Sunday, January 15, 2023

New book on Habermas' "Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere"

Reading Habermas

Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere

by Michael Hofmann

(Lanham: Lexington Books, January 2023)

306 pages


Reading Habermas: Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere dissolves Habermas’s monolithic stylization to precisely access his seminal distinction between the purely political "polis" of antiquity, which excludes the private economy from the "res publica", and the modern public sphere with its rational-critical discourse about commodity exchange and social labor in the political economy. Deconstructing the uniform mold of Structural Transformation’s narrative about a rise and fall of the bourgeois public sphere in modernity also allows to identify and understand the ideology-critical methodologies of Habermas’s theory reconstruction of Kant’s ideal of the liberal public in the context of the French Revolution.


Preface [Preview]

Introduction [Preview]

1. Structural Transformation’s Normative Theses about a Dissolution of Domination in the Bourgeois Public Sphere

2. Habermas’s Dialectical Use of Ideology Critique to Counterfactually Assert a Moment of Historical Credibility for the Bourgeois Ideal of the Public Sphere

3. Structural Transformation’s Cold War Origins: Habermas’s Defense of Kantian Rationality, Human Rights, and the Enlightenment

4. Participatory Democracy versus Political Manipulation: The Role of Habermas’s “Celebrated Coffee Houses” (Todd Gitlin) in the Modern Public Sphere

5. Understanding Habermas’s Public Sphere Concept by Dissolving its Monolithic Stylization: Structural Transformation’s Interpretation of a Sociological and Political Category with the Norms of Constitutional Theory and Intellectual History

6. Structural Transformation’s Tacit Model Case of the Bourgeois Public Sphere: The French Revolution, Kant’s “Unofficial” Philosophy of History, Condorcet Absolute Rationalism, and Schiller’s Expressive Subjectivism

7. The Achilles’ Heel of Schiller’s Moral Stage and Structural Transformation’s Moral Politics: A Dependency of Smith’s Political Economy and Kant’s Constitutional Law on Mandeville’s Moral Paradox of Bourgeois Society

8. Habermas’s Unexplained Methodology: A Complex “Ideology-Critical Procedure”

9. The Result of Structural Transformation’s Dialectical Use of Schmitt’s “Civil War Topos” and Koselleck’s “Process of Criticism:” A Tension between Developmental History and Ideology-Critical Procedure

Conclusion: Renewing the Human Rights Perspective in the Political Public Sphere

Michael Hofmann is Professor of Communication and Multimedia Studies at Florida Atlantic University. He is the author of "Habermas’s Public Sphere: A Critique" (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2017). See a preview here.

Friday, January 06, 2023

Call for Papers: "On the Work of Jürgen Habermas"

Res Philosophica invites papers on the work of Jürgen Habermas for the 2023 Res Philosophica Essay Prize. The author of the winning paper will receive a prize of $3,000 and publication in the special issue of the journal on the same topic. Submissions for the prize will be automatically considered for publication in the journal's special issue.

Accepted papers will be published alongside an invited paper by Jürgen Habermas.

Guest editor: William Rehg (Saint Louis University).

Deadline for submission: August 1, 2023.

More info here.

Thursday, January 05, 2023

The philosophical itinerary of Axel Honneth

Paper on Axel Honneth: 

"Glanz und Elend des Sozialen. Axel Honneths philosophischer Weg" [PDF]

by Barbara Carnevali (Paris)

(Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie, December 2022)


This article retraces and discusses the philosophical itinerary of Axel Honneth, from the groundbreaking book "Struggle for Recognition" up to the recent essays "Freedom’s Right" and "The Idea of Socialism". In the first section, I examine Honneth’s programmatic concept of social pathology in relation to Ernst Cassirer’s idea of the secularisation of theodicy (i. e. the attribution of responsibility for human suffering to society) and to the enlightenment legacy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In the second section, after assessing Honneth’s position in the tradition of critical theory, I analyse his philosophical views. I identify two different theoretical frameworks in Honneth’s work: on the one hand, the theory of the struggle for recognition; on the other hand, the recent theory of social freedom. While the first is grounded in a formal and allegedly universal anthropology, the second draws on the Hegelian doctrine of the ethical life and develops a historicist and internalist model of reconstructive social criticism. Finally, in the third section, I critically address the “divinisation of the social” entailed in Honneth’s project of social pathologies’ critique, and argue that Honneth’s trust in the normative power of intersubjectivity might be excessive.

Wednesday, January 04, 2023

Recollections of Richard Bernstein

An interesting article about Richard Bernstein (1932-2022) and his final class on Hannah Arendt:

"A Philosophy Professor’s Final Class" by Jordi Graupera

(The New Yorker, January 3, 2023)

This past spring, Richard Bernstein investigated the questions he’d been asking his whole career - about right, wrong, and what we owe one another - one last time.

Sunday, January 01, 2023

Habermas' dialogue with Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)

The dialogue between Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) and Jürgen Habermas:

"Vorpolitische moralische Grundlagen eines freiheitlichen Staates" (2004)

[Zur debatte, 1/2004, free access]


"I assume that the constitution of the liberal state can satisfy its need from legitimation in a modest way by drawing on the cognitive resources of a set of arguments that are independent of religious or metaphysical traditions." (....) "...the proceduralist conception of Kantian inspiration insists on an autonomous grounding of constitutional principles that claims to be rationally acceptable to all citizens."

The liberal state is not incapable of "reproducing the motivations on which it depends from its own secular resources."

"(....) the secular character of the constitutional state does not exhibit any internal weakness inherent in the political system as such that jeopardizes its ability to stabilize itself in a cognitive or motivational sense. This does not exclude external reasons. An uncontrolled modernization of society as a whole could certainly corrode democratic bonds and undermine the form of solidarity on which the democratic state depends even though it cannot enforce it. (....) Evidence of such a corrosion of civic solidarity can be found in the larger context of the politically uncontrolled dynamics of the global economy and global society."

(English translation in Jürgen Habermas, Between Naturalism and Religion (Polity, 2008), pp. 101-113.