Tuesday, January 27, 2015

New Book on Axel Honneth's Critical Theory

Axel Honneth

by Christopher Zurn

(Polity Press, 2015)

240 pages


With his insightful and wide-ranging theory of recognition, Axel Honneth has decisively reshaped the Frankfurt School tradition of critical social theory. Combining insights from philosophy, sociology, psychology, history, political economy, and cultural critique, Honneth’s work proposes nothing less than an account of the moral infrastructure of human sociality and its relation to the perils and promise of contemporary social life.

This book provides an accessible overview of Honneth’s main contributions across a variety of fields, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of his thought. Christopher Zurn clearly explains Honneth’s multi-faceted theory of recognition and its relation to diverse topics: individual identity, morality, activist movements, progress, social pathologies, capitalism, justice, freedom, and critique. In so doing, he places Honneth’s theory in a broad intellectual context, encompassing classic social theorists such as Kant, Hegel, Marx, Freud, Dewey, Adorno and Habermas, as well as contemporary trends in social theory and political philosophy. Treating the full range of Honneth’s corpus, including his major new work on social freedom and democratic ethical life, this book is the most up-to-date guide available.


1. Introduction
2. Individuals’ Struggle for Recognition
3. Social Struggles for Recognition
4. Diagnosing Social Pathologies
5. Recognition and Markets
6. Social Freedom and Recognition
7. Concluding Speculations

Christopher Zurn is Associate Professor of Social and Political Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He is the author of "Deliberative Democracy and the Institutions of Judicial Review" (Cambridge University Press, 2007).

See also three of Zurn's papers on Axel Honneth's critical theory:

* "Recognition, Redistribution, and Democracy: Dilemmas of Honneth’s Critical Social Theory" [pdf] (2005)

* "Social Pathologies as Second-Order Disorders" [pdf] (2005)

* "Anthropology and Normativity" (2000).

See my post on Axel Honneth's book "Freedom's Right" (2014). 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

New Book on Rawls and Religion

Rawls and Religion

Ed. by Tom Bailey & Valentina Gentile

(Columbia University Press, 2015)

312 pages


John Rawls's influential theory of justice and public reason has often been thought to exclude religion from politics, out of fear of its illiberal and destabilizing potentials. It has therefore been criticized by defenders of religion for marginalizing and alienating the wealth of religious sensibilities, voices, and demands now present in contemporary liberal societies.
In this anthology, established scholars of Rawls and the philosophy of religion reexamine and rearticulate the central tenets of Rawls's theory to show they in fact offer sophisticated resources for accommodating and responding to religions in liberal political life. The chapters reassert the subtlety, openness, and flexibility of his sense of liberal "respect" and "consensus," revealing their inclusive implications for religious citizens. They also explore the means he proposes for accommodating nonliberal religions in liberal politics, developing his conception of "public reason" into a novel account of the possibilities for rational engagement between liberal and religious ideas. And they reevaluate Rawls's liberalism from the "transcendent" perspectives of religions themselves, critically considering its normative and political value, as well as its own "religious" character. Rawls and Religion makes a unique and important contribution to contemporary debates over liberalism and its response to the proliferation of religions in contemporary political life.

Contents [preview]

Foreword - Sebastiano Maffettone

Introduction [preview] - Tom Bailey & Valentina Gentile

Part I. Reinterpreting Rawls on Religion

1. Respect and War [paper] - Christopher J. Eberle
2. Religion and Liberalism: Was Rawls Right After All? - Robert B. Talisse
3. Inclusivism, Stability, and Assurance - Paul Weithman
4. Rethinking the Public Use of Religious Reasons [paper] - Andrew F. March

Part II. Accommodating Religions with Rawls

5. The Liberal State and the Religious Citizen - Patrick Neal
6. Reasoning from Conjecture - Micah Schwartzman
7. The Religious Hermeneutics of Public Reasoning - Johannes A. van der Ven

Part III. Transcending Rawls

8. E Pluribus Unum: Justification and Redemption in Rawls, Cohen, and Habermas - James Gledhill
9. A Reasonable Faith? Pope Benedict's Response to Rawls [paper] - Peter Jonkers
10. Islamic Politics and the Neutral State: A Friendly Amendment to Rawls? - Abdullahi A. An-Na'im

Friday, January 16, 2015

Habermas - "The Lure of Technocracy"

The Lure of Technocracy 

by Jürgen Habermas 

(Polity Press; 2015)

200 pages


Over the past 25 years, Jürgen Habermas has presented what is arguably the most coherent and wide–ranging defence of the project of European unification and of parallel developments towards a politically integrated world society. In developing his key concepts of the transnationalisation of democracy and the constitutionalisation of international law, Habermas offers the main players in the struggles over the fate of the European Union (the politicians, the political parties and the publics of the member states) a way out of the current economic and political crisis, should they choose to follow it. In the title essay Habermas addresses the challenges and threats posed by the current banking and public debt crisis in the Eurozone for European unification. He is harshly critical of the incrementalist, technocratic policies advocated by the German government in particular, which are being imposed at the expense of the populations of the economically weaker, crisis–stricken countries and are undermining solidarity between the member states. He argues that only if the technocratic approach is replaced by a deeper democratization of the European institutions can the European Union fulfil its promise as a model for how rampant market capitalism can once again be brought under political control at the supranational level. 

English translation of "Im Sog der Technokratie" (Suhrkamp Verlag, 2013). Five short essays are not included in the English edition.


I. The Lure of Technocracy 

1. The Lure of Technocracy: A Plea for European Solidarity [abridged version
2. European Citizens and European Peoples 
3. Keywords on a Discourse Theory of Law and of the Democratic Constitutional State 

II. European Conditions. Continued Interventions 

4. The Next Step: An Interview [text in German]
5. The Dilemma Facing the Political Parties [text in German]
6. Three Reasons for ’More Europe’ 
7. Democracy or Capitalism? 

III. German Jews, Germans and Jews 

8. Jewish Philosophers and Sociologists as Returnees in the Early Federal Republic of Germany [abridged version]
9. Martin Buber - A Philosophy of Dialogue in its Historical Context 
10. Our Contemporary Heine: ‘There are No Longer Nations in Europe’

Saturday, January 10, 2015

New papers on Piketty's Capital and a reply

(1) "The British Journal of Sociology" (vol. 65, no. 4, 2014) features a symposium on Thomas Piketty's "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" (Belknap Press, 2014), including Piketty's response:

"Piketty Symposium"

The papers can be downloaded for free.

(2) A panel discussion of Piketty's book at a meeting of the American Economic Association, January 3, 2015. 

A video of the presentations and the discussion here. And papers here.

Thomas Piketty - "About Capital in the 21th Century" (pdf)

See also my links to reviews of Thomas Piketty's book here.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Anthony Giddens on Ulrich Beck (1944-2015)

Anthony Giddens pays a tribute to Ulrich Beck (1944-2015) in "Süddeutsche Zeitung" (January 5, 2014):

"Außerordentliches Gespür für die Zukunft
[not yet available online]

English version here [pdf].


"Ulrich Beck war der größte Soziologe seiner Generation. Weit über die akademische Gemeinde hinaus stießen seine Werke auf ein breites Echo in der ganzen Welt. Heute führt jeder die "Globalisierung" im Mund, doch als Beck sie als einer der ersten zum Thema machte, in den Achtzigerjahren, war der Begriff noch völlig unvertraut und wurde von vielen als bedeutungsleer abgetan. So wie er ihn verstand und handhabte, meint Globalisierung weniger die Ausdehnung des Marktes als vielmehr die wachsende Verflechtung der Weltgesellschaft. [.....]

In seinen Augen werden die europäischen Länder zum Spielball der Globalisierung, wenn sie nicht gemeinsam Einfluss auf das Weltgeschehen nehmen. Europa muss ein transnationales Projektwerden, nicht eine bloße Ansammlung von Ländern, die sich nur um sich selbst drehen. [.....] Von der Stabilisierung des Euro sind wir weit entfernt, schon weil Deutschland nicht die notwendige Bedingung dafür zulasst, nämlich eine stärkere fiskalische und ökonomische Integration der Eurozone. Stattdessen wird den südlichen Ländern die Austerity-Politik auferlegt, ohne dass auch nur der Anschein demokratischer Zustimmung gewahrt wird. Im Ergebnis kollabiert in diesen Ländern das politische Zentrum noch schneller als in anderen Staaten. Beck fordert darum einen neuen "Sozialvertrag" für Europa. [.....]

Wenn das den Anschein erweckt, Ulrich Beck sei ein Scharfmacher, so täuscht es vollkommen. Ulrich Beck war ein hingebungsvoller und gewissenhafter Gelehrter, gesegnet mit einem enzyklopädischen Wissen der Sozialwissenschaften. Doch so herausragend er war, so wohltuend bescheiden und zugänglich blieb er, höchst popular bei seinen Studenten. Immer wieder stichelte ich und neckte ihn,weil er nie wirklich den britischen Sinn für Humor mit der typischen Mischung aus Selbstironie und dünkelhafter Überlegenheit beherrschte. Doch ziemlich oft war ich derjenige, der am Ende tölpelhaft dastand. Wenn es ihm passte, konnte er einen locker auflaufen lassen.

Er war in der Tat ein Geschöpf der Welt, die er so präzise in seinen Schriften porträtiert hat. Fur die längste Zeit seiner Karriere als Professor in München zu Hause, aber ein eingefleischter Reisender, der in unzähligen akademischen Institutionen rund um die Welt lehrte, ganz abgesehen von seinen seit Jahren zusätzlich wahrgenommenen Gastprofessuren in London und Paris. Seine Bücher wurden in mehr als 30 Sprachen übersetzt, seine Beiträge in Pressemedien in Deutschland, Großbritannien, Frankreich und den USA sind so unübersehbar wie wirkungsvoll. Grenzüberschreitung war seine Lebenspraxis und sein Metier."

See also my links to obituaries of Ulrich Beck here.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Ulrich Beck dies aged 70 [Updated]

A very sad announcement:

The German sociologist Ulrich Beck died January 1 at age 70 of a heart attack.

Süddeutsche Zeitung: 

* "Ulrich Beck is tot" (Jan 3)

* "Was die Soziologie Ulrich Beck zu verdanken hat" - Armin Nassehi (Jan 3)

* "Der Kosmopolit" - Andreas Zielcke (Jan 3)

* "Außerordentliches Gespür für die Zukunft" [excerpts] - Anthony Giddens (Jan 5)

* "Die mit sich selbst konfrontierte Moderne" [text in English] - Bruno Latour (Jan 5)

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung:

* "Der Freihandsegler der Theorie" - Jürgen Kaube (Jan 3)

* "Ausgeruhte Aufregnung" - André Kieserling (Jan 5)

* "Ein Kosmopolit im Denken und Fühlen" - Christian Geyer (Jan 5)

Die Welt:

* "Der Mann der uns Chaos aushalten lehrte" - Alan Posener (Jan 3)

* "Wir alle wurden von Ulrich Beck beeinflusst" - Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) (Jan 3)

Der Tagesspiegel:

* "Der demokratische Existentialist" - Peter von Becker (Jan 3)

Die Zeit:

* "Er lebte, was er lehrte" - Gunter Hofmann (Jan 3)

Der Spiegel:

* "Kollegen erinnern an Ulrich Beck: Er wollte wirken - und das auch politisch" - Richard Sennett, Angela McRobbie, Claus Leggewie, Ronald Hitzler, Cornelia Koppetsch, Saskia Sassen, Paul Gilroy, Sighard Neckel (Jan 3)

* "Zum Tode Ulrich Becks: Die Zukunft ist offen" - Romain Leick (Jan 3)

Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

* "Die Katastrophe denken, um sie zu vermeiden" - Joachim Günther (Jan 4)

Berliner Zeitung:

* "Katastrophale Metamorphosen" - Arno Widmann (Jan 4)

New York Times:

* "Ulrich Beck is Dead at 70" - Alison Smale (Jan 4)

Financial Times:

* "Ulrich Beck, visionary theorist of globalisation and its risks" - Jeevan Vasager

London School of Economics:

* "Ulrich Beck" - Craig Calhoun (Jan 5)

* "Ulrich Beck obituary" (pdf) - Anthony Giddens (Jan 6)


* "Eigenes Leben" - Ulf Erdmann Ziegler (Jan 5)

The Guardian

* "Ulrich Beck obituary" - Mary Kaldor & Sabine Selchow 

Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen (SRF)

* "Ulrich Beck gestorben" [audio] - Daniel Cohn-Bendit


* "Stimmen zur Tod von Ulrich Beck" [video] - Saskia Sassen, Richard Sennett & Daniel Cohn-Bendit

Theory, Culture & Society

* "Scott Lash remembers Ulrich Beck"