Sunday, July 27, 2014

Interview with Habermas: "Internet and Public Sphere"

An English translation of an interview with Jürgen Habermas from June 2014 is now available at "Reset: Dialogues on Civilizations":

"Internet and Public Sphere"

Excerpt:

Q: Is internet beneficial or unbeneficial for democracy?

A: It is neither one nor the other. After the inventions of writing and printing, digital communication represents the third great innovation on the media plane. With their introduction, these three media forms have enabled an ever growing number of people to access an ever growing mass of information. These are made to be increasingly lasting, more easily. With the last step represented by Internet we are confronted with a sort of “activation” in which readers themselves become authors. Yet, this in itself does not automatically result in progress on the level of the public sphere. Throughout the nineteenth-century – with the aid of books and mass newspapers – we witnessed the birth of national public spheres where the attention of an undefined number of people could simultaneously apply itself to the same identical problems. This however, did not depend on the technical level with which facts were multiplied, accelerated, rendered lasting. At heart, these are the same centrifugal movements that still occur today in the web. Rather, the classical public sphere stemmed from the fact that the attention of an anonymous public was “concentrated” on a few politically important questions that had to be regulated. This is what the web does not know how to produce. On the contrary, the web actually distracts and dispels. Think about, for example, the thousand portals that are born every day: for stamp collectors, for scholars of European constitutional law, for support groups of ex-alcoholics. In the mare magnum of digital noises these communicative communities are like dispersed archipelagos: there are billions of them. What these communicative spaces (closed in themselves) are lacking is an inclusive bind, the inclusive force of a public sphere highlighting what things are actually important. In order to create this “concentration”, it is first necessary to know how to choose – know and comment on – relevant contributions, information and issues. In short, even in the mare magnum of digital noise, the skills of good old journalism – as necessary today as they were yesterday – should not be lost.

The interview was published in German in "Frankfurter Rundschau" on June 14, 2014, titled "Im Sog der Gedanken". It has also been published in "Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger" and "Berliner Zeitung".

Friday, July 25, 2014

New Book: "Egalitarianism" by Iwao Hirose


Egalitarianism

by Iwao Hirose

(Routledge, 2014)

208 pages





Description

Some people are worse off than others. Does this fact give rise to moral concern? Egalitarianism claims that it does, for a wide array of reasons. It is one of the most important and hotly debated problems in moral and political philosophy, occupying a central place in the work of John Rawls, Thomas Nagel, G. A. Cohen and Derek Parfit. It also plays an important role in practical contexts such as the allocation of health care resources, the design of education and tax systems, and the pursuit of global justice.

"Egalitarianism" explains how rival theories of egalitarianism evaluate distributions of people’s well-being, and carefully assesses the theoretical structure of each theory. It also examines how egalitarian theories are applied to the distribution of health and health care, thus bringing a deceptively complex philosophical debate into clear focus.

Contents [pre-view]

Introduction

1. Rawlsian egalitarianism 
2. Luck egalitarianism 
3. Telic egalitarianism 
4. Prioritarianism 
5. Sufficientarianism 
6. Equality and time 
7. Equality in health and health care 

Conclusion

Iwao Hirose is Associate Professor at the Philosophy Department, McGill University, Canada. He is co-author (with Greg Bognar) of "The Ethics of Health Care Rationing" (Routledge, 2014). A book on "Moral Aggregation" is coming out in November 2014 on Oxford University Press.

Hirose's PhD Theses on "Equality, Priority, and Aggregation" (2004) is available here [pdf].

See also two papers by Hirose:
* "Reconsidering the Value of Equality" (pdf, 2009)
* "Aggregation and the Allocation of Health Care Resources" (pdf, 2009)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Derek Parfit and Janet Radcliffe-Richards

The August issue of the British magazine "Prospect" features a profile of the Oxford philosophy couple Derek Parfit and Janet Radcliffe-Richards:

"Reason and Romance: The World’s Most Cerebral Marriage"

See also Larissa MacFarquhar's article on Derek Parfit in "The New Yorker" (September 2011).

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Habermas on Hungary and Europe

Jürgen Habermas's lecture in Budapest, May 29, is now available online:

"Europa, Ungarn und das Projekt einer transnationalen Demokratie" [pdf]

In his speech Habermas criticized Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orbán, and the government.

Excerpts:

"Ich freue mich, wieder einmal in Budapest zu sein, zum dritten Mal seit 1989. Ich freue mich vor allem, alte Freunde wiederzusehen. Aber ich möchte auch die in letzter Zeit undurchsichtiger gewordene Lage der Nachbarn, mit denen wir doch vertraut zu sein meinten, besser verstehen lernen. Dieses Mal mischt sich nämlich in die Vorfreude auf ein Wiedersehen mit dieser schönen, im europäischen Gedächtnis so erinnerungsträchtig verankerten Metropole an der Donau ein anderes Gefühl – das Gefühl, dass die Entfernung größer geworden ist. Ungarn scheint sich von Europa entfernt zu haben, obwohl es doch die Ungarn waren, die 1989 als erste den Eisernen Vorhang durchlöchert haben. [.......]

1956 waren es die Ungarn, die unter dem Reformkommunisten Imre Nagy der sowjetischen Unterdrückung den stärksten Widerstand entgegengesetzt und später innerhalb des sowjetischen Herrschaftsbereichs ein vergleichsweise „liberales“ Regime, wenn man so will, durchgesetzt haben. Deshalb war nach der Epochenwende von 1989 die Linke keineswegs wie in anderen postkommunistischen Ländern vollständig diskreditiert. Natürlich hat Ungarn nach dem Systemwechsel das ökonomische Schicksal dieser Länder geteilt. In nicht-larmoyanten Worten hat Janos Háy diesen Erfahrungen einen bewegenden literarischen Ausdruck verliehen. Während jener Übergangsperiode waren dies, nachdem das lange verschlossene Tor zum „märchenhaften Abendland“ aufgesprungen war, die niederdrückenden Erfahrungen einer neuen sozialen Ungleichheit, einer Entwurzelung und Pauperisierung ganzen Schichten, einer Verödung von ganzen Produktionszweigen und Landstrichen. Im Gegenlicht der wiedergewonnen Freiheit schmerzte die Reaktion auf dieses Elend umso mehr: „Das Goldene Tor steht sperrangelweit offen....(Aber) nicht das moderne Denken hat unsere Grenzen überschritten, sondern das bunte Blendwerk des westlichen Marktes, die Reklamen, die grellen Privatsender, die inmitten dieser Verwahrlosung wie die Plastiktüten wirken, die wir einst so stolz mit uns herumgetragen hatten.“

Diese eindringliche Beschreibung beantwortet freilich nicht die Frage, warum gerade in Ungarn nach dem in Mitteleuropa üblichen Auf und Ab der politischen Eliten, nach dem üblichen Hin und Her zwischen Aufbruch und Korruption, nach dem Pendelschlag zwischen Margareth Thatcher und Nostalgie - warum nur hier das Ergebnis einer ganz gewöhnlichen demokratischen Wahl zu einer „Revolution an der Wahlurne“ umdeklariert worden ist. Wie Sie wissen, haben jene energischen Maßnahmen, die einen Regierungswechsel zu einem Regimewechsel vertiefen und verstetigen sollten, im übrigen Europa Sorgen ausgelöst. Es wäre falsche Höflichkeit, wenn ich um diese Befürchtungen herumreden würde. Ein bekannter deutscher, heute in Princeton lehrender Politikwissenschaftlers, der lange in diesem Lande gelebt und gearbeitet, übrigens auch seine Frau hier gefunden hat, warnt davor, „dass die Demokratisierungsprozesse in den relativ neuen EU-Staaten vielleicht doch umkehrbar sein könnten. Man denke an Rumänien, wo im Sommer 2012 ein vom Parlament initiierter ‚kalter Coup’ nur knapp scheiterte, und vor allem an Ungarn, wo die Regierung des national-populistischen Ministerpräsidenten Viktor Orbán den Rechtsstaat seit 2010 immer weiter aushöhlt und – so viele Kritiker im In- und Ausland – dabei ist, eine ‚illiberale’ oder gelenkte Demokratie zu errichten.“ [Jan-Werner Müller]

Meine Damen und Herrn, mir fehlt die Kompetenz, um diese Entwicklung zu beurteilen. Ich habe nur über meine gemischten Gefühle nachgedacht. Auch diese Bemerkung hätte ich unterdrückt, wenn ich nicht als Kollege und Freund persönlich davon betroffen wäre, dass eine bedeutende ungarische Philosophin [Ágnes Heller] nach einem schweren politischen Lebensschicksal - nach der tödlichen Bedrohung des jungen Mädchens im Budapest des Jahres 1944, nach einer Dissidenten-Existenz in diesem Lande, nach der belastenden Emigration in Australien und in den USA und nach dem Aufatmen einer glücklichen Rückkehr in die befreite Heimat – dass eine solche von der politischen Geschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts gezeichnet Person noch in ihrem neunten Lebensjahrzehnt erneut politischen Anfeindungen in der Öffentlichkeit und Repressalien vonseiten der Justiz ausgesetzt worden ist. Das habe ich mir in Ungarn nicht vorstellen können."

See my previous post on the event here.

See also Habermas's article on the political situation in Hungary: "Protect the Philosophers!" (2011).

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Liberal Re-examination of Habermas in the Enhancement Debate

Forthcoming in "Bioethics":

"Autonomy, Natality and Freedom: A Liberal Re-examination of Habermas in the Enhancement Debate" [pdf]

by Jonathan Pugh (Oxford University)

Abstract
"Jürgen Habermas has argued that carrying out pre-natal germline enhancements would be inimical to the future child's autonomy. In this article, I suggest that many of the objections that have been made against Habermas' arguments by liberals in the enhancement debate misconstrue his claims. To explain why, I begin by explaining how Habermas' view of personal autonomy confers particular importance to the agent's embodiment and social environment. In view of this, I explain that it is possible to draw two arguments against germline enhancements from Habermas' thought. I call these arguments ‘the argument from negative freedom’ and ‘the argument from natality’. Although I argue that many of the common liberal objections to Habermas are not applicable when his arguments are properly understood, I go on to suggest ways in which supporters of enhancement might appropriately respond to Habermas' arguments."

Philip Pettit on "The Infrastructure of Democracy"

On June 20, 2014, Philip Pettit gave a keynote lecture at the University College Dublin on “The Infrastructure of Democracy”. 



More information on the event here.

Philip Pettit is Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and Human Values at Princeton University. He is the author of "Republicanism" (Oxford University Press, 1997), "On the People's Terms. A Republican Theory and Model of Democracy" (Cambridge University Press, 2012), and "Just Freedom. A Moral Compass for a Complex World" (W.W. Norton, 2014).

New Book by Bourdieu: "On the State"

A new book by the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) is out on Polity Press:

"On the State"

The book contains lectures held at the Collège de France 1989-1992. It was published in French in 2012.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Habermas on Hans-Ulrich Wehler (1931-2014)

In "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" (July 8, 2014), Jürgen Habermas honors the German historian Hans-Ulrich Wehler, who died on July 5:

"Stimme einer Generation; Zum Tod meines Freundes"

Excerpt:
"Seine prononcierte Hinwendung zur Sozialgeschichte, also die aufklärende Einbettung der politischen und kulturellen Geschichte in ökonomische und gesellschaftliche Kontexte, hat Hans-Ulrich Wehler zu einem der international anerkanntesten und einflussreichsten deutschen Historiker gemacht. Zugleich hat er damit eine nachhaltige Bedeutung für die Mentalitätsgeschichte der alten Bundesrepublik gewonnen." [.....]
"Er hat sich nicht nur seine Nationalgeschichte, einen gewichtigen Band nach dem anderen, bis in die aktuelle Gegenwart hinein vorangetrieben. In der Rolle des parteinehmenden Zeitgenossen hat er die politische Zeitgeschichte fortlaufend kommentiert. Bis in die letzten Tages beschäftigten ihn die Veröffentlichungen seiner akademischen Kollegen zum Ausbruch des Ersten Weltkrieges - und der geschichtspolitische Gebrauch, den die offiziellen politischen Verlautbarungen und Veranstaltungen davon machen."
"Der Öffentlichkeit hat sich der streitbare Character eines großen Gelehrten und eines entschieden, aber stets gut informiert und mit guten Gründen urteilenden Intellektuellen eingeprägt."

See also an obituary written by Jürgen Kaube: "Stets kämpfend".

Sunday, June 29, 2014

David Lockwood has died

The British sociologist David Lockwood has died at the age 85. 

David Lockwood's distinction between "social integration" and "system integration" has had a huge impact on Jürgen Habermas's social theory. It was introduced by Lockwood in 1964 in an article in "Explorations in Social Change" (ed. by George K. Zollschan and Walter Hirsch; Routledge). The article is also available in David Lockwood's excellent book "Solidarity and Schism: The Problem of Disorder in Durkheimian and Marxist Sociology" (Clarendon Press, 1992).

See the obituary in the Guardian here.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Habermasian Public Sphere and Exclusion

In "Communication Theory" (vol. 24 no. 1, 2014):

The Habermasian Public Sphere and Exclusion [pdf]
by Lincoln Dahlberg

Abstract
One trenchant critique of the Habermasian public sphere conception, voiced particularly strongly by poststructuralist-influenced critics, is that it fails to fully account for exclusion. In this article I examine the strength of this critique. I begin by demonstrating how Habermasians have in many ways already theorized public sphere exclusion. Given this, I ask what is left of the poststructuralist-inspired critique. I argue that what is left is a deep disagreement with Habermasians about the grounding of the public sphere conception. I subsequently ask what difference, and moreover what positive contribution, a poststructuralist (rather than a Habermasian) grounding can make for understanding public sphere exclusion and associated politics.

Lincoln Dahlberg is Visiting Fellow at the Center for Critical and Cultural Studies, University of Queensland. He is co-editor (with Sean Phelan) of "Discourse Theory and Critical Media Politics" (Palgrave, 2011).

See also Dahlberg's paper "Exclusions of the Public Sphere Conception" (2013).

Monday, June 23, 2014

Michel Rosenfeld on Global Constitutionalism

In “European Journal of International Law” vol. 25 (2014) no. 1:

Is Global Constitutionalism Meaningful or Desirable?” [pdf] 
by Michel Rosenfeld

Abstract
"Upon conceiving constitutionalism on the scale of the nation-state as transparent and unproblematic, one may think global constitutionalism to be a mere utopia. On closer analysis, however, legitimation of nation-state constitutionalism turns out to be much more complex and contested than initially apparent, as becomes evident based on the contrast between liberal and illiberal constitutionalism. Upon the realization that nation-state liberal constitutionalism can only be legitimated counterfactually, the social contract metaphor emerges as a privileged heuristic tool in the quest for a proper balance between identity and difference. Four different theories offer plausible social contract justifications of nation-state liberal constitutionalism: a deontological theory, such as those of Rawls and Habermas, which privileges identity above difference; a critical theory that leads to relativism; a thick national identity based one that makes legitimacy purely contingent; and a dialectical one that portrays the social contract as permanently in the making without any definitive resolution. Endorsing this last theory, I argue that differences between national and transnational constitutionalism are of degree rather than of kind. Accordingly, it may be best to cast certain transnational regimes as constitutional rather than as administrative or international ones."

Michel Rosenfeld is Professor of Human Rights at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, New York. He is the author of ”Law, Justice, Democracy, and the Clash of Cultures” (Cambridge University Press, 2011) and co-editor (with Susanna Mancini) of ”Constitutional Secularism in an Age of Religious Revival” (Oxford University Press, 2014).

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Gaus on "Public Reason Liberalism"

Gerald Gaus has uploaded a new paper:

"Public Reason Liberalism" [pdf]

Gerald Gaus is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Arizona. He is the author of "Contemporary Theories of Liberalism: Public Reason as a Post-Enlightenment Project" (Sage, 2003) and "The Order of Public Reason" (Cambridge University Press, 2011).