).

Habermas argues that in modern societies conflicts break out along the seam between the system and lifeworld around, for example, the clientalism engendered by the welfare state, environmental destruction caused by the economic system, etc. He suggests that such conflicts underpin the formation of new social movements – these are not expressions of class conflict but of conflicts concerning the destruction of the infrastructure of the lifeworld (self destructive consequences of system growth).


The colonisation thesis is closely linked to Habermas’s account of communicative rationality and of the rationality basis of speech. Between Facts and Norms (1992/1996) extends Habermas’s critique of the social constitutional state and points to a positive resolution of these problems. He argues that a procedural account of law and the development of deliberative democracy in the public spheres of civil society are central to the renewal of the legitimacy of the constitutional state. He demonstrates his argument by reference to the 'paradox' of the welfare state – this was meant to ensure stability but produces dependency and dis-welfare due to inadequate mechanisms for input into the formation of legislation by those subject to it.

This argument has been vital to contemporary discussions of deliberative democracy and to debates about the future of constitutionalism. Habermas’s response to problems of contemporary constitutionalism is a proceduralised conception of law and deliberative model of politics. He argues that this can deliver the public and private autonomy that he discerns to be necessarily conceptually bound up with the constitutional democratic state, with its dual articulation of the dominance of popular sovereignty on the one hand and the rule of law on the other.

Questions and criticisms

a. Habermas’s work shows a longstanding concern to analyse the lines of conflict between states and societies and his work has gone through significant transformations along the way; is the theory of social evolution on which this work rests defensible?
b. the thesis of the ‘colonisation of the lifeworld’ is illuminating with respect to the emergence of new social movements; however, this thesis also militates against the analysis of power relations within the lifeworld (when does state intervention into the family become 'pathological'? Is the lifeworld free from power? Is it a domain of authenticity?)
c. to what extent is Habermas’s attempt to reconcile popular sovereignty and the rule of law successful?
d. Habermas’s account provides an internalist account of the development of modern societies - what of external boundaries and conflicts?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Early Habermas on reason and critical theory

Weber's rationalist proclivities nonetheless establish a path to relativism and decisionism.


Adorno and Horkheimer generalise Zweckrationalitat by interweaving it with Marx's alienation and Lukacs's Marxian-Hegelian reification. They approach the Heideggerean (!) concept of "Gestell", enframing. Their dialectics are read as wavering, the priority of negativity read as "totalising" or "generalising," and this shift away from critical social theory is a threat to the explanatory-diagnostic function of Critical Theory. Horkheimer: social critical theory unfolds as a single existential judgement.

Critical theory risks regressing to a kind of post-Left Hegelianism, what Marx and Engels called "critical criticism."

Cf. idealism, charismatic function of immanence.

Knowledge and human interests: quasi-transcendental cognitive interests. They are:

(1) technical --> purposive --> work --> fallibilistic empirical sciences
(2) practical --> communicative --> symbolic interaction --> hermeneutic sciences
(3) emancipatory --> power --> critical sciences

Cf. Aristotle (techne (making, poesis) vs. praxis (assoc. w/ lexis: intersubjective practice).

Technical interest: nomological regularities, fallibilism, dissection of object into dependent and independent variables, negative feedback etc. Habermas is sympathetic with Gadamer's expose against tthe scientism which tacitly presupposed all knowledge to be of this type.

Practical interest: associated with understanding meaning and interpreting texts.

Habermas: meaning and understanding are empty concepts without reconstruction of the validity claims made by participants in meaning.

Hidden positivism (cf. symbolic interactionism) in the claim that we can bracket critical rational evaluation. Cf. Weber's interpretive sociology.

The critical interest is a synthesis.

Technical and pratical interests contain an internal demany for non-coercive communication. Cf. Popper's falsification thesis, and Gadamer's resistance to final closure (cf. hermeneutic circle).

The critical interest gives communicative parameters to the Marxian insistence, "the point is to change it."

Such thought can only advance coevally with the realisation of the social conditions for freer communication.

Self-reflection is the framework which determines the validity of propositions in this category. The subject-object of critical thought has an interest in its emancipation from powers which have become hypostatised as invariants of social action.

Linked w/ Socratic emancipation from doxa through dialogic self-reflection.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Habermas on the structural transformation of the public sphere


The public sphere:

* where public will and opinion can be formed
* acting neither as commercial parties, nor as state instruments
* political public sphere forms when public discussions concern practices of state
* coercive power of state is its counterpart; state publicness is due to its function of providing for the common good of all legal consociates, in principle unconnected with the public sphere (cf. Hobbes)

The public sphere emerges as a concept in the 18th Century. Cf. Scottish enlightenment, civil society.

Here is an institutionally protected public (civil rights, bourgeois revolutions against absolutism). The thematization of political power develops by virtue of a specific constellation of interests.


High middle ages --> status of feudal lord is "a-public"; but the person possessing it represents it publicly. Represents himself as an embodiment of a higher power.

Representative publicness different from "representing interests" or constituents or even the common good.

Cf. Leviathan??

The feudal powers (church, prince, nobility) "are" the land; they represent authority before the people rather than for them.

Cf. Parker, Hobbes, Skinner. Schmitt. Cf. Austin's performative: two pope = infelicity.

Polarized by the end of the 18th Century into public and private aspects.

With the Reformation the tie to divine authority became a private matter.

Bourgeois society developed from occupational groups.

Permanent administration, standing army, permanence of relations, settled in stock market and press. Public power tangibly confronts those originally defined negatively by it, the "private" (cf. privative) persons.

Private persons subsumed publicness under the state form --> highes legally underived power, identtical with legitimate use of force.

Society a matter of public interest inasmuch as the rise of market economy transfers material and living reproduction from the exclusive domain of private domestic power.

Discussion of privatised but publicly relevan action (esp. exchange).

French revolution --> 3rd estate breaks with monarchical mediatization of power. Bourgeois are private; they do not rule. Their opposition to public power is not against de facto concentration in which they deserve shares, but against the principle of public power. Publicness as a principle of control is oriented to a qualitative [emancipatory?] shift, not a glorified cabinet reshuffle.

First modern constitutions: society -> sphere of private autonomy. Public sphere of citizens, convert political authority to rational authority. Then the state level. Cf. Montesqieu.

Second half the 18th century: literary journalism, not yet the medium of consumer culture. In Paris in 1848, 200 political papers were founded between February and May. Cf. blog.

1830s -- press of viewpoints begins to transform into a commercial press.

Public sphere in mass welfare state democracies:

(Cf. Horkheimer) --> liberal model of public sphere still normatively instructive.

Public lost exclusivity, "convivial social intercourse" and relatively high standard of education (and perhaps increasingly its Other, women?).

Public spheres now mediate unmarketizable group needs in strategic confrontation.

Laws correspond to compromises between interests, not consensus.

Refeudalization --> large-scale organisations compete. Corporatism only pauses to secure plebiscitarian approval. Publicity is the systems colonised face of publicness.

Publicness thus is sabotaged by non-linguistic steering media, and how it acquires public prestige for things and persons is determined in a climate of nonpublic opinion.

Public sphere does not emerge from society but is constructed and amended case-by-case.

However, welfare state transforms operations of rights. Requirement of publicness extended to all organisations acting in relation to the state. Extent realised --> public of private persons (broken) replaced by pubic of organised persons.

Public sphere once rationalised authority in the medium of exclusive public discussion is disintegrating.

Could only be realised today as rationalization of the exercise of social and political power under control of rival organisations committed to publicness in their internal structure and dealings with state and one-another.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Notes on Habermas and communicative reason

Theory of Communicative Action

Two kinds of reflexivity, insufficiently differentiated in Habermas's early, epistemological version:

(1) Neo-Kantian reflection by reason on its own conditions of employment.

(2) Emancipatory self-reflection, associated with the Kantian triptych of maturity, principled non-conformism, and freedom (in "What is enlightenment?"), transformed through Marx & Hegel.

An account of the limits of theoretical and practical reason is necessary to ground intelligible reflection on the socio-material conditionality of enlightenment and autonomy.

[??] Marxian ideology critique and Freudian psychoanalysis are understood to exemplify the critical cognitive interest (2) without the elaboration of the neo-Kantian communicative rationality (1) which they must presuppose.

Unavoidable cognitive interests --> basic structures presupposed by reason. For Kant, they are a priori. But for Habermas, they can only be disclosed by empirical inquiry, which must proceed hand-in-hand with detranscendentalised reconstructive science if it to avoid positivism disguised as fallibilism. [??]

The epistemological orientation of Knowledge and Human Interests depended on a philosophy of the subject.

The linguisttic turn focuses on how subjects are constituted in and through "their" social interactions.

[Difference between Habermas & Adorno's dialectic spirit is that Habermas's revisions are govrned by discrete periods of public feedback, whereas Adorno is concerned with the question of how the suffering subject can constitute himself in the public sphere in the first place without brutally suppressing the non-identical].

Emancipatory self-reflection depends on giving a rational reconstruction of the conditions of possibility of reason.

Reconstructive sciences elucidate the depth grammar of "pre-[reconstructive]-theoretical" knowledge. Cf. Chomsky's generative grammar.

Cf. Ryle's knowing how vs. knowing that, Bourdieu on habitus, Wittgenstein's rule paradox.

Theory of communicative action is a reconstructive science, "formal / universal pragmatics."

All human symbolic competence presupposes the species competence of communication.

Emancipatory critique does not rest on arbitrary norms which we choose. It is grounded in the structures of universal communicative competence.

[Suspicion here of accruing methodological convenience; i.e. the unlimited communication community has a dual character as intersubjective governance and an instrument which creates subjects capable of being governed, and decisions in a form adapted to the possibility of entering the condition of legitimacy.]

[Cf. Maricuse --> "norms" (needs?) must be chosen by the individual, but there must be an interim preoccupation with the false needs, which can only be diagnosed at the collective level, and which interrupt any individual's capacity to autonomously determine his or her real needs.]

[Cf. early CT: norms can be derived from the unrealised potential of the liberal democratic project -- freedom, equality etc.]

[Cf. dogmatic anthropology of utopian socialists. Install real needs in advance.]

[Cf. Adorno on organic composition of labour. Adorno contra Kant: the material element in ideality.]

The starting point of speech act theory is mutual reciprocal meaning.

Communicative action is oriented to understanding (cf. mimesis). Purposive-rational action is oriented to success.

Anyone acting communicatively must raise universal validity claims and suppose that such claims can be discursively redeemed.

[Cf. falsifiability vs. fallibilism].

[Cf. other minds problem.]

Types of validity claim:


[Could there be others? Theological, prosodic, aesthetic? E.g. discourse of "prosody" = melodious historical ad hominem to suggest the interlocutor's ear is out of tune?].

To resolve a breakdown in any of these dimensions, go to DISCOURSE, that is nonmanipulative, noncoercive argumentation. [Cf. BFN on the legal community, also De Tocqueville on the legal community.]

Aesthetic judgements too --> cognitivist thesis.

No dispute about a validity claim is fundamentally asymmetric.

Anticipation and emulaion of noncoercive and nondistortive discoures is built ino our everyday, heuristically-organised and folk-theoretic communicative interactions.

[Criticism: not an unlimited communication community which is the condition of possibility of communicative reason, but an unlimited identity abbatoir. That is, Habermas supposes the fact of communicative action, inasmuch as it is constitutively coercive in definite gradations, to entail and rely upon a hypothetical condition free of coercive activity. But the converse can be argued: that it entails and relies upon a hypothetical condition of maximum coercive activity, in which identity is infinitely manipulable by power. In this account, understanding is not the immanent telos of language, self-identity is. The "pretheoretic knowledge" structuring communicative coordination of action is the merely arbitrary totality of agents' judgements about the objective collocations of norms which surround them. Either account can explain discourse-avoidance. For Habermas, discourse does not occur either because the communicative context is pathological (in various ways ultimately attributable to the alternative mode of coordinating action), or because understanding takes place. Understanding is not conceived of as cognitive sharing but as a tacit commonality in the way the agents experience a counterfactual claim-redemptive discourse. In the other account, however, agents are identity-parsimonious: they avoid contesting validity if they think their current bundle of interrelated norms would suffer extensive revision. Thus I "understand" you not because I regard your validity claims as redeemable, but because I recognise "not understanding" as more costly in terms of identity effects. The distinction between communicative and strategic action is resolved at a deeper level, as an ensemble of identities which seek to replenish themselves out of one-another's normative repertoires. Cooperation arises out of "communicative" configurations inasmuch as identities minimise confirming themselves out of materials unavoidably associated with alien ingredients. Cooperation arises out of "strategic" configurations inasmuch as agents develop mediating institutions like money and administration which specialised to reduce the flow of information among the normative constitutions of agents.]

The claim to reason is silenced, yet in "fantasies and deeds it develops a stubbornly transcending power," renewed in each unconstrained understanding [truth?], each moment of solidarity [sincerity?], each successful individuation [intelligibility?], each rescue [normative rightness?].

Diachronic dimension of reason.


(1) Empirical efficiency of technical means. RATIONALITY of means: requires empirical knowledge.
(2) Consistency of choice between suitable means. RATIONALITY of decisions: requires inner consistency of value systems.


(1) extirpating relations of force inconspicuously set in communicative structures.
(2) overcoming systematically distorted communication in which action supporting consensus regarding the reciprocally raised validity claims is sustained in appearance only.

Rationaliy debates demand sociological theory discriminate different forms of rationalization.

Wwe cannot conduct hermeneutic inquiry without evaluating the rationality of action and social action systems.

LIFEWORLD-prejudiced sociology: Weberian insistence on intentional stance (Dennett, cf. Bretano, "intentionality") and the creative role of social actors.

SYSTEMS-prejudiced sociology: Durkheimian insistence on social facts; interacting structures, systemic imperatives, dynamic forms of integration and breakdown.

Dialectical synthesis of competing orientations?

[Cf. overdetermination. Maybe --P Marx, both these forms are moments of the conceptual priority of emancipation?? Adorno --> individuated more and more, exclusively designated as moments of the productive apparatus, YET (AND THUS) their specificity is irreducible to their function ascription.]

Systems and lifeworld perspectives presuppose one another.

PARADOX OF RATIONALISATION --> rationalization of the lifeworld is the precondition of systemic rationalization, which progressively becomes autonomous vis-a-vis the normative constraints embodied in the lifeworld.

Rather than a dialectic of enlightenment (rationalisation), a distortive selectivity in the rationalisation process.

Purposive-rational rationalisation encroaches upon lifeworld -- explained by peculiar restrictions on communicative rationalisation originating in capitalist production.

NSMs --> defensive reactions to preserve the integrity of lifeworld communicative structures.

[Or: systemic imperative on the lifeworld traceable to system "recognising" its suffocation of lifeworld resource. Cf. Marcuse and containment; recuperation; Poulantzas vs. Miliband. Recuperation theses: (1) there is an area of sublimation for which idealism is the master concept. Destabilising influences play out harmlessly, especially as the symbolic reconciliation of mass affective wishes. Cf. real illusion. (2) Implicatedness of negativity in material reproduction: Hegelian dimension of Critical Theory. I.e., without concrete countervailing tendencies (not just "space" for them), society would crumble. How to theorise this dissolution? Cessation of autopoeitic maintenance; integration with anthropologial imperative (state of nature)? Or more parsimoniously, the idea that this happens all the time. That is, the system moves to the next-closest configuration which contains sufficient countervailing forces for stability. Cf. the hostis civitas.]

Weber's neo-Kantian differentiation of science, morality/law and art.

Suspicious, in good Critical Theoretical fashion, of neoromantic hope for new wholeness dissolving these spheres and reconciling Man with Himself and with nature, but also whether that cultural differentiation brings unresolvable reification as its inevitable corollary.

[In Adorno, pessimism and defeatism are not elided. Negativity and positivity are inseparable, and giving priority to the latter gives priority to the idealist moment over the materialist. Thought in a negaive mode must produce positivity out of materiality to work uon; thought in a positive mode has a correspondingly reciprocally-generative relationship with existing material negativity.]

[Heideggerean motifs unmistakeably pop up in Critical Theory's reworking of the subject at home in a world of equipment, encountering itself thrown in there yeah, thrown into a world which manifests a preponderance of identity.]

[MARX: 1844 alienation a pre-write of commodity fetishism? -- inasmuch as it stands in the same functional role with respect to anthopologically dogmatic utopianism [?]. Domination is an ineradicable qualitive aspect of the capitalist mode of production. It is not political domination. Sensuous immediacy is levelled out by the expectation of its loss into exchange value. With commodity fetishism, the emphasis is upon the social character of labour only appearing in the act of exchange. Value, which is mythic, cryptonormative, qualitative, & maybe even episodic / narrative / charismatic, is thus "disguised" as what it really is -- exchange value. Alienation is the conceptual unpacking of this paradox which commits "critical criticism," i.e. treats it as an illusion, not a real illusion.]