Saturday, February 14, 2015

Tasioulas on the Foundations of Human Rights

Professor John Tasioulas has posted a new paper at SSRN:

"On the Foundations of Human Rights"

This paper provides an account of the grounds of human rights, considered as moral rights possessed by all human beings simply in virtue of their humanity. It identifies two such grounds: a plurality of universal human interests and the value of human dignity (the intrinsic and non-derivative value of being a human being). It also offers an extended account of the 'threshold' at which considerations of universal interests and human dignity generate duties in the case of all human beings. The paper concludes by showing that this pluralistic view of the grounding of human nights is superior to both a needs-based and a personhood-based approach.

John Tasioulas is Yeoh Professor of Politics, Philosophy and Law at King's College London. 

More papers by John Tasioulas at

See also Samuel Moyn's critique of John Tasioulas's inaugural lecture at UCL in 2012 and Tasioulas's response here

Sunday, February 08, 2015

David Reidy on John Rawls's Democratic Vision

Professor David A. Reidy has posted a new paper at SSRN:

"Framing Rawls's Democratic Vision"

In this essay I draw from Rawls's archived papers to set out several too often under-appreciated elements of Rawls's distinctively democratic vision.
Many readers of Rawls’s published works assume that what most distinguishes his work is his substantive conception of justice. To be sure, it is in certain respects distinctive. But even some of its most distinctive elements – e.g., the difference principle, the lexical ordering of principles of justice and the idea of the basic structure as the first subject of justice – had been anticipated. Some readers find most distinctive the larger (and allegedly shifting) argumentative context of Rawls’s work, whether the universalist and metaphysically ambitious Kantian contractualist framework alleged to frame his early work or the historicist and arguably relativist Hegelian hermeneutic framework alleged to frame his later work. For those exploring Rawls’s archived unpublished papers, lecture notes and letters, what emerges as most distinctive is a consistently maintained set of methodological and meta-philosophical commitments constituting and framing a democratic vision. In this short essay, I briefly sketch a few of these.

David A. Reidy is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Tennessee. He is co-editor (with Martin Rex) of "Rawls's Law of Peoples: A Realistic Utopia?" (Blackwell, 2006), and co-editor (with Jon Mandle) of "A Companion to Rawls" (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013) and "The Cambridge Rawls Lexicon" (Cambridge University Press, 2014).

See also David A. Reidy's paper "From Philosophical Theology to Democratic Theory: Early Postcards from an Intellectual Journey".

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Habermas on "Democracy in Europe" - a new paper

Jürgen Habermas's lecture in Norway in September 2014 is now available as a working paper published by ARENA Centre for European Studies in Oslo:

"Democracy in Europe: Why the Development of the European Union into a Transnational Democracy is Necessary and How it is Possible


Can the process of European unification lead to a form of democracy that is at once supranational and situated above the organizational level of a state? The supranational federation should be constructed in such a way that the heterarchical relationship between the member states and the federation remains intact. The author finds the basis for such an order in the idea of the EU constituted by a “doubled” sovereign – the European citizens and the European peoples (the states). In order to sustain such an order reforms of the existing European treaties are needed. It is necessary to eliminate the legitimation deficits of the European Union in a future Euro-Union – that is, a more closely integrated core Europe. The European Parliament would have to gain the right to take legislative initiatives, and the so-called “ordinary legislative procedure,” which requires the approval of both chambers, would have to be extended to all policy fields.

A video of Jürgen Habermas's lecture is available here.

See my previous post on the event here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

New Book on Axel Honneth's Critical Theory

Axel Honneth

by Christopher Zurn

(Polity Press, 2015)

240 pages


With his insightful and wide-ranging theory of recognition, Axel Honneth has decisively reshaped the Frankfurt School tradition of critical social theory. Combining insights from philosophy, sociology, psychology, history, political economy, and cultural critique, Honneth’s work proposes nothing less than an account of the moral infrastructure of human sociality and its relation to the perils and promise of contemporary social life.

This book provides an accessible overview of Honneth’s main contributions across a variety of fields, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of his thought. Christopher Zurn clearly explains Honneth’s multi-faceted theory of recognition and its relation to diverse topics: individual identity, morality, activist movements, progress, social pathologies, capitalism, justice, freedom, and critique. In so doing, he places Honneth’s theory in a broad intellectual context, encompassing classic social theorists such as Kant, Hegel, Marx, Freud, Dewey, Adorno and Habermas, as well as contemporary trends in social theory and political philosophy. Treating the full range of Honneth’s corpus, including his major new work on social freedom and democratic ethical life, this book is the most up-to-date guide available.


1. Introduction
2. Individuals’ Struggle for Recognition
3. Social Struggles for Recognition
4. Diagnosing Social Pathologies
5. Recognition and Markets
6. Social Freedom and Recognition
7. Concluding Speculations

Christopher Zurn is Associate Professor of Social and Political Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He is the author of "Deliberative Democracy and the Institutions of Judicial Review" (Cambridge University Press, 2007).

See also three of Zurn's papers on Axel Honneth's critical theory:

* "Recognition, Redistribution, and Democracy: Dilemmas of Honneth’s Critical Social Theory" [pdf] (2005)

* "Social Pathologies as Second-Order Disorders" [pdf] (2005)

* "Anthropology and Normativity" (2000).

See my post on Axel Honneth's book "Freedom's Right" (2014). 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

New Book on Rawls and Religion

Rawls and Religion

Ed. by Tom Bailey & Valentina Gentile

(Columbia University Press, 2015)

312 pages


John Rawls's influential theory of justice and public reason has often been thought to exclude religion from politics, out of fear of its illiberal and destabilizing potentials. It has therefore been criticized by defenders of religion for marginalizing and alienating the wealth of religious sensibilities, voices, and demands now present in contemporary liberal societies.
In this anthology, established scholars of Rawls and the philosophy of religion reexamine and rearticulate the central tenets of Rawls's theory to show they in fact offer sophisticated resources for accommodating and responding to religions in liberal political life. The chapters reassert the subtlety, openness, and flexibility of his sense of liberal "respect" and "consensus," revealing their inclusive implications for religious citizens. They also explore the means he proposes for accommodating nonliberal religions in liberal politics, developing his conception of "public reason" into a novel account of the possibilities for rational engagement between liberal and religious ideas. And they reevaluate Rawls's liberalism from the "transcendent" perspectives of religions themselves, critically considering its normative and political value, as well as its own "religious" character. Rawls and Religion makes a unique and important contribution to contemporary debates over liberalism and its response to the proliferation of religions in contemporary political life.

Contents [preview]

Foreword - Sebastiano Maffettone

Introduction [preview] - Tom Bailey & Valentina Gentile

Part I. Reinterpreting Rawls on Religion

1. Respect and War [paper] - Christopher J. Eberle
2. Religion and Liberalism: Was Rawls Right After All? - Robert B. Talisse
3. Inclusivism, Stability, and Assurance - Paul Weithman
4. Rethinking the Public Use of Religious Reasons [paper] - Andrew F. March

Part II. Accommodating Religions with Rawls

5. The Liberal State and the Religious Citizen - Patrick Neal
6. Reasoning from Conjecture - Micah Schwartzman
7. The Religious Hermeneutics of Public Reasoning - Johannes A. van der Ven

Part III. Transcending Rawls

8. E Pluribus Unum: Justification and Redemption in Rawls, Cohen, and Habermas - James Gledhill
9. A Reasonable Faith? Pope Benedict's Response to Rawls [paper] - Peter Jonkers
10. Islamic Politics and the Neutral State: A Friendly Amendment to Rawls? - Abdullahi A. An-Na'im

Friday, January 16, 2015

Habermas - "The Lure of Technocracy"

The Lure of Technocracy 

by Jürgen Habermas 

(Polity Press; March 2014)

200 pages


Over the past 25 years, Jürgen Habermas has presented what is arguably the most coherent and wide–ranging defence of the project of European unification and of parallel developments towards a politically integrated world society. In developing his key concepts of the transnationalisation of democracy and the constitutionalisation of international law, Habermas offers the main players in the struggles over the fate of the European Union (the politicians, the political parties and the publics of the member states) a way out of the current economic and political crisis, should they choose to follow it. In the title essay Habermas addresses the challenges and threats posed by the current banking and public debt crisis in the Eurozone for European unification. He is harshly critical of the incrementalist, technocratic policies advocated by the German government in particular, which are being imposed at the expense of the populations of the economically weaker, crisis–stricken countries and are undermining solidarity between the member states. He argues that only if the technocratic approach is replaced by a deeper democratization of the European institutions can the European Union fulfil its promise as a model for how rampant market capitalism can once again be brought under political control at the supranational level. 

English translation of "Im Sog der Technokratie" (Suhrkamp Verlag, 2013). Five short essays are not included in the English edition.


I. The Lure of Technocracy 

1. The Lure of Technocracy: A Plea for European Solidarity [abridged version
2. European Citizens and European Peoples 
3. Keywords on a Discourse Theory of Law and of the Democratic Constitutional State 

II. European Conditions. Continued Interventions 

4. The Next Step: An Interview [text in German]
5. The Dilemma Facing the Political Parties [text in German]
6. Three Reasons for ’More Europe’ 
7. Democracy or Capitalism? 

III. German Jews, Germans and Jews 

8. Jewish Philosophers and Sociologists as Returnees in the Early Federal Republic of Germany [abridged version]
9. Martin Buber - A Philosophy of Dialogue in its Historical Context 
10. Our Contemporary Heine: ‘There are No Longer Nations in Europe’

Saturday, January 10, 2015

New papers on Piketty's Capital and a reply

(1) "The British Journal of Sociology" (vol. 65, no. 4, 2014) features a symposium on Thomas Piketty's "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" (Belknap Press, 2014), including Piketty's response:

"Piketty Symposium"

The papers can be downloaded for free.

(2) A panel discussion of Piketty's book at a meeting of the American Economic Association, January 3, 2015. 

A video of the presentations and the discussion here. And papers here.

Thomas Piketty - "About Capital in the 21th Century" (pdf)

See also my links to reviews of Thomas Piketty's book here.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Anthony Giddens on Ulrich Beck (1944-2015)

Anthony Giddens pays a tribute to Ulrich Beck (1944-2015) in "Süddeutsche Zeitung" (January 5, 2014):

"Außerordentliches Gespür für die Zukunft
[not yet available online]

English version here [pdf].


"Ulrich Beck war der größte Soziologe seiner Generation. Weit über die akademische Gemeinde hinaus stießen seine Werke auf ein breites Echo in der ganzen Welt. Heute führt jeder die "Globalisierung" im Mund, doch als Beck sie als einer der ersten zum Thema machte, in den Achtzigerjahren, war der Begriff noch völlig unvertraut und wurde von vielen als bedeutungsleer abgetan. So wie er ihn verstand und handhabte, meint Globalisierung weniger die Ausdehnung des Marktes als vielmehr die wachsende Verflechtung der Weltgesellschaft. [.....]

In seinen Augen werden die europäischen Länder zum Spielball der Globalisierung, wenn sie nicht gemeinsam Einfluss auf das Weltgeschehen nehmen. Europa muss ein transnationales Projektwerden, nicht eine bloße Ansammlung von Ländern, die sich nur um sich selbst drehen. [.....] Von der Stabilisierung des Euro sind wir weit entfernt, schon weil Deutschland nicht die notwendige Bedingung dafür zulasst, nämlich eine stärkere fiskalische und ökonomische Integration der Eurozone. Stattdessen wird den südlichen Ländern die Austerity-Politik auferlegt, ohne dass auch nur der Anschein demokratischer Zustimmung gewahrt wird. Im Ergebnis kollabiert in diesen Ländern das politische Zentrum noch schneller als in anderen Staaten. Beck fordert darum einen neuen "Sozialvertrag" für Europa. [.....]

Wenn das den Anschein erweckt, Ulrich Beck sei ein Scharfmacher, so täuscht es vollkommen. Ulrich Beck war ein hingebungsvoller und gewissenhafter Gelehrter, gesegnet mit einem enzyklopädischen Wissen der Sozialwissenschaften. Doch so herausragend er war, so wohltuend bescheiden und zugänglich blieb er, höchst popular bei seinen Studenten. Immer wieder stichelte ich und neckte ihn,weil er nie wirklich den britischen Sinn für Humor mit der typischen Mischung aus Selbstironie und dünkelhafter Überlegenheit beherrschte. Doch ziemlich oft war ich derjenige, der am Ende tölpelhaft dastand. Wenn es ihm passte, konnte er einen locker auflaufen lassen.

Er war in der Tat ein Geschöpf der Welt, die er so präzise in seinen Schriften porträtiert hat. Fur die längste Zeit seiner Karriere als Professor in München zu Hause, aber ein eingefleischter Reisender, der in unzähligen akademischen Institutionen rund um die Welt lehrte, ganz abgesehen von seinen seit Jahren zusätzlich wahrgenommenen Gastprofessuren in London und Paris. Seine Bücher wurden in mehr als 30 Sprachen übersetzt, seine Beiträge in Pressemedien in Deutschland, Großbritannien, Frankreich und den USA sind so unübersehbar wie wirkungsvoll. Grenzüberschreitung war seine Lebenspraxis und sein Metier."

See also my links to obituaries of Ulrich Beck here.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Ulrich Beck dies aged 70 [Updated]

A very sad announcement:

The German sociologist Ulrich Beck died January 1 at age 70 of a heart attack.

Süddeutsche Zeitung: 

* "Ulrich Beck is tot" (Jan 3)

* "Was die Soziologie Ulrich Beck zu verdanken hat" - Armin Nassehi (Jan 3)

* "Der Kosmopolit" - Andreas Zielcke (Jan 3)

* "Außerordentliches Gespür für die Zukunft" [excerpts] - Anthony Giddens (Jan 5)

* "Die mit sich selbst konfrontierte Moderne" [text in English] - Bruno Latour (Jan 5)

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung:

* "Der Freihandsegler der Theorie" - Jürgen Kaube (Jan 3)

* "Ausgeruhte Aufregnung" - André Kieserling (Jan 5)

* "Ein Kosmopolit im Denken und Fühlen" - Christian Geyer (Jan 5)

Die Welt:

* "Der Mann der uns Chaos aushalten lehrte" - Alan Posener (Jan 3)

* "Wir alle wurden von Ulrich Beck beeinflusst" - Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) (Jan 3)

Der Tagesspiegel:

* "Der demokratische Existentialist" - Peter von Becker (Jan 3)

Die Zeit:

* "Er lebte, was er lehrte" - Gunter Hofmann (Jan 3)

Der Spiegel:

* "Kollegen erinnern an Ulrich Beck: Er wollte wirken - und das auch politisch" - Richard Sennett, Angela McRobbie, Claus Leggewie, Ronald Hitzler, Cornelia Koppetsch, Saskia Sassen, Paul Gilroy, Sighard Neckel (Jan 3)

* "Zum Tode Ulrich Becks: Die Zukunft ist offen" - Romain Leick (Jan 3)

Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

* "Die Katastrophe denken, um sie zu vermeiden" - Joachim Günther (Jan 4)

Berliner Zeitung:

* "Katastrophale Metamorphosen" - Arno Widmann (Jan 4)

New York Times:

* "Ulrich Beck is Dead at 70" - Alison Smale (Jan 4)

Financial Times:

* "Ulrich Beck, visionary theorist of globalisation and its risks" - Jeevan Vasager

London School of Economics:

* "Ulrich Beck" - Craig Calhoun (Jan 5)

* "Ulrich Beck obituary" (pdf) - Anthony Giddens (Jan 6)


* "Eigenes Leben" - Ulf Erdmann Ziegler (Jan 5)

The Guardian

* "Ulrich Beck obituary" - Mary Kaldor & Sabine Selchow 

Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen (SRF)

* "Ulrich Beck gestorben" [audio] - Daniel Cohn-Bendit


* "Stimmen zur Tod von Ulrich Beck" [video] - Saskia Sassen, Richard Sennett & Daniel Cohn-Bendit

Theory, Culture & Society

* "Scott Lash remembers Ulrich Beck"

Monday, December 29, 2014

New Book: Solidarity - Theory and Practice

Solidarity - Theory and Practice

Ed. by Arto Laitinen & Anne Birgitta Pessi

(Lexington Books, 2014)

376 pages


This book brings together philosophers, social psychologists and social scientists to approach contemporary social reality from the viewpoint of solidarity. It examines the nature of different kinds of solidarity and assesses the normative and explanatory potential of the concept. Various aspects of solidarity as a special emotionally and ethically responsive relation are studied: the nature of collective emotions and mutual recognition, responsiveness to others’ suffering and needs, and the nature of moral partiality included in solidarity. The evolution of norms of solidarity is examined both via the natural evolution of the human “social brain” and via the institutional changes in legal constitutions and contemporary work life.  

Contents [preview]

1. Solidarity - Theory and Practice - Arto Laitinen & Anne Birgitta Pessi
2. Solidarity - Unpacking the Social Brain - Siegwart Lindenberg
3. Collective Emotions as the ‘Glue’ of Group Solidarity - Mikko Salmela
4. Empathy and our Relations to Others - Kristen Renwick Monroe
5. Solidarity, Moral Recognition, and Communality - Simon Derpmann
6. From Recognition to Solidarity - Arto Laitinen
7. Solidarity and Work: a Reassessment - Nicholas H. Smith
8. Solidarity in Times of Crisis - Constitutional Evolution and Europe - Hauke Brunkhorst
9. National Social Models and Helping Others in the European Union - Juho Saari & Anne Birgitta Pessi
10. Solidarity and Motivations to Help Others: the Case of Finns - Arto Laitinen & Anne Birgitta Pessi
11. Solidarity in a Nordic Welfare State: the Case of Finland - Heikki Hiilamo
12. Distant Suffering, Volunteering, and Solidarity - Bente Nicolaysen

The book is based on papers presented at an international colloquium in Helsinki in 2010.

See Arto Laitinen's homepage at, where he has uploaded many of his papers and also a copy of his book on solidarity.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Rational Reconstruction as a Method of Political Theory

In "Politischer Vierteljahresschrift" (2013 no. 2):

"Rationale Rekonstruktion als Methode politischer Theorie zwischen Gesellschaftskritik und empirischer Politikwissenschaft" [pdf] by Daniel Gaus

English translation:

"Rational Reconstruction as a Method of Political Theory between Social Critique and Empirical Political Science".


"Current political theory applies the concept of reconstruction almost exclusively to methods of critique. Given this focus it is often overlooked that the concept of reconstruction also has important methodological implications regarding the empirical analysis of politics. This imbalance particularly applies to how Jürgen Habermas' discouse theory of democracy has been perceived in political theory. The aim of the article is two-fold. Firstly, it offers an interpretation of discourse theory as a contribution to a "reconstructive sociology of democracy" that goes beyond the mere purpose of critique. Secondly, it seeks to illustrate the added value of Habermas' method of rational reconstruction to the empirical analysis of politics."

See also Daniel Gaus's paper "Von der Kritik liberaler Demokratie zur Analyse deliberativer Systeme: Reflexionen zur gegenwärtigen Diskussionslage der Theorie deliberativer Demokratie" (2014).

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Critical Theory of Legal Revolutions

The current issue of "Social & Legal Studies" (December 2014) features articles on the constitutional theory of Hauke Brunkhorst and his book "Critical Theory of Legal Revolutions" (Bloomsbury Academic, 2014). [Preview of the book here.]

* "New Bearings in the Sociology of Law" [pdf] - Chris Thornhill and Emilios Christodoulidis

* "Legal Revolutions and the Sociology of Law" [abstract] - Chris Thornhill

* "World State: Brunkhorst’s ‘Cosmopolitan State’ and Varieties of Differentiation" [abstract] - Mathias Albert

* "Hauke Brunkhorst’s Critical Theory of Legal Revolutions: Some Comments on Theory Construction" [abstract] - Jürgen Habermas

* "Hauke Brunkhorst: Reflections on the Idea of Normative Progress" [abstract] - Robert Fine

* "The Cunning of Law: Remarks on Brunkhorst’s Critical Theory of Legal Revolutions" [abstract] - Cristina Lafont

* "Reply to Critics" [abstract] - Hauke Brunkhorst

Excerpts from Jürgen Habermas's article:

From the perspective of social theory, the great theoretical achievement of this pathbreaking investigation lies in the fact that it draws attention to the importance of the "papal revolution" for social evolution. [.....] The papal revolution, initiated by Gregory VII, serves Brunkhorst as the classical example of an event, which can be understood as exploiting, revitalizing and institutionalizing the transgressing egalitarian and universalistic ideas of justice contained in the living tradition of the monastic ethos. The conception of "freedom of association" formed the normative core of the new legal system, which differentiated itself from the religiopolitical complex in the course of the 12th century. The legal figure of the self-administering corporation marked the beginning of the functional differentiation of a hierarchical society, which had hitherto found its culminating point in the figure of the political ruler. As an unintented consequence of that medieval transformation, the secular state developed in the course of subsequent centuries. Following this dialectical pattern, Brunkhorst construes the Protestant Reformation and the emergence of the constitutional state as relevant stages in the evolution of law. [.....]

The theoretical appropriation of the results of legal and historical research raises questions, which I leave to the experts. In the following, I will limit myself - proceeding from a fundamental agreement with the intention and design of this fascination sketch - to a discussion of certain aspects of its theoretical construction. Above all, I will briefly deal with five questions:

1: Does the linear arrangement of the subsequent functional differentiation of the legal, the political, the economic and the educational system not draw an oversimplified (and, with regard to the legal system, somewhat misleading) picture of the thresholds, which punctuate the course of cultural and social modernization of Western societies?
2: How can we explain the dynamics of those transgressing normative ideas, which gave rise to the papal revolution, which inspired all subsequent socioevolutionary bursts, and which cultimated in creating the "Kantian mindset"? This mindset is supposed to provide a somewhat mysterious potential which inspires social evolution from the outset?
3: Does the fact that law is embedded in the context of world views mean that we have to see the pacemaker function of legal innovations as dependent on the evolution of world views? Does this mean that we need to see the evolutionary learning mechanism as located at a deeper level in society?
4: If we ascribe greater weight to the critical role of the development of world views, what is the actual importance of the ambivalent description of "post-metaphysical" thinking for a diagnosis of modern society?
5: What is the appropriate framework for a theory of social evolution, which attaches weight to the interplay between normative learning and systemic adaption?"