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.

Comments:
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.

Questions:
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).

Constitutionalism

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.

Zweckrationalita(:)t.

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

(1973)

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.

History

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:

INTELLIGIBILITY
TRUTH
SINCERITY / TRUTHFULNESS
NORMATIVE RIGHTNESS

[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.

INSTRUMENTAL ACTION can be RATIONALISED under two aspects.

(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.

RATIONALIZATION of COMMUNICATIVE ACTION altogether different:

(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.]

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Samantha's notes on Habermas - formal pragmatics

J├╝rgen Habermas and Critical Theory: the emancipatory potential of modernity

Earlier critical theorists
(Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse, Benjamin)

a. unorthodox Marxists - trying to redefine the nature of the Marxist enterprise in changed historical circumstances of c20 (drawing on Marx, Weber, Lukacs, Nietzsche and Freud).
b. explanation - general historical dynamic of enlightenment and domination; increased knowledge has brought increased technical mastery over external nature and human subjectivity - reification.
c. develop framework for understanding fascism, the culture industry, etc.

Habermas is working in this tradition but has redefined it substantially.

Basic premises

1968 (1971) publication of Technology and Science as Ideology. Disputes Marcuse's claim that science and technology are intrinsically oppressive. Science and technology are oriented toward control, but this in itself is not a problem; the problem is that science and technology get out of control and overrun other spheres of action and knowledge.

In The Theory of Communicative Action (1981/1984 &1987) Habermas develops a systematic framework for the analysis of modern societies that avoids the pessimism of the earlier critical theorists. Posits:

a. two types of action:
(i) purposive rational action/action oriented to success;
(ii) communicative action/action oriented to reaching understanding.

b. two processes of rationalisation:
(i) rationalisation of purposive rational action - complexity, bureaucracy and steering capacity;
(ii) rationalisation of communicative action - differentiation of worldviews, growth of criticism, validity claims in speech increasingly open to scrutiny, demands for reasons/justifications for authority. This is the rationality potential of communicative action.

We can understand the distinctive tensions of modernity by examining how (i) and (ii) intersect - rationalisation of (i) threatens to stifle potential of (ii) - this threat is the threat of the 'colonisation of the lifeworld' (see session 12). Habermas takes this up by developing a philosophical and a substantive theme.

The scientisation of politics

Theory and Practice (1963/1974) uses the idea of a dialectic of enlightenment and domination to interpret the nature of politics: politics as praxis, distinct from theoria and techne, was lost c17-c18. Praxis replaced by techne - politics as technical expertise.

Enlightenment provided the way for this, but also produced the possibilities of an alternative in the development of critical reason.

Universal pragmatics and deliberative democracy

Habermas develops an argument that communication itself contains critical potential, and that this is revealed by examining the rationality basis of speech. See 'What is universal pragmatics?' in Communication and the Evolution of Society (1976/1979), also Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action (1990) and Postmetaphysical Thinking (1992).

Puts forward an argument about speech acts:
a. everyday utterances implicitly and inevitably raise validity claims;
b. some of these are such that they can only satisfactorily be upheld in discourses with the structure of an 'ideal speech situation' (the implicit goal of all communication).

Speech acts raise validity claims, these are internally connected to reasons or grounds - this is the rationality basis of speech. Four types of claim:

(i) intelligibility
(ii) truth
(iii) correctness
(iv) sincerity

If these are called into question, we try to provide grounds for our claims = discourse.

An 'ideal speech situation' (later reformulated as 'unlimited communication community') is a situation with a symmetrical structure, in which there is full participation and the reasoned force of the better argument, rather than power, determines decisions. This ideal is, according to Habermas, implicit in communication; it makes sense of what it would be to resolve a problematic claim in a genuine way, to achieve a rational consensus. This is a counterfactual, an imagined possibility against which we can judge truth and correctness.

This argument is important: Habermas is attempting to tackle the question of how we can have normative grounds for our criticisms by developing this counterfactual. In Between Facts and Norms (1996) and elsewhere, Habermas uses this argument concerning the validity basis of speech to provide a normative foundation for deliberative democratic mechanisms. In particular, in BFN, he develops a theory of law and democracy which emphasises deliberative democracy as an alternative to liberal representative democracy and its model of politics as the aggregation of private individual interests. On Habermas’s account, deliberative discourses of justification and application of norms could enable us to develop just laws that answer to the problems of contemporary constitutionalism (e.g. problems of administrative power, problems concerning the democratic negotiation of difference, etc).

Assessment

a. This account privileges communicative action, it presumes that the primary use of language is to achieve understanding; is it?
b. Can truth adequately be identified with rational consensus?
c. Problem b. is exacerbated in relation to discussion of correct norms and values.
d. Habermas's account of communicative rationality is purely procedural; can this help in practice to resolve disputes?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Notes on crisis

Horkheimer:

"But the critical theory of society is, in its totality, the unfolding of a single existential judgment. To put it in broad terms, the theory says that the basic form of the historically given commodity economy on which modern history rests contains in itself the internal and external tensions of the modern era; it generates these tensions over and over again in an increasingly heightened form; and after a period of progress, development of human powers, and emancipation for the individual, after an enormous extension of human control over nature, it finally hinders further development and drives humanity into a new barbarism."

Followers