Thursday, August 27, 2015

New Book: "Transformations of Democracy"

Transformations of Democracy
Crisis, Protest and Legitimation

Edited by Robin Celikates, Regina Kreide and Tilo Wesche

(Rowman & Littlefield, 2015)

290 pages


Is democracy in crisis? On the one hand, it seems to be decaying under the leadership of political elites who make decisions behind closed doors. On the other hand, citizens are taking to the streets to firmly assert their political participation across the globe. Drawing on a range of theoretical and empirical perspectives, this collection examines the multiple transformations which both the practice and the idea of democracy are undergoing today. It starts by questioning whether there is a crisis of democracy, or if part of this crisis lies in the inadequacy of social and political theory to describe current challenges. Exploring a range of violent and non-violent forms of resistance, the book goes on to ask how these are related to the arts, what form of civility they require and whether they undermine the functioning of institutions. In the final section of the book, the contributors examine the normative foundations of democratic practices and institutions, especially with regard to the tension between human rights and democracy and the special character of democratic authority.

Contents [preview]

Introduction - Robin Celikates, Regina Kriede & Tilo Wesche

Part I: Democracy in Crisis?

1. The European Crisis: The Paradoxes of Constitutionalising Democratic Capitalism [video] [podcast] - Hauke Brunkhorst
2. Democracy in Crisis: Why Political Philosophy Needs Social Theory (draft) - Regina Kreide
3. Radical Philosophy Encounters the Uprisings: Lessons from Greece - Costas Douzinas
4. Citizenship, Democracy and the Plurality of Means, Forms and Levels of Participation [podcast] -Andreas Niederberger

Part II: Disobedience, Protest, and the Public Sphere

5. Being Agitated – Agitated Being: Art and Activism in Times of Protest - Oliver Marchart
6. An Ethics of Public Political Deliberation - Simone Chambers
7. Resisting Resistance [podcast] - Jane Mansbridge
8. Digital Publics, Digital Contestation [draft] - Robin Celikates

Part III: Democracy Revisited: New Normative Foundations for Democracy?

9. Is There a Human Right to Democracy? [paper] - David Miller
10. Democracy and Moral Rights - Stefan Gosepath
11. Normative Sources of Democratic Deliberation - Tilo Wesche
12. Democratic Autonomy and Democratic Authority - Henry S. Richardson

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Dissertation on Habermas's view on religion

A comprehensive dissertation on Jürgen Harbernas's view on religion:

"Postmetaphysical Reason and Postsecular Consciousness: Habermas' Analysis of Religion in the Public Sphere" [pdf] (Stony Brook University, December 2012)

by  Javier Aguirre


"My dissertation is an exegetical, reconstructive and critical project on Jürgen Habermas' recent account of the role of religion in the public sphere. It is an exegetical dissertation insofar as it interprets Habermas' account as presented in his article Religion in the Public Sphere. It is reconstructive since it develops an analysis of Habermas' previous works as well as his new thoughts related to the key concepts involved in his argument. Finally, it is critical because it offers as well, based on the previous exegesis and reconstruction, a critical perspective of some of the weakness and deficiencies of Habermas' account.
Among the potential philosophical contributions that I attempted to obtain with the development of my project I count, at least, the following. First, by developing a philosophical-political analysis of the relevance of religion, I hope to be able to problematize, from a Habermasian perspective, questions like (and related to) the following: Do my epistemic beliefs or attitudes toward religion condition my belonging to a democratic-political community? Second, my dissertation will offer an integral and systematic interpretation of Habermas' work hoping to provide solid basis to understand his recent approach on religion. Clearly, an integral interpretation is in a better position to assess, and produce, fair critiques of any philosophical perspective, in this case, Habermas' account of the role of religion in the public sphere. As a consequence, thirdly, I expect my dissertation to produce enough conceptual tools to develop a critique of Habermas' view. This critique, to be sure, will refer to the main conceptual foundations of Habermas' account. Nevertheless, it will also be especially applied to Habermas' argument on liberal eugenics and PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis); an argument that, in fact, he presents as a case in point for understanding the potential contribution of religious doctrines for public debates within a democratic society."

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Habermas and Taylor to share Kluge Prize from Library of Congress

Jürgen Habermas and Charles Taylor will share the prestigious $1.5 million John W. Kluge Prize 2015 for Achievement in the Study of Humanity awarded by the Library of Congress. 

See the press release from the Library of Congress here.

Why Awarded

Jürgen Habermas is one the world's most important living philosophers. His contributions to philosophy and the social sciences have gained world-wide influence, and for a half-century he has acted as a public conscience of the German nation and Europe as a whole. Translated into more than 40 languages, his work has contributed to epistemology, philosophy of language, philosophy of religion, democractic theory, jurisprudence and social theory. He has written and co-authored hundreds of books, articles, papers, speeches and chapters, and is widely read and cited both inside academia and beyond it.

Charles Taylor is one of the most prominent, influential and powerful active philosophers on the world stage. Best known for his contributions to political philosophy, the philosophy of social science, the history of philosophy and intellectual history, his work has received international acclaim and has influenced academia and the world at-large. Published in 20 languages, his writings link disparate academic disciplines and range from reflections on artificial intelligence to analyses of contemporary multicultural societies to the study of religion and what it means to live in a secular age.

A ceremony will be held on September 29 in Washington.

Among the previous prize winners are Leszek Kolakowski and Paul Ricoeur.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Interview with Nancy Fraser on "Transnationalization the Public Sphere"

At "New Books in Critical Theory", an interview with Nancy Fraser on her book "Transnationalization the Public Sphere" (Polity Press, 2014):

Interview with Nancy Fraser (audio, 1 hour).

The interview covers the history and formation of public sphere theory, the currents and forces in the "postnational constellation" that demands its rethinking, critical theory, what normative legitimacy and political efficacy look like on the transnational scale.

See my post on Nancy Fraser's book here. The first chapter is available here.

See also this interview with Nancy Fraser in "Eurozine": An astonishing time of great boldness (pdf).

Nancy Fraser is Professor of Political and Social Science at the New School for Social Research, NYC. She is the author of "Unruly Practices: Power, Discourse and Gender in Contemporary Social Theory" (Polity Press, 1989), "Redistribution or Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange" (Verso, 2003) [co-authored with Axel Honneth] and "Scales of Justice: Reimagining Political Space in a Globalizing World" (Polity Press, 2008).

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Habermas: The German reaction was shameful

A German version of an interview with Jürgen Habermas in the weekly French news magazine "L'Obs" (July 30, 2015):

"Die Reaktion der deutschen Regierung war schändlich"

The interview was conducted by Odile Benyahia-Kouider.


Q: Meinungsumfragen zeigen, dass eine deutliche Mehrheit der Deutschen den Positionen der Bundesregierung von Angela Merkel zustimmt, obwohl die Verhandlungen für Griechenlands Regierung erniedrigend waren. Bedeutet das, die Deutschen haben an Europa als einem politischen Projekt kein Interesse mehr?

A: Was erwarten Sie von einer Bevölkerung, die von ihren Regierungen nie ernsthaft mit europäischen Fragen konfrontiert worden ist? Bei uns gibt es ein Sprichwort: Wie man in den Wald hineinruft, so schallt es heraus. Die Europapolitik, die von Anbeginn über die Köpfe unserer Bevölkerungen hinweg betrieben worden ist, ist das Paradebeispiel für den allgemeinen Trend einer Austrocknung der politischen Öffentlichkeit. Regierungen, die ihre Wähler eher einlullen als aufscheuchen möchten, werden von einer Presse unterstützt, die lieber Kunden betreut statt Konflikte aufzugreifen und aufzuklären. Die deutschen Wähler haben von der Krisenpolitik der letzten Jahre Schlagworte wie "Solidarität gegen Solidität" im Ohr. Ihnen ist das Gefühl gegeben worden, dass sie die Kanzlerin, die ihr Geld zusammenhält, nur machen lassen sollen. Die CDU hat die sogenannte "Transferunion" zum Schreckgespenst aufgeplustert; und jetzt haben alle Parteien Angst, diese selbstgebastelte Hürde zu nehmen. Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel hat soeben noch vor dem Bundestag ihr Mantra wiederholt: "Mit mir wird es keinen Schuldenschnitt geben". Dabei weiß sie so gut wie der IWF, dass eine zügige Rekonstruktion der griechischen Schulden ganz unvermeidlich ist. Statt ihren Wählern unangenehme politische Alternativen zu erklären, kaufen die politischen Eliten Zeit mit Milliardenkrediten.
Lassen Sie mich auf Ihre Frage zurückkommen. Abgesehen davon, dass die verteufelten Transfers längst stattfinden, gibt es durchaus empirische Anhaltspunkte dafür, dass eine hartnäckige, informierte öffentliche Debatte über die Notwendigkeiten und die längerfristigen Vorteile einer gemeinsamen Fiskal-, Wirtschafts- und Sozialpolitik in Deutschland zu einem Meinungsumschwung führen können.

Q: Hat diese griechische Krise gezeigt, dass die EU ohne politische Einheit nicht überleben wird?

A: Ja, ohne die zusammenführenden Kräfte einer politischen Union werden unsere nationalen Wirtschaften weiter auseinanderdriften. Die europäische Währungsgemeinschaft ist zu heterogen zusammengesetzt. Wir können deshalb nur noch zurück- oder vorangehen. "Der Stillstand ist der Tod", sagt ein Filmtitel meines Freundes Alexander Kluge. Ich glaube, dass die Auflösung der Eurozone wohl nur als Konsequenz einer  unbeabsichtigten Kettenreaktion eintreten könnte. Dann müsste gerade die Linke für das Zurück zum Nationalstaat einen hohen Preis zahlen. Denn ohne eine supranational handlungsfähige Euro-Union müsste sie jede Hoffnung auf eine politische Reregulierung der aus dem Ruder gelaufenen Finanzwirtschaft fahren lassen. Aber auch der andere Weg ist riskant. Starke Interessen zielen auf eine technokratische Banken-, Fiskal- und Wirtschaftsunion, die ohne demokratische Geräusche Marktimperative geräuschlos umsetzt. Daher wird alles darauf ankommen, dem Europäischen Parlament die gleichen Rechte einzuräumen wie dem Rat. Das funktioniert wiederum nur, wenn es gelingt, ein europaweites Parteiensystem aufzubauen und die Bevölkerungen selbst in einen politischen Prozess einzubeziehen, der bisher an ihnen vorbeiläuft. Vor wenigen Wochen haben der französische und der deutsche Wirtschaftsminister, Macron und Gabriel, ein Papier lanciert, das in dieser Hinsicht doch noch sehr ambivalent ist. Ein "europäischer Finanzminister" ist keine Lösung.

See the French translation of the interview in "L'Obs": "La réaction abrupte de l'Allemagne a été indigne". 

See also Gregor Dotzauer's article on Habermas in "Der Tagesspiegel" (July 31, 2015): "Der deutsche Deutschen-Kritiker".

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Habermas and Scharpf on Transnational Democracy in Europe

"Leviathan: Berliner Zeitschrift für Sozialwissenschaft" (vol. 43, no. 2, 2015) contains a new text by Jürgen Habermas:

Der Demos der Demokratie – eine Replik

"Fritz Scharpf assumes that national economic cultures and lifestyles within the European Monetary Union are too heterogeneous to allow a common democratic legislation on the basis of informal generalizable interests. Even if this were feasible, a democratically constituted Euro-Union is not even desirable. This variant of the well-known no-demos thesis relies implicitly on a political theory that the acceptance of democratic majority decisions is always dependent on an intact socially-inclusive implicite consensus of the citizens. The criticism is directed against both the philosophical presuppositions of this theory as well as against the application of the principle of the indisputable legal protection of cultural identities of unique national economic cultures. The common elements in a civil society which define its identity change not only as part of social evolution processes, they are formed by democratic involvement in civil societal processes of self-understanding. An expansion of the monetary union to a political union could stop the undemocratic connection of apparent nation-state sovereignty with the actually enforced technocratic compliance to market imperatives „without alternatives“. A return to national currencies, on the other hand, would mean resigning the progressingly political self-emasculation of policy to the globalized financial markets."

Habermas's comments are a response to Fritz Scharpf's "Das Dilemma der supranationalen Demokratie in Europa" (Leviathan vol. 43 no. 1, 2015), where Scharpf criticized Habermas's article ”Warum der Ausbau der Europäischen Union zu einer supranationalen Demokratie nötig und wie er möglich ist” (Leviathan vol. 42 no. 4, 2014). [An English translation of Habermas's article is available here.] 

Scharpf is responding to Habermas's comments in the same issue of Leviathan: "Deliberative Demokratie in der europäischen Mehrebenenpolitik – eine zweite Replik".

Essays on Honneth's "Freedom's Rights"

The current issue of "Critical Horizons: A Journal of Philosophy and Social Theory" (May 2015) features essays on Axel Honneth's book "Freedom's Right" (Columbia University Press, 2014) and a response by Honneth:

Misdevelopments, Pathologies, and Normative Revolutions [pdf] - Jörg Schaub

Honneth on Social Pathologies: A Critique [pdf] - Fabian Freyenhagen

Social Freedom and Self-Actualization [pdf] - David N. McNeill

Social Freedom and Progress in the Family - Lois McNay

Is the Market a Sphere of Social Freedom? [pdf] - Timo Jütten

Rejoinder - Axel Honneth

Friday, July 17, 2015

Habermas on the EU/Greece debt deal

A short interview with Habermas, published by "The Guardian" (July 16, 2015):

Habermas on the EU-Greece debt deal.

See reports in

- New York Times

- Liberation

See also Habermas's article on the Greek debt crisis (June 2015).

Friday, July 10, 2015

Kenneth Baynes on Habermas - A New Introduction


by Kenneth Baynes

(Routledge, August 2015)

256 pages


In this introduction Kenneth Baynes engages with the full range of Habermas’s philosophical work, addressing his early arguments concerning the emergence of the public sphere and his initial attempt to reconstruct a critical theory of society in Knowledge and Human Interests. He then examines one of Habermas’s most influential works, The Theory of Communicative Action, including his controversial account of the rational interpretation of social action. Also covered is Habermas’s work on discourse ethics, political and legal theory, including his views on the relation between democracy and constitutionalism, and his arguments concerning human rights and cosmopolitanism. The final chapter assesses Habermas’s role as a polemical and prominent public intellectual and his criticism of postmodernism in The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, in addition to his more recent writings on the relationship between religion and democracy.


1. Life and Works 
2. Habermas’s Initial Attempts at a Critical Theory of Society 
3. The Theory of Communicative Action: Habermas’s Model of a Critical Social Science 
4. Habermas’s "Kantian Pragmatism" 
5. Locating Discourse Morality 
6. Democracy and the Rechtsstaat: Habermas’s Between Facts and Norms 
7. Deliberative Democracy, Public Reason, and Democracy Beyond the Nation-State 
8. A "Sobered" Philosophy: Postmodernism, Postmetaphysical Thinking, and Postsecularism 
9. Conclusion

Kenneth Baynes is Professor of Philosophy at Syracuse University, USA. He is the author of "The Normative Grounds of Social Criticism: Kant, Rawls and Habermas" (State University of New York Press, 1992) and co-editor (with Rene von Schomberg) of "Discourse and Democracy. Essays on Habermas's Between Facts and Norms" (State University of New York Press, 2002).


"An exceptionally valuable introduction and guide to the career of Jürgen Habermas. Baynes links Habermas’s work to debates in recent American analytic philosophy, as well as to that of prominent European thinkers, whose significance Baynes clearly explains. This book will inform professional philosophical discussion, and also serve as an accessible and always reliable guide for graduate and advanced undergraduate courses." - Hugh Baxter, Boston University.

"Baynes' book is at once an up-to-date synthesis centered on the leitmotif of Kantian pragmatism, a summary of Habermas’s debates with major interlocutors in Continental and Analytic philosophy, a probing critique of his social and political theory, and a lucid, concise, and accessible introduction suitable for teaching. It is the most successful overview of Europe’s most prominent philosopher and social thinker now available." - Matthew Specter, Central Connecticut State University.

"Baynes really knows his Habermas and he writes clearly and fluidly. Accessible and sophisticated at the same time, scholar and undergraduate alike will find this book a worthwhile read." - Simone Chambers, University of Toronto.

Other introductions to Habermas:

James Gordon Finlayson - Habermas: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2005)

Lasse Thomassen - Habermas: A Guide for the Perplexed (Continuum, 2010)

David Ingram - Habermas - Introduction and Analysis (Cornell University Press, 2010)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy

Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy, Volume 1

Ed. by David Sobel, Peter Vallentyne & Steven Wall

(Oxford University Press, 2015)

336 pages


This is the inaugural volume of Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy (OSPP). Since its revival in the 1970s political philosophy has been a vibrant field in philosophy, one that intersects with jurisprudence, normative economics, political theory in political science departments, and just war theory. OSPP aims to publish some of the best contemporary work in political philosophy and these closely related subfields. 

Contents [preview]

Introduction [preview] - Steven Wall

Part I. Democracy

1. Justice, Political and Social - Philip Pettit 
2. Voting and Causal Responsibility [video] - Geoffrey Brennan & Geoffrey Sayre-McCord 

Part II. Political Liberalism and Public Reason

3. Political Liberalism: Its Motivations and Goals - Charles Larmore 
4. Political Liberalism, Political Independence and Moral Authority [draft] - Dale Dorsey 
5. Against Public Reason [paper] - David Enoch

Part III. Rights and Duties

6. Territorial Rights: Justificatory Strategies [draft] - A. John Simmons
7. Can Reductive Individualists Allow Defense Against Political Aggression?  - Helen Frowe 
8. Elbow Room for Rights - Eric Mack 
9. Rights and Responsibilities - Jonathan Quong & Rebecca Stone 
10. What is Wrongful Exploitation? [draft] - Thomas Christiano

Part IV. Method

11. Value Freeness and Value Neutrality in the Analysis of Political Concepts - Ian Carter 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Habermas on the Greek debt crisis and the EU

Jürgen Habermas writes in "Süddeutsche Zeitung" (June 23, 2015) about the Greek debt crisis and the EU: 

"Europa: Sand im Getriebe"


Das griechische Wahlergebnis ist das Votum einer Nation, die sich mit deutlicher Mehrheit gegen das ebenso erniedrigende wie niederdrückende soziale Elend einer dem Land oktroyierten Sparpolitik zur Wehr setzt. An dem Votum selbst gibt es nichts zu deuteln: Die Bevölkerung lehnt die Fortführung einer Politik ab, deren Fehlschlag sie am eigenen Leibe drastisch erfahren hat. Mit dieser demokratischen Legitimation ausgestattet, macht die griechische Regierung den Versuch, einen Politikwechsel in der Euro­Zone herbeizuführen.

Dabei stößt sie in Brüssel auf die Repräsentanten von 18 anderen Regierungen, die ihre Ablehnung mit dem kühlen Hinweis auf ihr eigenes demokratisches Mandat rechtfertigen. Man erinnert sich an jene ersten Begegnungen, als sich die präpotent auftretenden Novizen in der Hochstimmung ihres Triumphes mit den teils paternalistisch­onkelhaft, teils routiniert­abfällig reagierenden Eingesessenen einen grotesken Schlagabtausch lieferten: Beide Seiten pochten papageienhaft darauf, vom jeweilig eigenen "Volk" autorisiert worden zu sein.

Die ungewollte Komik ihres einträchtig nationalstaatlichen Denkens führte der europäischen Öffentlichkeit unübertrefflich vor Augen, was wirklich fehlt ­ ein Fokus für eine gemeinsame politische Willensbildung der Bürger über folgenreiche politische Weichenstellungen in Kerneuropa

English translation at "Social Europe":

"Why Angela Merkel is Wrong on Greece"

See also Derek Scally's report in "The Irish Times":
"Greek crisis: Merkel placing investors above democracy, says Habermas"

French translation in "Le Monde" (June 24, 2015):

"La scandaleuse politique grecque de l’Europe

Swedish translation in "Dagens Nyheter" (June 24, 2015):

"Det är vi som bär skulden, inte Grekland

Danish translation in "Information" (June 26, 2015):

"Hvorfor EU’s politik over for Grækenland har spillet fallit" 

(Desværre er Habermas's kritik af den græske regering udeladt!)


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Rawls's lectures on Modern Political Philosophy [updated]

Harvard Philosophy Department has uploaded John Rawls' lectures on "Modern Political Philosophy" in the spring semester of 1984 (audio only). 

All eleven lectures are now available:

Lecture 1

Introduction; Fundamental ideas (social cooperation, a well-ordered society).

See Lecture 1 in John Rawls's book "Political Liberalism" (Columbia University Press, 1993), and his "Justice as Fairness" (Belknap Press, 2001), pp. 1-12.

Lecture 2

Fundamental ideas (the basic structure of society, the original position, free and equal persons).

See Lecture 1 in John Rawls's book "Political Liberalism" (Columbia University Press, 1993), and his book "Justice as Fairness" (Belknap Press, 2001), pp. 14-24.

Lecture 3

Fundamental ideas (justification and reflective equilibrium).

See John Rawls's book "Justice as Fairness" (Belknap Press, 2001), pp. 26-32.

Lecture 4

John Locke, part 1

See John Rawls's book "Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy" (ed. by Samuel Freeman, Belknap Press, 2007), pp. 103-137.

Lecture 5

John Locke, part 2

See John Rawls's book "Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy" (ed. by Samuel Freeman, Belknap Press, 2007), pp. 103-137.

Lecture 6

David Hume

See John Rawls's book "Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy" (ed. by Samuel Freeman, Belknap Press, 2007), pp. 159-187.

Lecture 7

Locke and Hume. The principles of justice

See John Rawls's book "Justice as Fairness" (Belknap Press, 2001), part II.

Lecture 8

The principles of justice II

See John Rawls's book "Justice as Fairness" (Belknap Press, 2001), part II.

Lecture 9

Kant's "Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals"

See John Rawls's "Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy" (Harvard University Press, 2000), pp. 143ff.

Lecture 10

Kant's "Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals" II

See John Rawls's "Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy" (Harvard University Press, 2000), pp. 143ff.

Lecture 11

The Original Position 

See John Rawls's "Justice of Fairness" (Belknap Press, 2001), part III, and his lectures on "Kantian Constructivism in Moral Theory", published in his "Collected Papers" (Harvard University Press, 1999) pp. 303-358.