Monday, December 07, 2009

Book on Habermas's discourse theory on democracy

Der Sinn von Demokratie.
Die Diskurstheorie der Demokratie und die Debatte über die Legitimität der EU

by Daniel Gaus

(Campus Verlag, 2009)

[from here]

The discourse-theoretical argument on democracy is often criticised for being utopian, in that it provided a blueprint for a just political order and missed institutional reality in actual democracies. Daniel Gaus argues that this criticism is based on a misreading of Habermas’ theory. He argues that, contrary to some interpretation, discourse theory on democracy and law does not aim to normatively justify a certain model of a democratic society.

Instead, it seeks to describe and explain real-world political practice in modern democracies with a focus on a specific object of analysis: collective belief systems regarding the legitimacy of political rule. The main hypothesis of discourse theory is, that during a socio-historical learning process, the concept of the democratic constitutional state has evolved into the normative ideal of political order. Or, in other words, within the collective consciousness of modern societies, the concepts of democracy, statehood and law together cover the necessary conditions for legitimate political rule.

Seen as a contribution to a reconstructive sociology of democracy, Habermas’ discourse theory needs further elaboration to substantiate its central hypotheses. Gaus argues that European integration could be seen as a test case in this regard. However, the question, then, would not be whether or how the EU could or should become a constitutional state. Instead, empirical analysis of justificatory practices of political rule would be necessary to answer the question, whether the ideal of the democratic constitutional state actually orients legitimacy judgments – in the political practice of the nation-states as well as in the political practice of the European Union.



Die Habermassche Theorie

Exemplarische Analyse zweier Rechtfertigungen der Rechtsordnung
der Europäischen Union

Schlussbetrachtung und Ausblick

Daniel Gaus is Senior Researcher at ARENA, Centre for European Studies, University of Oslo, Norway.

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