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)

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