Monday, August 30, 2010

35th Congress of the German Society for Sociology

The 35th Congress of the German Society for Sociology takes place in Frankfurt am Main, October 11 - 15, 2010, under the title "Transnationale Vergesellschaftungen / Transnationalism and Society".

See the programme here.

Among the speakers are:

Peter L. Berger (Boston)
Religion as a Transnational Force
Abstract (pdf)

Axel Honneth (Frankfurt)
Paradoxien der kapitalistischen Modernisierung
Abstract (pdf)

Renate Mayntz (Köln)
Die transnationale Ordnung globalisierter Finanzmärkte: Was lehrt uns die Krise?
Abstract (pdf)

Claus Offe (Berlin)
1968 – Akademische Soziologie und studentischer Protest
Abstract (pdf)

Rainer Forst (Frankfurt)
Justification, Critique and Power

Klaus Günther (Frankfurt)
Law as an Order of Justification and the Fact of Legal Pluralism

Author Meets Critics: Luc Boltanski
Luc Boltanski (Paris), Tanja Bogusz (Berlin), Reiner Keller (Landau)
Abstract (pdf)

Forum: Kulturelle Globalisierung - neue Formen transnationaler religiöser Vergesellschaftung
Peter L. Berger (Boston), Hansfried Kellner (Frankfurt), Thomas Luckmann (Konstanz)

See the topical paper for the congress here (German) and here (English)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Two articles by Axel Honneth

Two recent articles by Axel Honneth are now available in English:

(1) "Dissolutions of the Social: On the Social Theory of Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot" in "Constellations" vol. 17 no. 3 (September, 2010), pp. 376–389.

Originally published in Neue Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung vol. 5 no. 2 (2008), pp. 84-103. Also published in Axel Honneth's new book - "Das Ich im Wir. Studien zur Anerkennungstheorie" (Suhrkamp Verlag, 2010). See my post here.

(2) "Liberty’s Entanglements: Bob Dylan and his Era" in "Philosophy & Social Criticism" vol. 36 no. 7 (September, 2010), pp. 777-783.

Originally published in Axel Honneth (eds.) - "Bob Dylan - Ein Kongreß" (Suhrkamp Verlag, 2007).

Monday, August 23, 2010

Conference on "The Epistemology of Liberal Democracy"

The second Copenhagen Conference in Epistemology was held August 19-20 at the University of Copenhagen.

The main speakers were:

David Christensen (Brown University):
The Epistemology of Political Controversy

David Estlund (Brown University):
Democracy and Moral Knowledge

Gerald Gaus (University of Arizona):
Between Discovery and Choice: Social Equilibrium and Social Knowledge

Stephan Hartmann (Tilburg University):
Voting, Deliberation and Truth

Rainer Hegselmann (University of Bayreuth):
Epistemic Networking: Costs, Benefits, Winners and Losers

Vincent F. Hendricks (University of Copenhagen):
Logic, Learning and Pluralistic Ignorance

Michael Lynch (University of Connecticut):
Democracy and Epistemic Incommensurability

Erik J. Olsson (Lund University):
The Epistemology of Group Polarization

See the abstracts to all talks here [pdf].

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Essays on Habermas and the Post-Secular Society

Discoursing the Post-Secular
Essays on the Habermasian Post-Secular Turn

edited by Péter Losonczi & Aakash Singh

(Lit Verlag, 2010)

184 pages


This collection of essays analyzes the Habermasian post-secular turn as it has been evolving over the last decade triggering intensive debates in social and political theory, but at the same time aims to situate the arising postsecular discourse(s) within the larger intellectual environment shaped by the complex influence of the alleged "return" of religion or the religious. The volume includes studies from as diverse fields as cultural theory, social theory, political philosophy, and theory of religion, as well as theology and bioethics. Key issues such as tolerance, the nature and challenges of modernity, pluralism, knowledge and faith, human dignity, ritual, idolatry or transcendence are brought into the discussion in an inventive way, and Habermas's work is reflected upon in comparison with figures like Levinas, Vattimo, and Agnes Heller.


Editors’ Introduction

1. "Multiple Modernities, Sacredness, and the Democratic Imaginary: Religion as a Stand-in Category" - John Rundell

2. "The Relevance and the Limits of the Notion of a Post-Secular Age In Jurgen Habermas’s Theory of Toleration" - Devrim Kabasakal

3. "Beyond secularization? Notes on Habermas’s Account of the Postsecular Society" - Patrick Loobuyck & Stefan Rummens

4. "Habermas' Postsecularism: The Penetration/Preservation of the (European) Political Public Sphere" - Aakash Singh

5. "Habermas, Levinas and the Problem of the Sacred: Postsecular Strategies in Resonating Divergence" - Péter Losonczi

6. "The Permanence of the Eschatological: Reflections on Gianni Vattimo’s Hermeneutic Age" - Matthias Riedl

7. "Habermas on Religion: The Problem of Discursive Extraterritoriality" - Nicholas Adams

8. "What is Religion, and What is Religion For? Thoughts in Light of Communicative Theory and Communicative Theology" [paper, pdf] - Edmund Arens

9. "Towards a Thicker Description of Transcendence" - Michael Hoelz

10. "Human Dignity and Genetics in a Postsecular Age: Habermas’s Ideas Concerning Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis and Enhancement in the Context of Theological Tradition" - Gábor Viktor Orosz

Péter Losonczi is Associate Professor at the Institute for Intercultural Studies at the University of West Hungary, Hungary. Aakash Singh is Research Professor at the Centre for Ethics and Global Politics at LUISS University, Rome, Italy.

See also: Péter Losonczi & Aakash Singh (eds.) - "From Political Theory to Political Theology. Religious Challenges and the Prospects of Democracy" (Continuum Books, 2010).

Saturday, August 21, 2010

New critical introduction to Jürgen Habermas

Introduction and Analysis

by David Ingram

(Cornell University Press, 2010)

384 pages


Ingram's book addresses the entire range of Habermas's social theory, including his most recent and widely discussed contributions to religion, freedom and determinism, global democracy, and the consolidation of the European Union. Recognizing Habermas's position as a highly public intellectual, Ingram discusses how Habermas applies his own theory to pressing problems such as abortion, terrorism, genetic engineering, immigration, multi-culturalism, separation of religion and state, technology and mass media, feminism, and human rights. He also presents a detailed critical analysis of Habermas's key claims and arguments. Separate appendixes introduce and clarify such important concepts as causal, teleological, and narrative paradigms of explanation in action theory; contextualism versus rationalism in social scientific methods of interpretation; systems theory and functionalist explanation in social science; and decision and collective choice theory.


"This is a marvelous resource for anyone interested in better understanding the difficult and voluminous work of Jürgen Habermas. It is clearly written, comprehensive, and fair-minded in its exegesis; moreover, it provides at the same time a highly intelligent, critical analysis of central themes in the writings of Habermas."—Stephen K. White, James Hart Professor of Politics, University of Virginia

"This is a marvelously comprehensive and up-to-date analysis of Habermas’s intellectual contribution to contemporary philosophy."—Simone Chambers, University of Toronto

David Ingram is Professor of Philosophy at Loyola University Chicago. He is the author of "Habermas and the Dialectic of Reason" (Yale University Press, 1989).

See David Ingram's article: "Of Sweatshops and Subsistence: Habermas on Human Rights" [full text, pdf], Ethics & Global Politics, vol. 2 (2009), pp. 193-217.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Samuel Moyn on human rights in history

The Last Utopia
Human Rights in History

by Samuel Moyn

(Belknap Press, 2010)

352 pages


Human rights offer a vision of international justice that today’s idealistic millions hold dear. Yet the very concept on which the movement is based became familiar only a few decades ago when it profoundly reshaped our hopes for an improved humanity. In this pioneering book, Samuel Moyn elevates that extraordinary transformation to center stage and asks what it reveals about the ideal’s troubled present and uncertain future.

For some, human rights stretch back to the dawn of Western civilization, the age of the American and French Revolutions, or the post–World War II moment when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was framed. Revisiting these episodes in a dramatic tour of humanity’s moral history, The Last Utopia shows that it was in the decade after 1968 that human rights began to make sense to broad communities of people as the proper cause of justice. Across eastern and western Europe, as well as throughout the United States and Latin America, human rights crystallized in a few short years as social activism and political rhetoric moved it from the hallways of the United Nations to the global forefront.

It was on the ruins of earlier political utopias, Moyn argues, that human rights achieved contemporary prominence. The morality of individual rights substituted for the soiled political dreams of revolutionary communism and nationalism as international law became an alternative to popular struggle and bloody violence. But as the ideal of human rights enters into rival political agendas, it requires more vigilance and scrutiny than when it became the watchword of our hopes.


1. Humanity Before Human Rights.
2. Death Through Birth.
3. Why Anticolonialism Wasn't a Human Rights Movement.
4. The Purity of this Struggle.
5. International Law and Human Rights.
6. The Burden of Morality.
7. "Human Rights" in the New York Times.
8. Human Rights in the 1940s.
9. Human Rights between 1968 and 1978

Samuel Moyn is Professor of History at Columbia University.

See Samuel Moyn's lecture on "The Last Utopia" (video, 48 minutes).

An excerpt from his new book appears in "The Nation" (August 30 -September 6, 2010), entitled "Human Rights in History". Also see his "On the Genealogy of Morals" from "The Nation" in 2007.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Axel Honneth visits Oslo

Professor Axel Honneth gives a lecture at Oslo University on August 26:

"The Fabric of Justice - Limits of Proceduralism"

"The article tries, in a first step, to show that the intrinsic fabric of justice doesn`t consist of distributable goods, but of commonly accepted social relations which are composed of morally loaded practices; in these practices those regards can be found which define what it means to treat another person in a fair or just manner. If this starting point is convincing, then some methodological consequences concerning the concept of justice have to be drawn which are presented in the second step: Instead of constructing a normative procedure which allows us to deduce the content of justice, we have to start by reconstructing the social practices which inform us about the respects of justice. The result will be, as indicated in a third step, a pluralisation of our concept of justice which includes as many relevant principles of justice as there are commonly accepted and appreciated forms of social relations."

A German version is published in Honneth's new book "Das Ich im Wir. Studien zur Anerkennungstheorie" (Suhrkamp Verlag, 2010). A Portuguese translation is available online here (pdf).

Axel Honneth is Professor of Social Philosophy at Goethe University and Director of the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt am Main.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

New book on Rawls, Dewey & the epistemology of justice

Rawls, Dewey, and Constructivism
On the Epistemology of Justice

by Eric Thomas Weber

(Continuum, August 2010)

176 pages


In "Rawls, Dewey, and Constructivism", Eric Weber examines and critiques John Rawls' epistemology and the unresolved tension - inherited from Kant - between Representationalism and Constructivism in Rawls' work.

Weber argues that, despite Rawls' claims to be a constructivist, his unexplored Kantian influences cause several problems. In particular, Weber criticises Rawls' failure to explain the origins of conceptions of justice, his understanding of "persons" and his revival of Social Contract Theory. Drawing on the work of John Dewey to resolve these problems, the book argues for a rigorously constructivist approach to the concept of justice and explores the practical implications of such an approach for Education.

Contents [preview of chapter 1-5] [chapter 1-2]

1. Introduction

2. Social Contract Theory, Old and New
3. Worlds Apart: On Moral Realism and Two Constructivisms
4. Freedom and Phenomenal Persons
5. Rawls’s Epistemological Tension: The Original Position, Reflective Equilibrium, and Objectivity
6. Dewey and Rawls on Education

Eric Thomas Weber is Assistant Professor of Public Policy Leadership at the University of Mississippi.

The book is the first publication in the new Continuum Studies in Political Philosophy series.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Jan-Werner Müller on Constitutional Patriotism

1. Six texts in English

Jan-Werner Müller on constitutional patriotism:

- "On the Origins of Constitutional Patriotism" (pdf, 2006)

- "Three Objections to Constitutional Patriotism" (pdf, 2007)

- "Introduction" (pdf, 2007)

- "A General Theory of Constitutional Patriotism" (2008)

- "A 'Thick' Constitutional Patriotism for Europe?" (2008)

- "Seven Ways to Misunderstand Constitutional Patriotism" (pdf, 2009)

2. New book in German

Jan-Werner Müller - Verfassungspatriotismus
(Suhrkamp Verlag, August 2010), 155 Seiten


Dolf Sternberger und Jürgen Habermas entwickelten das Konzept des Verfassungspatriotismus als Antwort auf die Situation der Bundesrepublik nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg: Als alle Formen des kulturell oder ethnisch motivierten Patriotismus diskreditiert waren, plädierten sie für die rationale Identifikation mit den universellen Werten und Prinzipien des Grundgesetzes. Ist diese Form des Patriotismus in der postnationalen Konstellation, in der National-staaten durch Migration kulturell vielfältiger werden und in der politische Kompetenzen auf supranationale Staatenverbände wie die Europäische Union übergehen, in der Lage, Solidarität und kollektive Identifikation zu stiften? Dieser Frage geht Jan-Werner Müller in seiner präzisen ideengeschichtlichen Rekonstruktion nach.

"Ich kenne keine präzisere und sorgfältigere Darstellung des politischen und ideengeschichtlichen Kontexts, in dem die Debatte um den Verfassungspatriotismus einst begann. Vor allem bietet Müller eine meisterhafte Interpretation dieses wichtigen Konzepts, die viele Mißverständnisse beseitigt." Jürgen Habermas



1. Verfassungspatriotismus: Eine kurze Ideen- und Gefühlsgeschichte

2. Verfassungspatriotismus theoretisch: Nation ohne Eigenschaften?

3. Verfassungspatriotismus praktisch: Über innerstaatliche und supranationale Integration

Schluss oder: Sieben Arten, die Idee Verfassungspatriotismus auf mehr oder weniger interessanteWeise falsch zu verstehen

*Die englische Originalausgabe dieses Buches erschien unter dem Titel Constitutional Patriotism bei Princeton University Press (2007). Der Autor hat den Text für die deutsche Ausgabe überarbeitet.

Jan-Werner Müller is Associate Professor at the Department of Politics, Princeton University. He directs the Program in the History of Political Thought at the University Centre for Human Values.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Honneth talks about Critical Theory (audio)

From "WDR 5" (August 6, 2010), Jürgen Wiebicke talks with professor Axel Honneth (Frankfurt University) about Critical Theory:

"Über die Fortschrittsfähigkeit unserer Gesellschaft"
[mp3 audio, 53 minutes]

Sebastian Dörfler reports on the interview in his blog in "der Freitag": "Liebe als Rest-Utopie: Honneth über das Erbe der kritischen Theorie".

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Collection of essays by Samuel Scheffler

Equality and Tradition
Questions of Value in Moral and Political Theory

by Samuel Scheffler

(Oxford University Press, 2010)

336 pages


This collection of essays combines discussion of abstract questions in moral and political theory with attention to the normative dimension of current social and political controversies. In addition to chapters on more abstract issues such as the nature of human valuing, the role of partiality in ethics, and the significance of the distinction between doing and allowing, the volume also includes essays on immigration, terrorism, toleration, political equality, and the normative significance of tradition.

Uniting the essays is a shared preoccupation with questions about human value and values. The volume opens with an essay that considers the general question of what it is to value something - as opposed, say, to wanting it, wanting to want it, or thinking that it is valuable. Other essays explore particular values, such as equality, whose meaning and content are contested. Still others consider the tensions that arise, both within and among individuals, in consequence of the diversity of human values. One of the overarching aims of the book is to illuminate the different ways in which liberal political theory attempts to resolve conflicts of both of these kinds.


Introduction [preview]

Part I: Individuals
1. Valuing [preview]
2. Morality and Reasonable Partiality
3. Doing and Allowing [pdf]

Part II: Institutions
4. The Division of Moral Labour: Egalitarian Liberalism as Moral Pluralism [abstract]
5. Is the Basic Structure Basic?
6. Cosmopolitanism, Justice, and Institutions

Part III: Society
7. What is Egalitarianism? [abstract]
8. Choice, Circumstance, and the Value of Equality [paper, pdf]
9. Is Terrorism Morally Distinctive?
10. Immigration and the Significance of Culture
11. The Normativity of Tradition [draft, pdf]
12. The Good of Toleration [abstract]

Samuel Scheffler is Professor of Philosophy at New York University.

Elizabeth Anderson on Rawls and G.A. Cohen

Professor Elizabeth Anderson has posted a new paper on SSRN:

"Cohen, Justice, and Interpersonal Justification"

"G. A. Cohen had a great insight into the requirements of egalitarian justice: that claims of justice must be interpersonally persuasive within the community subject to those claims. He used this insight to criticize Rawls's Pareto-based justification of income inequality. In this paper, I argue that the idea of interpersonal justification lies at the heart of contractualist theories of justice. However, Cohen's use of this idea to criticize Rawls's difference principle borrows a luck egalitarian premise -- the claim that accidental inequalities are unjust -- that cannot be vindicated from an interpersonal stand-point. In addition, Cohen did not consistently follow through on his insight, and indeed explicitly rejected it in advancing his own idea of what justice is. I argue that most of the disagreements between luck egalitarians and contractualists that Cohen articulates can be traced to an underlying disagreement over whether justification in matters of justice is essentially interpersonal, or rather appeals to impersonal claims about the desirability of particular states of the world."

Elizabeth Anderson is Professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies at University of Michigan. She has a new book coming out this fall: "The Imperative of Integration" (Princeton University Press, October 2010).

Tuesday, August 10, 2010