Friday, October 29, 2010

Habermas on Leadership and Leitkultur

In "New York Times", October 29, 2010:

Leadership and Leitkultur

by Jürgen Habermas.

"The question is this: Does participation in democratic procedures have only the functional meaning of silencing a defeated minority, or does it have the deliberative meaning of including the arguments of citizens in the democratic process of opinion- and will-formation?

The motivations underlying each of the three phenomena — the fear of immigrants, attraction to charismatic nonpoliticians and the grass-roots rebellion in Stuttgart — are different. But they meet in the cumulative effect of a growing uneasiness when faced with a self-enclosed and ever more helpless political system. The more the scope for action by national governments shrinks and the more meekly politics submits to what appear to be inevitable economic imperatives, the more people’s trust in a resigned political class diminishes.

The United States has a president with a clear-headed political vision, even if he is embattled and now meets with mixed feelings. What is needed in Europe is a revitalized political class that overcomes its own defeatism with a bit more perspective, resoluteness and cooperative spirit. Democracy depends on the belief of the people that there is some scope left for collectively shaping a challenging future."

Comments in the German press
- Jürgen Kaube in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (November 2, 2010)
- Christian Schlüter in Frankfurter Rundschau (November 4, 2010)

Charles Taylor: "How to Define Secularism"

New paper by Charles Taylor:

"How to Define Secularism" (pdf)

Presented at the Colloquium in Legal, Political and Social Philosophy, New York University School of Law.

Charles Taylor is Professor Emeritus of McGill University, Montreal. He is the author of "A Secular Age" (Harvard University Press, 2007).

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New book: Dryzek on deliberative governance

Foundations and Frontiers of Deliberative Governance

by John S. Dryzek

(Oxford University Press, October 2010)

256 pages


Deliberative democracy now dominates the theory, reform, and study of democracy. Working at its cutting edges, Foundations and Frontiers of Deliberative Governance reaches from conceptual underpinnings to the key challenges faced in applications to ever-increasing ranges of problems and issues. Following a survey of the life and times of deliberative democracy, the turns it has taken, and the logic of deliberative systems, contentious foundational issues receive attention. How can deliberative legitimacy be achieved in large-scale societies where face-to-face deliberation is implausible? What can and should representation mean in such systems? What kinds of communication should be valued, and why? How can competing appeals of pluralism and consensus in democratic politics be reconciled? New concepts are developed along the way: discursive legitimacy, discursive representation, systemic tests for rhetoric in democratic communication, and several forms of meta-consensus. Particular forums (be they legislative assemblies or designed mini-publics) have an important place in deliberative democracy, but more important are macro-level deliberative systems that encompass the engagement of discourses in the public sphere as well as formal and informal institutions of governance. Deliberative democracy can be applied fruitfully in areas previously off-limits to democratic theory: networked governance, the democratization of authoritarian states, and global democracy, as well as in new ways to invigorate citizen participation. In these areas and more, deliberative democracy out-performs its competitors.


Part I: Introduction
1: Deliberative Turns (pdf)

Part II: Foundations
2: Legitimacy
3: Representation
4: Communication And Rhetoric
5: Pluralism And Meta-Consensus

Part III: Frontiers
6: Governance Networks
7: The Democratization of Authoritarian States
8: Mini-Publics and Their Macro Consequences
9: Global Politics

Part IV: Conclusion
10: Integrated Foundations and Long Frontiers

See a preview here.

John S. Dryzek is Professor of Political Science at the Australian National University. He is the author of "Discursive Democracy" (Cambridge University Press, 1990), "Deliberatice Politics and Beyond" (Oxford University Press, 2000) and "Deliberative Global Politics" (Polity Press, 2006).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fabrienne Peter on Political Legitimacy

From "Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy", a new entry by Fabienne Peter (Warwick) on

"Political Legitimacy"

Fabienne Peter is Associate Professor at the Department of Philosophy, University of Warwick. She is the author of "Democratic Legitimacy" (Routledge, 2008).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Christopher F. Zurn on the Logic of Legitimacy

Now available on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN):

The Logic of Legitimacy: Bootstrapping Paradoxes of Constitutional Democracy

by Christopher F. Zurn

Many have claimed that legitimate constitutional democracy is either conceptually or practically impossible, given infinite regress paradoxes deriving from the requirement of simultaneously democratic and constitutional origins for legitimate government. This paper first critically investigates prominent conceptual and practical bootstrapping objections to the legitimacy of constitutional democracy advanced by Barnett and Michelman. It then argues that the real conceptual root of such objections is not any specific, substantive account of legitimacy, in terms of, say, consent or democratic endorsement, but rather a particular conception of the logic of normative standards - the determinate threshold conception - that the critic attributes to the putatively undermined account of legitimacy. The paper further claims that when we abandon threshold conceptions of the logic of legitimacy in favor of regulative ideal conceptions, then the objections from bootstrapping paradoxes to the very idea of constitutional democracy disappear. It concludes with considerations in favor of adopting a more demanding conception of the regulative ideal of constitutional democracy, advanced by Habermas, focusing on potentials for developmental learning.

Christopher F. Zurn is Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts, Boston. He is the author of "Deliberative Democracy and the Institutions of Judicial Review" (Cambridge University Press, 2007) and co-editor of "Anerkennung" (Akademie Verlag, 2009).

Read an interview with Christopher F. Zurn here.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Review of Honneth's "Pathologies of Reason"

From "Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews" (October 14, 2010):

Professor David Owen (Southampton) reviews

"Pathologies of Reason: On the Legacy of Critical Theory" by Axel Honneth (Columbia University Press, 2009).

See an excerpt from Chapter 2 of Axel Honneth's book: "A Social Pathology of Reason. On the Intellectual Legacy of Critical Theory" (pdf).

David Owen is Professor of Social and Political Philosophy at University of Southampton. He is co-editor of "Recognition and Power. Axel Honneth and the Tradition of Critical Social Theory" (Cambridge University Press, 2007).

Friday, October 15, 2010

Habermas on Rawls's senior thesis on religion

Jürgen Habermas has written an afterword to the German translation of John Rawls's senior thesis from 1942, "A Brief Inquiry into the Meaning of Sin and Faith" (Harvard University Press, 2009).

Habermas's afterword is entitled "Das »gute Leben« eine »abscheuliche Phrase«. Welche Bedeutung hat die religiöse Ethik des jüngen Rawls für dessen Politischen Theorie?" (John Rawls - "Über Sünde, Glaube und Religion" (Suhrkamp Verlag, 2010), pp. 315-336).

Here is Habermas's own abstract:

"Die hochgemute, für einen einundzwanzigjährigen Studenten reife Schrift verdient zunächst Interesse als ein überraschendes Zeugnis für die Biographie des Werkes und der Person des beteutendsten politischen Theoretikers des 20. Jahrhunderts. Die philosophische Substanz der Abschlußarbeit besteht in einer kommunikationstheoretisch entfalteten religiösen Ethik, die schon alle wesentlichen Aspekte einer auf den absoluten Wert des Individuums zugeschnittenen, egalitär-universalistischen Sollenethik enthält. Der posthum eröffnete biographischen Einblick in die Anfänge des Werkes bietet zugleich ein herausragendes Beispiel für die philosophische Übersetzung religiöser Motive. Wie durch ein Brennglas vergrößert liegen hier die religiösen Wurzeln einer deontologischen, auf Vernunft allein gegründeten Konzeption frei. Die Abschlußarbeit des Studenten enthält auch Motive für die spätere Erkenntnis, daß die Säkularisierung der Staatsgewalt nicht mit der Säkularisierung der Bürgergesellschaft verwechselt werden darf. Rawls' einzigartige Stellung in der Tradition des Vernunfts-rechts verdankt sich der systematischen Berücksichtigung des weltanschaulichen Pluralismus."

The afterword will also be published in "Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie" vol. 98 no. 5 (forthcoming, 2010).

The title of Habermas's afterword refers to the following passage in John Rawls's senior thesis:

"We maintain that Plato, in the above argument, has assumed two things: (a) that the good is an object, that is, that it exists as the "other" in what we have termed a natural relation; (b) that all men do in fact, seek this good, since it is apparently not in human nature not to do so. If these presuppositions are correct, if the good exists in natural relations and all men seek it, then I think Plato is absolutely right in arguing that knowledge is virtue. [.....] Are we to agree with Plato? Most certainly not. We must say a vigorous "no" to all the foregoing considerations. And how do we propose to answer him. Very simply. We shall deny both presuppositions. (a) We do not believe that the "good life" (detestable phrase) consists in seeking any object, but that it is rather something totally different, a matter of personal relations; and (b) we deny that men seek the "good" so named." (p. 160f).

See my previous post on Rawls's book

Also published as "Das „gute Leben“ eine „abscheuliche Phrase“. Welche Bedeutung hat die religiöse Ethik des jungen Rawls für dessen Politische Theorie? in Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie, vol. 58, no. 5, (2010), pp. 797-810.

An English translation: "The ‘Good Life’— A ‘Detestable Phrase’: The Significance of the Young Rawls's Religious Ethics for His Political Theory", European Journal of Philosophy vol. 18 no. 3 (2010) pp. 443-453.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dworkin on Human Rights & International Law

New working paper by Ronald Dworkin:

Human Rights and International Law (pdf)

Presented at the Colloquium in Legal, Political and Social Philosophy, New York University School of Law.

Ronald Dworkin is Professor of Philosophy at New York University. See my post on Dworkin's forthcoming book "Justice for Hedgehogs" (Harvard University Press, 2010).

Monday, October 11, 2010

Symposium: Martha Nussbaum on same-sex marriage

In California Law Review (vol. 98 no. 3, 2010), a symposium on Martha Nussbaum's view on same-sex marriage and the constitution:

A Right to Marry? (pdf)
- Martha Nussbaum

Let‘s Call the Whole Thing Off: Can States Abolish the Institution of Marriage? (pdf)
- Pamela S. Karlan

Response to Martha Nussbaum’s "A Right to Marry?" (pdf)
- David Novak

Response to Martha Nussbaum (pdf)
- Michael Warner

Reply (pdf)
- Martha Nussbaum

See my previous posts on Martha Nussbaum's book "From Disgust to Humanity. Sexual Orientation and Constitutional Law" (Oxford University Press, 2010):
- Interview with Nussbaum in "The Nation" (February, 2010)
- Entry on Nussbaum's book (February, 2010)
- Video of Nussbaum's lecture on same-sex marriage (October 2009).

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What Does Justice Mean Today?

Im Rahmen der „Frankfurter Bürger-Universität“ veranstaltet der Exzellenzcluster „Die Herausbildung normativer Ordnungen“ (Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main) eine groß angelegte Reihe zum Thema Gerechtigkeit:

Was heißt Gerechtigkeit heute?


15. November 2010, 19.30 Uhr
Was heißt Gerechtigkeit heute? Zur Aktualität eines umkämpften Ideals
Podiumsdiskussion: Hartmut Fritz (Caritas), Klaus Günther (Goethe-Universität), Jan Lamprecht (Goethe-Universität), Werner Müller-Esterl (Goethe-Universität)

29. November 2010, 19.30 Uhr
Bilder der Gerechtigkeit. Zum Verständnis der ersten Tugend sozialer Institutionen
Vortrag: Rainer Forst (Goethe-Universität)

6. Dezember 2010, 19.30 Uhr
Die neue Klassenfrage. Strategien gegen Bildungsarmut: Schulsystem und soziale Blockaden
Podiumsdiskussion: Jutta Ebeling (Die Grünen), Andreas Gold (Goethe-Universität), Wolfgang Herbst (Internatsschule Schloss Hansenberg), Udo Rauin (Goethe-Universität), Mechthild Wagenhoff (Carlo-Mierendorff-Schule)

13. Dezember 2010, 19.30 Uhr
Arbeit und Anerkennung. Anmerkungen zu einem grundlegenden Verhältnis
Vortrag: Axel Honneth (Goethe-Universität)

17. Januar 2011, 19.30 Uhr
Ökologie als soziale Frage. Environmental Justice: Wen trifft der Klimawandel?
Podiumsdiskussion: Tanja Brühl (Goethe-Universität), Manuela Rottmann (Die Grünen), Christian-Dietrich Schönwiese (Goethe-Universität)

24. Januar 2011, 19.30 Uhr
Rechnung auf Morgen. Schuldenfalle und Zukunftsinvestitionen: Was schulden wir zukünftigen Generationen?
Vortrag: Stefan Gosepath (Goethe-Universität)

31. Januar 2011, 19.30 Uhr
An anderen Orten. Empathie und eigene Sorgen: Wie solidarisch ist unsere Gesellschaft nach außen?
Podiumsdiskussion: Nicole Deitelhoff (Goethe-Universität), Tom Koenigs (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen)

7. Februar 2011, 19.30 Uhr
Frankfurt is it! Wem gehört die Stadt? Gerechtigkeit und kulturelle Teilhabe
Podiumsdiskussion: Alexander Brill (Schauspiel Frankfurt), Clémentine Deliss (Frankfurter Museum der Weltkulturen), Christoph Menke (Goethe-Universität), Felix Semmelroth (CDU)

Interview with Eva Gilmer, Suhrkamp Verlag

From the Frankfurt Book Fair 2010, an interview with Eva Gilmer, editor and translator, Suhrkamp Verlag, Berlin:

"Auch Habermas macht Kommafehler" (video)

(Die Zeit, October 7, 2010)

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Review of Talisse's "Democracy and Moral Conflict"

From "Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews" (October 7, 2010):

Professor Terence Ball (Arizona State University) reviews

"Democracy and Moral Conflict" by Robert B. Talisse
(Cambridge University Press, 2009)

"Talisse's brief book is a minor masterpiece of concise argumentation in which he advances a genuinely novel defense of democracy."

Robert Talisse is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Political Science at Vanderbilt University.

See my post on Talisse's book here.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Amartya Sen speaks in Frankfurt

Professor Amartya Sen will give a lecture at Frankfurt University, October 7, 2010:

"Justice and the Global World"

Sen's new book "The Idea of Justice" (Harvard University Press, 2009) has been published in German by Beck Verlag,"Die Idee der Gerechtigkeit" (2010).

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Cristina Lafont on Human Rights

From the latest issue of "Ethics & Global Politics" (3/2010):

"Accountability and Global Governance: Challenging the State-Centric Conception of Human Rights" [pdf]

by Cristina Lafont

In this paper I analyze some conceptual difficulties associated with the demand that global institutions be made more democratically accountable. In the absence of a world state, it may seem inconsistent to insist that global institutions be accountable to all those subject to their decisions while also insisting that the members of these institutions, as representatives of states, simultaneously remain accountable to the citizens of their own countries for the special responsibilities they have toward them. This difficulty seems insurmountable in light of the widespread acceptance of a state-centric conception of human rights, according to which states and only states bear primary responsibility for the protection of their citizens’ rights. Against this conception, I argue that in light of the current structures of global governance the monistic ascription of human rights obligations to states is no longer plausible. Under current conditions, states are bound to fail in their ability to protect the human rights of their citizens whenever potential violations either stem from transnational regulations or are perpetrated by non-state actors. In order to show the plausibility of an alternative, pluralist conception of human rights obligations I turn to the current debate among scholars of international law regarding the human rights obligations of non-state actors. I document the various ways in which these obligations could be legally entrenched in global financial institutions such as the WTO, the IMF, and the World Bank. These examples indicate feasible methods for strengthening the democratic accountability of these institutions while also respecting the accountability that participating member states owe to their own citizens. I conclude that, once the distinctions between the obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights are taken into account, no conceptual difficulty remains in holding states and non-state actors accountable for their respective human rights obligations.

Cristina Lafont is Professor of Philosophy at Northwestern University, Evanston. She is the author of "Heidegger, Language and World-Disclosure" (Cambridge University Press, 2000) and co-editor of "Habermas Handbuch" (Metzler Verlag, 2009).

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Empirical Perspective on Religious and Secular Reasons

On "The Immanent Frame", John H. Evans has a very interesting entry on

"An Empirical Perspective on Religious and Secular Reasons"

"A few political scientists have examined the use of religious and secular reasons by the largely evangelical Protestant religious Right. If anyone would want to use religious reasons, it would be these activists. But what the scholars find is that, in fact, the religious Right offers secular reasons for their policy proposals. This is not because they are normatively sanctioned for using religious reasons, as critics of liberal theory suggest. Rather, religious reasons do not convince people to accept one’s position. In a country with diverse comprehensive perspectives, and especially when trying to pass a national, not a local, law, it just does not work to give “Leviticus 18:22″ as your reason. The upshot of this empirical finding is that unless the U.S. public sphere becomes less religiously pluralistic, religious activists trying to enact legislation will not want to use religious reasons. The claims of the critics of public reason thus appear to be moot."

John H. Evans is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of "Playing God? Human Genetic Engineering and the Rationalization of Public Bioethical Debate" (The University of Chicago Press, 2002) and "Contested Reproduction: Genetic Technologies, Religion, and Public Debate" (The University of Chicago Press, October 2010).

See his article (co-written with Kathy Hudson) on "Religion and Reproductive Genetics" (pdf).