Sunday, March 10, 2019

An Intellectual Biography of John Rawls

John Rawls. The Path to a Theory of Justice

by Andrius Gališanka

(Harvard University Press, 2019)

272 pages


It is hard to overestimate the influence of John Rawls on political philosophy and theory over the last half-century. His books have sold millions of copies worldwide, and he is one of the few philosophers whose work is known in the corridors of power as well as in the halls of academe. Rawls is most famous for the development of his view of “justice as fairness,” articulated most forcefully in his best-known work, A Theory of Justice. In it he develops a liberalism focused on improving the fate of the least advantaged, and attempts to demonstrate that, despite our differences, agreement on basic political institutions is both possible and achievable.

Critics have maintained that Rawls’s view is unrealistic and ultimately undemocratic. In this incisive new intellectual biography, Andrius Gališanka argues that in misunderstanding the origins and development of Rawls’s central argument, previous narratives fail to explain the novelty of his philosophical approach and so misunderstand the political vision he made prevalent. Gališanka draws on newly available archives of Rawls’s unpublished essays and personal papers to clarify the justifications Rawls offered for his assumption of basic moral agreement. Gališanka’s intellectual-historical approach reveals a philosopher struggling toward humbler claims than critics allege.



1. Protestant Beginnings
2. Drawing on Logical Positivism
3. Engagement with Wittgensteinian Philosophy
4. The Fair Games of Autonomous Persons
5. Practices of Reasoning
6. Natural Bases of Justice
7. No Shortcuts in Philosophy
8. Kantian Autonomy
9. A Theory of Justice


Appendix A: John Rawls: Courses Taken and Taught
Appendix B: John Rawls: Publications

Andrius Gališanka is an Assistant Professor at Wake Forest University. He is co-editor (with Mark Bevir) of "Wittgenstein and Normative Inquiry" (Brill, 2016).

See his dissertation: "The Path to A Theory of Justice" (pdf).

See also two papers by Gališanka:

**"John Rawls in Historical Context" (History of Political Thought vol. 33 No. 4, 2012)

**"Just Society as a Fair Game: John Rawls and Game Theory in the 1950s" (Journal of the History of Ideas, vol. 78. No. 2, 2017)

Monday, February 18, 2019

100th anniversary of sociology at the Goethe University in Frankfurt

In April 1919, the first Chair of Sociology was established at a German university: Franz Oppenheimer was appointed professor of sociology and economics at the Goethe University in Frankfurt. Together with the Institute for Social Research, which was founded in 1923, the sociological research at the Goethe University has had a decisive influence on the national and international research agenda. 

A jubilee celebration will take place at the Goethe University on November 12, 2019. It will include commemorative lectures by Jürgen Habermas and Saskia Sassen.

More information here.

Monday, January 07, 2019

New Book: Reconciliation and Reification

Reconciliation and Reification
Freedom's Semblance and Actuality from Hegel to Contemporary Critical Theory

by Todd Hedrick

(Oxford University Press, 2019)

297 pages


The critical theory tradition has, since its inception, sought to distinguish its perspective on society by maintaining that persons have a deep-seated interest in the free development of their personality - an interest that can only be realized in and through the rational organization of society, but which is systematically stymied by existing society. And yet tradition has struggled to specify this emancipatory interest in a way that is neither excessively utopian nor accommodating to existing society. Despite the fact that Hegel's concept of reconciliation is normally thought to run aground on the latter horn of this dilemma, this book argues that reconciliation is the best available conceptualization of emancipatory interest. Todd Hedrick presents Hegel's idea of freedom as something actualized in individuals' lives through their reconciliation with how society shapes their roles, prospects, and sense of self; it presents reconciliation as less a matter of philosophical cognition, and more of inclusion in a responsive, transparent political process. Hedrick further introduces the concept of reification, which - through its development in Marx and Lukács, through Horkheimer and Adorno - substantiates an increasingly cogent critique of reconciliation as something unachievable within the framework of modern society, as social forces that shape our identities and life prospects come to appear natural, as part of the way things just are. 
Giving equal weight to psychoanalysis and legal theory, this work critically appraises the writings of Rawls, Honneth, and Habermas as efforts to spell out a reconciliation more democratic and inclusive than Hegel's, yet still sensitive to the reifying effects of legal systems that have become autonomous and anonymous.

Contents [preview]


1. Reconciling Individuality and Sociality in Hegel's Philosophy of Right
2. Totality Fractured, Reconciliation Deferred: From Marx to Lukács, to Horkheimer and Adorno
3. Rawls' Liberal Right Hegelianism
4. Actualizing Social Freedom: Normative Reconstruction and Psychoanalysis in Honneth
5. Reification and Reconciliation in Habermas' Theory of Law and Democracy

Concluding Remarks

Todd Hedrick is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Michigan State University. He is the author of "Rawls and Habermas: Reason, Pluralism, and the Claims of Political Philosophy" (Stanford University Press, 2010). 

See also three related papers by Todd Hedrick:

* "Democratic Constitutionalism as Mediation: The Decline and Recovery of an Idea in Critical Social Theory" (2012).
* "Reifying and Reconciling Class Conflict: From Hegel’s Estates to Habermas’ Interchange Roles" (2013).
* "Reification In and Through Law: Elements of a Theory in Marx, Lukács, and Honneth" (2014).

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Upcoming books on Jürgen Habermas

The Cambridge Habermas Lexicon

(Cambridge University Press, May 2019) 

[Table of Contents]

Der junge Habermas. Eine ideengeschichtliche Untersuchung seines frühen Denkens 1952–1962

(Suhrkamp Verlag, June 2019)

Habermas global. Wirkungsgeschichte eines Werks

(Suhrkamp Verlag, June 2019)

Habermas und die Religion [extended 2nd edition]

(Wissenschaftlichen Buchgesellschaft WBG, May 2019)

Die Rahmung des Hintergrunds. Die Debatten Derrida-Searle und Derrida-Habermas

(Vittorio Klostermann, forthcoming) 

[Table of Contents]

Diskurstheoretische Glaubensverantwortung. Konturen einer religiösen Epistemologie in Auseinandersetzung mit Jürgen Habermas

(Verlag Friedrich Pustet, January 2019)

Habermas and Politics: A Critical Introduction

(Edinburgh University Press, May 2019)

                             Habermas and Feminism

                            TAINE DUNCAN
                            (Palgrave MacMillan, February 2019)