Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Scanlon: "Why Does Inequality Matter?"

Why Does Inequality Matter?

T. M. Scanlon

(Oxford University Press, January 2018)

192 pages


Inequality is widely regarded as morally objectionable: T. M. Scanlon investigates why it matters to us. Demands for greater equality can seem puzzling, because it can be unclear what reason people have for objecting to the difference between what they have and what others have, as opposed simply to wanting to be better off. This book examines six such reasons. Inequality can be objectionable because it arises from a failure of some agent to give equal concern to the interests of different parties to whom it is obligated to provide some good. It can be objectionable because it involves or gives rise to objectionable inequalities in status. It can be objectionable because it gives the rich unacceptable forms of control over the lives of those who have less. It can be objectionable because it interferes with the procedural fairness of economic institutions, or because it deprives some people of substantive opportunity to take part in those institutions. Inequality can be objectionable because it interferes with the fairness of political institutions. Finally, inequality in wealth and income can be objectionable because it is unfair: the institutional mechanisms that produce it cannot be justified in the relevant way. Scanlon's aims is to provide a moral anatomy of these six reasons, and the ideas of equality that they involve. He also examines objections to the pursuit of equality on the ground that it involves objectionable interference with individual liberty, and argues that ideas of desert do not provide a basis either for justifying significant economic inequality or for objecting to it.

Contents [preview]

1. Introduction
2. Equal Concern
3. Status Inequality
4. Procedural Fairness
5. Substantive Opportunity
6. Political Equality
7. Equality, Liberty, and Coercion [draft]
8. Desert
9. Unequal Income [draft, pp. 1-13]
10. Conclusions [draft, pp. 14-20]

The book is a revised and extended version of Thomas Scanlon's Uehiro lectures on "When Does Equality Matter?" part 1, part 2  and part 3 (Oxford University 2013, video) [paper here]

See also Thomas Scanlon's essay: "The 4 biggest reasons why inequality is bad for society".

In this video Thomas Scanlon (November 2017) talks about his career and why he is not a Kantian:

See also Thomas Scanlon's paper: "How I am not a Kantian" (2011).

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Conference in memory of Derek Parfit

On December 15-16 Rutgers University will be hosting a conference in memory of Derek Parfit.


Sharon Street (New York): “Realism, Nihilism, and the Concept of a Normative Reason”.

Jeff McMahan (Oxford): “Doubts about Parfit’s No-Difference View”.

Elizabeth Harman (Princeton): “Abortion and the Non-Identity Problem”.

Samuel Scheffler (New York): “Temporal Neutrality and the Bias toward the Future”.

Peter Singer (Princeton) and Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek (University of Łódź): “Parfit on Act-Consequentialism”.

Mark Johnston (Princeton): “Does Reasons and Persons (Part 3) Undermine Ethics?”.

Frances Kamm (Harvard): “Parfit on the Irrelevance of Deontological Distinctions”.

Larry Temkin (Rutgers): “Box Ethics”.

More information here

See some of my previous posts on Derek Parfit here, here and here.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Rainer Forst on "Normativity and Power"

Normativity and Power
Analyzing Social Orders of Justification

by Rainer Forst

(Oxford University Press, 2017)

208 pages


In this collection of essays, Rainer Forst presents a new approach to critical theory. Each essay reflects on the basic principles that guide our normative thinking. Forst's argument goes beyond 'ideal' and 'realist' theories and shows how closely the concepts of normativity and power are interrelated, and how power rests on the capacity to influence, determine, and possibly restrict the space of justifications for others. By combining insights from the disciplines of philosophy, history, and the social sciences, Forst re-evaluates theories of justice, as well as of power, and provides the tools for a critical theory of relations of justification.

Contents [preview]

Introduction: Orders of Justification

Part I - Reason, Normativity, and Power

1. Critique of Justifying Reason: Explaining Practical Normativity
2. Noumenal Power [paper]

Part II  - Justification Narratives and Historical Progress

3. On the Concept of a Justification Narrative [paper in German]
4. The Concept of Progress

Part III - Religion, Toleration, and Law

5. Religion and Toleration from the Enlightenment to the Post-Secular Era: Bayle, Kant, and Habermas [preview of German version]
6. One Court and Many Cultures: Jurisprudence in Conflict

Part IV - Justice, Democracy, and Legitimacy

7. Justice after Marx
8. Legitimacy, Democracy, and Justice: On the Reflexivity of Normative Orders [draft] [video]

Part V - Transnational Justice

9. Realisms in International Political Theory
10. Transnational Justice and Non-Domination [preview of German version]

The German version: "Normativität und Macht" (Suhrkamp Verlag, 2015). See an excerpt here.

Rainer Forst is Professor of Political Theory and Philosophy at the Goethe University in Frankfurt. He is the author of "Contexts of Justice" (California University Press, 2002), "The Right to Justification" (Columbia University Press, 2011), "Toleration in Conflict" (Cambridge University Press, 2013), "Justification and Critique" (Polity Press, 2013). 

See also "Justice, Democracy and the Right to Justification - Rainer Forst in Dialogue" (Bloomsbury, 2014) and "The Power of Tolerance: A Debate between Wendy Brown and Rainer Forst" (Columbia University Press, 2014).

Links to papers by Rainer Forst:

* "The Point and Ground of Human Rights: A Kantian Constructivist View"
* "A Justification of Basic Rights: A Discourse-Theoretical Approach" (PDF here)
* "What Does it Mean to Justify Basic Rights?"
* "Toleration" (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
* "Transnational Justice and Democracy"

Friday, December 01, 2017

Interview with Habermas in la Repubblica

A short interview with Jürgen Habermas in the Italian newspaper “La Repubblica" (November 22, 2017):

Niente elezioni, ora la Spd governi con la cancelliera”, 

Jürgen Habermas hopes that the SPD will enter a coalition government with Angela Merkel so Germany can get a Social Democratic minister of finance, who has no hesitations towards Emmanuel Macron's proposals for a new Europe. The causes of the growing social inequalities in our countries can only be fought globally and this is only possible with an EU capable of acting on a political level.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Letter of Concern and Support Regarding the Cluster of Excellence "Normative Ordnungen"

Jürgen Habermas has signed a "Letter of Concern and Support Regarding the Cluster of Excellence "Normative Ordnungen" of the University of Frankfurt” (November 14, 2017). 

The letter has been signed by Seyla Benhabib, Charles Larmore, Nancy Fraser, Robert Goodin, David Held, Jane Mansbridge, Jeff McMahan, Philip Pettit, Thomas Scanlon, Charles Taylor

More information here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Habermas Handbook

The Habermas Handbook

Ed. by Hauke Brunkhorst, Regina Kreide &‎ Cristina Lafont

(Columbia University Press, 2017)

672 pages


In The Habermas Handbook, leading Habermas scholars elucidate his thought, providing essential insight into his key concepts, the breadth of his work, and his influence across politics, law, the social sciences, and public life.
This volume offers a comprehensive overview and an in-depth analysis of Habermas’s work in its entirety. After examining his intellectual biography, it goes on to illuminate the social and intellectual context of Habermasian thought, such as the Frankfurt School, speech-act theory, and contending theories of democracy. The Handbook provides an extensive account of Habermas’s texts, ranging from his dissertation on Schelling to his most recent writing about Europe. It illustrates the development of his thought and its frequently controversial reception while elaborating the central ideas of his work. The book also provides a glossary of key terms and concepts, making the complexity of Habermas’s thought accessible to a broad readership.

Contents [preview]


Part I. Intellectual Biography [preview], by Hauke Brunkhorst & Stefan Müller-Doohm

Part II. Contexts

1. The Philosophy of History, Anthropology, and Marxism (Axel Honneth)
2. The Frankfurt School and Social Theory (Axel Honneth)
3. Constitutional Law (William E. Scheuerman)
4. Pragmatism and Ultimate Justification (Matthias Kettner)
5. Hermeneutics and the Linguistic Turn (Cristina Lafont)
6. Speech Acts (Peter Niesen)
7. Psychoanalysis (Joel Whitebook)
8. Postmetaphysical Thinking (Kenneth Baynes)
9. Kant (Ingeborg Maus)
10. Cognitive Psychology (Gertrud Nunner-Winkler)
11. The Epitome of Technocratic Consciousness (Marcelo Neves)
12. Evolutionary Theories (Klaus Eder)
13. Power Discourses (Andreas Niederberger)
14. Juridical Discourses (Klaus Günther)
15. The Theory of Democracy (Rainer Schmalz-Bruns)
16. Moral and Ethical Discourses: The Distinction in General (Georg Lohmann)
17. The Constitutionalization of International Law (Jean L. Cohen)
18. European Constitutionalization (Christian Joerges)
19. The Theory of Justice (Regina Kreide)
20. Deconstruction (Thomas Khurana)
21. Poststructuralism (Amy Allen)
22. Feminism (Amy R. Baehr)
23. Neopragmatism (Richard J. Bernstein)
24. Jewish Philosophy (Micha Brumlik)
25. Monotheism (Felmon Davis)

Part III. Texts

26. Das Absolute und die Geschichte (1954) - Manfred Frank
27. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962) - Nancy Fraser
28. Technology and Science as ‘Ideology’ (1968) - Robin Celikates & Rahel Jaeggi
29. Knowledge and Human Interests (1968) - William Rehg
30. Vorbereitende Bemerkungen zu einer Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns (1971) - Cristina Lafont
31. Legitimation Crisis (1973) - Frank Nullmeier
32. Zur Rekonstruktion des Historischen Materialismus (1976) - Thomas McCarthy
33. Modernity - an Unfinished Project (1980) - Christoph Menke
34. Philosophy as Stand-In and Interpreter (1981) - Hauke Brunkhorst
35. The Theory of Communicative Action (1981) - David Strecker
36. Discourse Ethics (1983) - Rainer Forst
37. The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (1985) - Seyla Benhabib
38. Between Facts and Norms (1992) - Christoph Möllers
39. Why Europe Needs a Constitution (2001) - Andrew Arato
40. Faith and Knowledge (2001) - Helge Høibraaten
41. The Future of Human Nature (2001) - Thomas M. Schmidt
42. Does the Constitutionalization of International Law Still Have a Chance? (2004) - James Bohman

Part IV. Concepts

43. Cognitive Interests (William Rehg)
44. Colonization (Mattias Iser)
45. Communicative Action (Cristina Lafont)
46. Communicative Anthropology (Dirk Jörke)
47. Conservatism (Micha Brumlik)
48. Constitutions and Constitutional Patriotism (Rainer Nickel)
49. Cosmopolitan Condition (Kenneth Baynes)
50. Counterfactual Presuppositions (Andreas Koller)
51. Deliberation (Nicole Deitelhoff)
52. Discourse (Klaus Günther)
53. Discourse Ethics (Rainer Forst)
54. Equality (Kenneth Baynes)
55. European Citizenship (Christian Joerges)
56. Evolution (Marcelo Neves)
57. Historical Materialism (Martin Hartmann)
58. Human Rights and Human Rights (Regina Kreide)
59. Ideology (Martin Saar)
60. Intellectuals (René Gabriëls)
61. Late Capitalism (Frank Nullmeier)
62. Learning Processes (Gertrud Nunner-Winkler)
63. Legal Wars Versus Legitimate Wars (Anna Geis)
64. Legality, Legitimacy, and Legitimation (Rainer Nickel)
65. Mass Culture and Cultural Criticism (Gertrud Koch)
66. Postmetaphysical Thinking (Georg Lohmann)
67. Power (Mattias Iser)
68. Pragmatic Turn (Ali M. Rizvi)
69. Public Sphere (Patrizia Nanz)
70. Radical Reformism (Hauke Brunkhorst)
71. Rational Reconstruction (Mattias Iser)
72. Rationality and Rationalization (Hauke Brunkhorst)
73. Social Pathology (Martin Hartmann)
74. Society (Hartmut Rosa)
75. System and Lifeworld (Marcelo Neves)

Appendix: Chronology

The German version of the book: "Habermas Handbuch" (J. B. Metzler Verlag, 2009). 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Book on Compromise and Disagreement

Compromise and Disagreement in Contemporary Political Theory

Ed. by Christian F. Rostbøll & Theresa Scavenius

(Routledge, 2017)

218 pages


Compromise and Disagreement in Contemporary Political Theory provides a critical discussion of when and to what extent compromise is the best response to pluralism and disagreement in democratic decision-making and beyond. Christian F. Rostbøll and Theresa Scavenius draw together the work of ten established and emerging scholars to provide different perspectives on compromise. Organized into four parts, the book begins by discussing the justification and limits of compromise. Part 2 discusses the practice of compromise and considers the ethics required for compromise as well as the institutions that facilitate compromise. Part 3 focuses on pluralism and connects the topic of compromise to current discussions in political theory on public reason, political liberalism, and respect for diversity. Part 4 discusses different challenges to compromise in the context of the current political environment.


Introduction: Compromise and Disagreement - Christian F. Rostbøll & Theresa Scavenius

Part 1: The Justification and Limits of Compromise

1. Compromise and Toleration: Responding to Disagreement [Draft] - Christian F. Rostbøll
2. No Compromise on Racial Equality [Draft] - Simon Căbulea May
3. Compromise and the Value of Widely Accepted Laws - Fabian Wendt

Part 2: The Practice of Compromise

4. The Ethics of Compromise - Daniel M. Weinstock
5. Compromise as a Normative Ideal for Pluralistic Politics [Abstract] - Manon Westphal
6. Political Compromise in Party Democracy - David Ragazzoni

Part 3: Pluralism and Compromise

7. Compromise, Value Pluralism, and Democratic Liberalism [Abstract] - Patrick Overeem
8. Are Compromises More Inclusive of Non-Liberals? [Abstract] - Tore Vincents Olsen
9. Public Epistemology as a Compromise: Why Should We Agree to Disagree? - Aurélia Bardon

Part 4: Political Challenges to Compromise

10. Compromise and Political Language - Michael Freeden
11. The Role of Political and Self-representation in Compromise [Abstract] - Alin Fumurescu

Christian F. Rostbøll is Professor of Political Science at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He is the author of "Deliberative Freedom" (SUNY Press, 2008).

Theresa Scavenius is a Associate Professor in the Department of Planning, University of Aalborg Copenhagen, Denmark.

See also two of Christian Rostbøll's recent papers:

* "Democratic Respect and Compromise" (Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy vol. 20, 2017, pp. 619-635)

* "Popular Sovereignty and Compromise" (PDF) (Draft, 2017)

Monday, October 23, 2017

The 25th anniversary of Rawls's "Political Liberalism"

Symposium in the journal "Ethics" on the 25th anniversary of John Rawls’s "Political Liberalism" (Columbia University Press, 1993):

1. Introduction - Andrew I. Cohen

This symposium offers five essays to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the first publication of John Rawls's Political Liberalism. The authors consider how an ideal theory such as Rawls's can address historical injustices, how full autonomy is possible for citizens of the well-ordered society, how and whether Kantian elements still figure in Political Liberalism, and how Rawls's commitment to democracy qualifies his liberalism.

2. The Historical Injustice Problem for Political Liberalism - Erin I. Kelly

Abstract: Liberal political philosophers have underestimated the philosophical relevance of historical injustice. For some groups, injustices from the past — particularly surrounding race, ethnicity, or religion — are a source of entrenched social inequality decades or even hundreds of years later. Rawls does not advocate the importance of redressing historical injustice, yet political liberalism needs a principle of historical redress. Rawls’s principle of fair equality of opportunity, which is designed to prevent the leveraging of class privilege, could be paired with a supporting principle of historical redress that would contend with partiality and bias in open access to positions.

3. Autonomy and Disagreement about Justice in Political Liberalism - Paul Weithman

Abstract: Rawls says in Political Liberalism that “the focus of an overlapping consensus is [more likely to be] a class of liberal conceptions” than a single one. In conceding that members of the well-ordered society are unlikely to live up to justice as fairness, Rawls would seem to have conceded that they are also unlikely to live autonomously. This is exactly the conclusion some commentators have drawn. I contend that the likelihood of “reasonable pluralism about justice” does not have the implication for Rawls’s project that it is said to have: political autonomy remains available even when such pluralism obtains.

4. Political Liberalism: A Kantian View - Rainer Forst

Abstract: This article suggests a Kantian reading of Rawls’s Political Liberalism. As much as Rawls distanced himself from a presentation of his theory in terms of a comprehensive Kantian moral doctrine, we ought to read it as a noncomprehensive Kantian moral-political theory. According to the latter approach, the liberal conception of justice is compatible with a plurality of comprehensive doctrines as long as they share the independently defined and grounded essentials of that conception of justice — that is, as long as they are “reasonable,” to use the term that does most of the Kantian work.

5. Consensus on What? Convergence for What? Four Models of Political Liberalism [pdf] - Gerald Gaus & Chad Van Schoelandt

Abstract: As we read his work, John Rawls was developing an innovative approach to political philosophy, and Political Liberalism struggles with different ways to model these new insights. This article presents four models of political liberalism, particularly focusing on understanding the nature of overlapping consensus and its relation to public reason. Beyond clarifying Rawls’s insights, we aim to spur readers to reassemble the rich elements of Political Liberalism to produce tractable and enlightening models of political life among free and equal citizens under conditions of deep diversity to advance the public reason project.

6. Rawls, Liberalism, and Democracy [pre-view] - John Skorupski

Abstract: This article offers a critique of John Rawls’s great work, Political Liberalism, from a non-Rawlsian liberal standpoint. It argues that Rawlsian political liberalism is influenced as much by a comprehensive view I call “radical-democracy” as by comprehensive liberal views. This can be seen in Rawls’s account of some of political liberalism’s fundamental ideas — notably the idea of society as a fair system of cooperation, the “liberal” principle of legitimacy, and the idea of public reason. I further argue that Rawls’s impressive attempt to unify liberal and democratic traditions philosophically obscures the prudent liberal attitude to democracy, which remains sound.

See also my blog posts on 

* "Rawls, Political Liberalism and Reasonable Faith" by Paul Weithman (Cambridge University Press, 2016)

* "Rawls's Political Liberalism", ed. by Thom Brooks & Martha C. Nussbaum (Columbia University Press, 2015)

* "John Rawls: Politischer Liberalismus", ed. by Otfried Höffe (De Gruyter, 2015)

* "Why Political Liberalism? On John Rawls's Political Turn" by Paul Weithman (Oxford University Press, 2011)

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Jürgen Habermas on Emmanuel Macron

The German weekly "Der Spiegel" (October 21, 2017) features an essay by Jürgen Habermas on the French President Emmanuel Macron:

"...was das uns Deutsche wieder kostet"? Ist das die Antwort auf den  französischen Präsidenten?
[not yet available online]

An English translation: "How much will the Germans have to pay?".

A French translation: "Ce fascinant Monsieur Macron", L'OBS, October 26, 2017.


"The fact that someone like Macron would get elected in a country whose population has always been more skeptical of the European Union than Luxembourg and Belgium, more skeptical than Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal, was simply not likely.
When looked at dispassionately, though, it is just as unlikely that the next German government will have sufficient far-sightedness to find a productive, a forward-looking answer when addressing the question Macron has posed. I would find some measure of relief were they even able to identify the significance of the question." (.....)

"The second factor separating Macron from other political figures is his break with a silent consensus. There has long been an unspoken assumption in the political classes that the concept of a Europe for Citizens is much too complex - and the final goal of European unity is vastly too complicated - to allow the citizens themselves to become involved. And that the day-to-day business of Brussels politics is only for experts and for the rather well-informed lobbyists, while the heads of state and government resolve the more serious conflicts that arise out of conflicting national interests among themselves, usually through deferral or preclusion.
More than anything, though, political parties agree that European issues are to be carefully avoided in national elections, unless, of course, domestic problems can be blamed on Brussels bureaucrats. But now, Macron wants to do away with this mauvaise foi. He already broke one taboo by placing the reform of the European Union at the heart of his election campaign and rode that message, only one year after Brexit - against "the sad passions of Europe," as he said - to victory.
That fact lends credibility to the oft-uttered trope about democracy being the essence of the European project, at least when Macron says it. I am not in a position to evaluate the implementation of the political reforms he has planned for France. We will have to wait and see if he is able to fulfill the "social-liberal" promise, that difficult balance between social justice and economic productivity. As a leftist, I'm no "Macronist," if there is such a thing. But the way he speaks about Europe makes a difference. He calls for understanding for the founding fathers, who established Europe without citizen input because, he says, they belonged to an enlightened avantgarde. But he now wants to transform the elite project into a citizens' project and is proposing reasonable steps toward democratic self-empowerment of European citizens against the national governments who stand in each other's way in the European Council."

As such, he isn't just demanding the introduction of a universal electoral law for the EU, but also the creation of transnational party lists. That, after all, would fuel the growth of a European party system, without which the European Parliament will never become a place where societal interests, reaching across national borders, are collectively identified and addressed."

In German:

"Dass jemand wie Macron in einem Land, dessen Bevölkerung seit je euroskeptischer war als Luxemburger und Belgier, als Deutsche, Italiener, Spanier und Portugiesen, zum Präsidenten gewählt werden könnte, war schlechthin unwahrscheinlich.
Allerdings ist es bei nüchterner Betrachtung ebenso unwahrscheinlich, dass die nächste deutsche Regierung die Weitsicht hat, auf die Frage, die ihr Macron gestellt hat, eine produktive, das heißt eine weiterführende Antwort zu finden. Ich würde schon aufatmen, wenn sie überhaupt die Relevanz der Frage richtig einschätzen würde." (......)

"Der zweite Umstand, durch den Macron sich von anderen Figuren unterscheidet, ist der Bruch mit einem stillschweigenden Konsens. In der politischen Klasse verstand es sich bis jetzt von selbst, dass das Europa der Bürger ein viel zu komplexes Gebilde ist und dass die finalité, das Ziel der europäischen Einigung, eine viel zu komplizierte Frage ist, als dass man die Bürger selbst damit befassen dürfte. Die laufenden Geschäfte der Brüsseler Politik sind nur etwas für Experten und allenfalls für die gut informierten Lobbyisten; während die Regierungschefs die ernsteren Konflikte zwischen aufeinanderstoßenden nationalen Interessen unter sich, in der Regel durch Aufschieben oder Ausklammern, beilegen. Vor allem aber besteht zwischen den politischen Parteien Einverständnis darüber, dass in nationalen Wahlen europäische Themen tunlichst zu vermeiden sind, es sei denn, dass sich die hausgemachten Probleme auf die Schultern Brüsseler Bürokraten abschieben lassen. Und nun will Macron mit dieser mauvaise foi aufräumen. Er hat ein Tabu bereits damit gebrochen, dass er die Reform Europas in den Mittelpunkt seiner Kampagne gerückt und diese Offensive, ein Jahr nach dem Brexit, gegen „die traurigen Leidenschaften“ Europas sogar gewonnen hat. 
Dieser Umstand verleiht dem oft gehörten Satz, dass die Demokratie das Wesen des europäischen Projektes sei, in seinem Munde Glaubwürdigkeit. Die Umsetzung seiner angekündigten politischen Reformen in Frankreich kann ich nicht beurteilen. Es wird sich zeigen müssen, ob er das „sozialliberale“ Versprechen, die schwierige Balance zwischen sozialer Gerechtigkeit und wirtschaftlicher Produktivität einzuhalten, einlöst. Als Linker bin ich kein „Macronist“, wenn es so etwas gibt. Aber wie er über Europa spricht, macht einen Unterschied. Er wirbt um Verständnis für die Gründungsväter, die Europa ohne die Bevölkerung erschaffen hätten, weil sie einer aufgeklärten Avantgarde angehörten; er selbst will aber nun aus dem Elite- ein Bürgerprojekt machen und fordert naheliegende Schritte zur demokratischen Selbstermächtigung der europäischen Bürger gegen die nationalen Regierungen, die sich im Europäischen Rat gegenseitig blockieren. So fordert er für die Europawahlen nicht nur ein allgemeines Wahlrecht, sondern auch eine Kandidatenaufstellung nach länderübergreifenden Parteilisten. Das befördert nämlich die Ausbildung eines europäischen Parteiensystems, ohne das aus dem Straßburger Parlament kein Ort werden kann, wo gesellschaftliche Interessen über die Grenzen der jeweils eigenen Nation hinweg verallgemeinert und zur Geltunggebracht werden können."

See also my post on the discussion between Jürgen Habermas, Emmanuel Macron, and Sigmar Gabriel on "Which future for Europe?" in Berlin in March 2017.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Reviews of Habermas biography

Seven reviews of Stefan Müller-Doohm's biography of "Jürgen Habermas" (Polity Press, 2016):

* The Times Literary Supplement (October 2017) - Michael Geyer

* The Hedgehog Magazine (Summer 2017) - Charles Mathewes

* Boston Review (April 2017) - William E. Scheuerman

* The New York Review of Books (March 2017) - Samuel Freeman

* The Guardian (February 2017) - Stuart Jeffries

* Social & Political Thought (2016) - William Outhwaite

* The Nation (September 2016) - Peter E. Gordon

See also my links to reviews of the German edition of the biography here and here.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Neues Buch: "Habermas und die Religion"

Habermas und die Religion

Hrsg. von Klaus Viertbauer & Franz Gruber

(Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft WBG, 2017)

272 Seiten


Von der Säkularisierungsthese zu einer postsäkularen Gesellschaft - Klaus Viertbauer

I. Kontexte und Konstellationen

1. Jürgen Habermas und Kants Religionsphilosophie - Friedo Ricken
2. Schleiermacher und Kierkegaard in der Sicht "nachmetaphysischen Denkens" - Maureen Junker-Kenny
3. Jürgen Habermas und die Kritische Theorie - Walter Raberger
4. Habermas' partielle Zuwendung zum Pragmatismus - Ludwig Nagl
5. Habermas und die neue Metaphysik - Klaus Müller
6. Liberal, deliberativ oder dekonstruktivistisch? - Michael Reder

II. Diskurse und Rezeptionslinien

7. Diskursethik und Leidenserfahrungen - Ottmar John
8. Habermas und die Öffentliche Theologie - Andreas Telser
9. Nicht zugänglich! Nicht verständlich! Nicht akzeptabel! [Englisch] - Maeve Cooke
10. Kommunikatives Handeln und Glaubensbegründung - Franz Gruber
11. Sozialethik postsäkular? Diskursethik und katholische Soziallehre - Hans-Joachim Höhn
12. Vom Ritual zur Sprache - Von der Sprache zum Ritual - Florian Uhl

Weitere Literatur:

* "Religion and Public Reason" von Maureen Junker-Kenny (2014)

* "Habermas and Religion", hrsg. von Craig Calhoun, Eduardo Mendieta, & Jonathan VanAntwerpen (2013)

* "Habermas and Theology" von Maureen Junker-Kenny (2011)

* "Discoursing the Post-Secular", hrsg. von Péter Losonczi & Aakash Singh (2010)

* "Moderne Religion?", hrsg. von Knut Wenzel & Thomas M. Schmidt (2009)

Saturday, September 02, 2017

John Rawls - Reticent Socialist

John Rawls: Reticent Socialist

by William A. Edmundson

(Cambridge University Press, 2017)

220 pages


This book is the first detailed reconstruction of the late work of John Rawls, who was perhaps the most influential philosopher of the twentieth century. Rawls's 1971 treatise, A Theory of Justice, stimulated an outpouring of commentary on 'justice-as-fairness,' his conception of justice for an ideal, self-contained, modern political society. Most of that commentary took Rawls to be defending welfare-state capitalism as found in Western Europe and the United States. Far less attention has been given to Rawls's 2001 book, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement. In the Restatement, Rawls not only substantially reformulates the 'original position' argument for the two principles of justice-as-fairness but also repudiates capitalist regimes as possible embodiments. Edmundson further develops Rawls's non-ideal theory, which guides us when we find ourselves in a society that falls well short of justice.

Contents [preview]


1. Conceptions of Property in the Original Position
2. Property-Owning Democracy versus Liberal Socialism
3. Fair Value and the Fact of Domination
4. The Four-stage Sequence
5. The Circumstances of Politics
6. Rescuing the Difference Principle
7. The Special Psychologies
8. Socialism and Stability
9. The Common Content
10. The Property Question
11. Religion and Reticence
12. Non-ideal Theory: The Transition to Socialism

William A. Edmundson is Professor of Law and Philosophy at Georgia State University College of Law. He is the author of "An Introduction to Rights" (Cambridge University Press, 2012) and co-editor of "The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Law and Legal Theory" (Blackwell, 2004).

See my blog posts on "Property-Owning Democracy":

* "Property-Owning Democracy. Rawls and Beyond", ed. by Martin O'Neill & Thad Williamson (2012). [+ article in Boston Review here]

* "Republic of Equals. Predistribution and Property-Owning Democracy", by Alan Thomas (2016) [+ Alan Thomas's blog here]

* "Property-Owning Democracy: A Short History", paper by Ben Jackson.

See also also Samuel Freeman's paper: "Property-Owning Democracy and the Difference Principle" [pdf]

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Critical Theory in Critical Times

Critical Theory in Critical Times
Transforming the Global Political and Economic Order 

Ed. by Penelope Deutscher & Cristina Lafont

(Columbia University Press, 2017)

304 pages


In Critical Theory in Critical Times, eleven of the most distinguished critical theorists offer new perspectives on recent crises and transformations of the global political and economic order. Sharpening the conceptual tools of critical theory, the contributors reveal new ways of expanding the diverse traditions of the Frankfurt School in response to some of the most urgent and important challenges of our times.


Introduction: Critical Theory in Critical Times

Part I. The Future of Democracy

1. An Exploration of the Meaning of Transnationalization of Democracy (video) - Jürgen Habermas

Part II. Human Rights and Sovereignty

2. Democratic Sovereignty and Transnational Law (paper) - Seyla Benhabib
3. Human Rights, Sovereignty, and the Responsibility to Protect (paper) - Cristina Lafont
4. A Critical Theory of Human Rights - Rainer Forst

Part III. Political Rights in Neoliberal Times

5. Neoliberalism and the Economization of Rights - Wendy Brown
6. Law and Domination - Christoph Menke

Part IV. Criticizing Capitalism

7. Behind Marx's Hidden Abode (video) - Nancy Fraser
8. A Wide Concept of Economy (paper) - Rahel Jaeggi

Part V. The End of Progress in Postcolonial Times

9. Adorno, Foucault, and the End of Progress (paper) (video) - Amy Allen
10. "Post-Foucault": The Critical Time of the Present - Penelope Deutscher
11. Criticizing Critical Theory - Charles W. Mills

Note: Jürgen Habermas's essay appeared in his book ”The Lure of Technocracy" (Polity Press, 2015), titled "European Citizens and European Peoples: The Problem of Transnationalizing Democracy”. 

See Jerome Braun's review of the book in "Theory, Culture & Society".

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Essays in Honor of Nancy Fraser

Feminism, Capitalism, and Critique
Essays in Honor of Nancy Fraser 

Ed. by Banu Bargu & Chiara Bottici

(Palgrave Macmillan, 2017)

332 pages


This edited collection examines the relationship between three central terms — capitalism, feminism, and critique — while critically celebrating the work and life of a thinker who has done the most to address this nexus: Nancy Fraser. In honor of her seventieth birthday, and in the spirit of her work in the tradition of critical theory, this collection brings together scholars from different disciplines and theoretical approaches to address this conjunction and evaluate Fraser’s lifelong contributions to theorizing it. Scholars from philosophy, political science, sociology, gender studies, race theory and economics come together to think through the vicissitudes of capitalism and feminism while also responding to different elements of Nancy Fraser’s work, which weaves together a strong feminist standpoint with a vibrant and complex critique of capitalism. 

Contents [preview]

1. Introduction - Banu Bargu & Chiara Bottici
2. From Socialist Feminism to the Critique of Global Capitalism - Richard J. Bernstein
3. Debates on Slavery, Capitalism and Race: Old and New - Robin Blackburn
4. Feminism, Capitalism, and the Social Regulation of Sexuality - Johanna Oksala
5. Capitalism’s Insidious Charm vs. Women’s and Sexual Liberation - Cinzia Arruzza
6. The Long Life of Nancy Fraser’s “Rethinking the Public Sphere” - Jane Mansbridge
7. Feminism, Ecology, and Capitalism - María Pía Lara 
8. Recognition, Redistribution, and Participatory Parity - William E. Scheuerman
9. (Parity of) Participation – The Missing Link Between Resources and Resonance - Hartmut Rosa
10. Curbing the Absolute Power of Disembedded Financial Markets - Alessandro Ferrara
11. Hegel and Marx: A Reassessment After One Century [video] - Axel Honneth
12. Crisis, Contradiction, and the Task of a Critical Theory - Rachel Jaeggi
13. What’s Critical About a Critical Theory of Justice? - Rainer Forst
14. Beyond Kant Versus Hegel - Amy Allen
15. Nancy Fraser and the Left: A Searching Idea of Equality - Eli Zaretsky
Nancy Fraser's Bibliography

See also Lucas Ballestin's review of the book here.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Prospects and Limits of Deliberative Democracy

The latest issue of "Dædalus" (Summer 2017) features articles on "The Prospects and Limits of Deliberative Democracy":

1. Introduction [pdf]
by James S. Fishkin & Jane Mansbridge

The legitimacy of democracy depends on some real link between the public will and the public policies and office-holders who are selected. But the model of competition-based democracy has come under threat by a disillusioned and increasingly mobilized public that no longer views its claims of representation as legitimate. This essay introduces the alternative potential of deliberative democracy, and considers whether deliberative institutions could revive democratic legitimacy, provide for more authentic public will formation, provide a middle ground between mistrusted elites and the angry voices of populism, and help fulfill some of our shared expectations about democracy.

2. Referendum vs. Institutionalized Deliberation: What Democratic Theorists Can Learn from the 2016 Brexit Decision [pdf]
by Claus Offe

This essay proceeds in three steps. First, it will briefly outline the often invoked “crisis” of representative democracy and its major symptoms. Second, it will discuss a popular yet, as I shall argue, worryingly misguided response to that crisis: namely, the switch to plebiscitarian methods of “direct” democracy, as advocated, for example, by rightist populist forces in many European Union member states. The United Kingdom's Brexit referendum of June 2016 illuminates the weaknesses of this approach. Third, it will suggest a rough design for enriching representative electoral democracy with nonelectoral (but “aleatory,” or randomized) and nonmajoritarian (but deliberative and consultative) bodies and their peculiar methods of political will formation (as opposed to the expression of a popular will already formed).

3. Twelve Key Findings in Deliberative Democracy Research [pdf]
by Nicole Curato, John S. Dryzek, Selen A. Ercan, Carolyn M. Hendriks & Simon Niemeyer

Deliberative democracy is a normative project grounded in political theory; but it is also home to a large volume of empirical social science research. So what have we learned about deliberative democracy, its value, and its weaknesses? This essay reflects on the development of the field of deliberative democracy by discussing twelve key findings that capture a number of resolved issues in normative theory, conceptual clarification, and associated empirical results. We argue that these findings deserve to be more widely recognized and viewed as a foundation for future practice and research. We draw on our own research and that of others in the field.

4. Political Deliberation and the Adversarial Principle
by Bernard Manin

Retrieving an insight dating back to antiquity, this essay argues that the confrontation of opposing views and arguments is desirable in political deliberation. But freedom of speech and diversity among deliberators do not suffice to secure that outcome. Therefore we should actively facilitate and encourage the presentation of contrary opinions during deliberation. Such confrontation is our best means of improving the quality of collective decisions. It also counteracts the pernicious fragmentation of the public sphere. It facilitates the comprehension of choices. Lastly, arguing for and against a given decision treats the minority with respect. This essay proposes practical ways of promoting adversarial deliberation, in particular the organization of debates disconnected from electoral competition.

5. Deliberative Democracy as Open, Not (Just) Representative Democracy
by Hélène Landemore

Deliberative democracy is at risk of becoming collateral damage of the current crisis of representative democracy. If deliberative democracy is necessarily representative and if representation betrays the true meaning of democracy as rule of, by, and for the people, then how can deliberative democracy retain any validity as a theory of political legitimacy? Any tight connection between deliberative democracy and representative democracy thus risks making deliberative democracy obsolete: a dated paradigm fit for a precrisis order, but maladjusted to the world of Occupy, the Pirate Party, the Zapatistas, and other antirepresentative movements. This essay argues that the problem comes from a particular and historically situated understanding of representative democracy as rule by elected elites. I argue that in order to retain its normative appeal and political relevance, deliberative democracy should dissociate itself from representative democracy thus understood and reinvent itself as the core of a more truly democratic paradigm, which I call “open democracy.” In open democracy, popular rule means the mediated but real exercise of power by ordinary citizens. This new paradigm privileges nonelectoral forms of representation and in it, power is meant to remain constantly inclusive of and accessible–in other words open–to ordinary citizens.

6. Inequality is Always in the Room: Language and Power in Deliberative Democracy
by Arthur Lupia & Anne Norton

Deliberative democracy has the potential to legitimize collective decisions. Deliberation's legitimating potential, however, depends on whether those who deliberate truly enter as equals, whether they are able to express on equal terms their visions of the common good, and whether the forms and practices that govern deliberative assemblies advance or undermine their goals. Here, we examine these sources of deliberation's legitimating potential. We contend that even in situations of apparent procedural equality, deliberation's legitimating potential is limited by its potential to increase normatively focal power asymmetries. We conclude by describing how deliberative contexts can be modified to reduce certain types of power asymmetries, such as those often associated with gender, race, or class. In so doing, we hope to help readers consider a broader range of factors that influence the outcomes of attempts to restructure power relationships through communicative forums.

7. Collusion in Restraint of Democracy: Against Political Deliberation [pdf]
by Ian Shapiro

Recent calls to inject substantial doses of deliberation into democratic politics rest on a misdiagnosis of its infirmities. Far from improving political outcomes, deliberation undermines competition over proposed political programs–the lifeblood of healthy democratic politics. Moreover, institutions that are intended to encourage deliberation are all too easily hijacked by people with intense preferences and abundant resources, who can deploy their leverage in deliberative settings to bargain for the outcomes they prefer. Arguments in support of deliberation are, at best, diversions from more serious threats to democracy, notably money's toxic role in politics. A better focus would be on restoring meaningful competition between representatives of two strong political parties over the policies that, if elected, they will implement. I sketch the main outlines of this kind of political competition, differentiating it from less healthy forms of multiparty and intraparty competition that undermine the accountability of governments.

8. Can Democracy be Deliberative and Participatory? The Democratic Case for Political Uses of Mini-Publics
by Cristina Lafont

This essay focuses on recent proposals to confer decisional status upon deliberative mini-publics such as citizens' juries, Deliberative Polls, and citizens' assemblies. Against such proposals, I argue that inserting deliberative mini-publics into political decision-making processes would diminish the democratic legitimacy of the political system as a whole. This negative conclusion invites a question: which political uses of mini-publics would yield genuinely democratic improvements? Drawing from a participatory conception of deliberative democracy, I propose several uses of mini-publics that could enhance the democratic legitimacy of political decision-making in current societies.

9. Deliberative Citizens, (Non)Deliberative Politicians: A Rejoinder
by André Bächtiger & Simon Beste

Are citizens or politicians (more) capable of deliberation, and when should they be willing to do so? In this essay, we first show that both politicians and citizens have the capacity to deliberate when institutions are appropriate. Yet high-quality deliberation sometimes collides with democratic principles and ideals. Therefore, we employ a “need-oriented” perspective, asking when and where citizens and the political workings of democracy need high-quality deliberation and when and where this is less the case. On this account, we propose a number of institutional interventions and reforms that may help boost deliberation in ways that both exploit its unique epistemic and ethical potential while simultaneously making it compatible with democratic principles and ideals.

10. Deliberation and the Challenge of Inequality
by Alice Siu

Deliberative critics contend that because societal inequalities cannot be bracketed in deliberative settings, the deliberative process inevitably perpetuates these inequalities. As a result, they argue, deliberation does not serve its theorized purposes, but rather produces distorted dialogue determined by inequalities, not merits. Advocates of deliberation must confront these criticisms: do less-privileged, less-educated, or perhaps illiterate participants stand a chance in discussions with the more privileged, better educated, and well spoken? Could their arguments ever be perceived or weighed equally? This essay presents empirical evidence to demonstrate that, in deliberations that are structured to provide a more level playing field, inequalities in skill and status do not translate into inequalities of influence.

11. Deliberative Democracy in the Trenches (paper)
by Cass R. Sunstein

In the last decades, many political theorists have explored the idea of deliberative democracy. The basic claim is that well-functioning democracies combine accountability with a commitment to reflection, information acquisition, multiple perspectives, and reason-giving. Does that claim illuminate actual practices? Much of the time, the executive branch of the United States has combined both democracy and deliberation, not least because it has placed a high premium on reason-giving and the acquisition of necessary information. It has also contained a high degree of internal diversity, encouraging debate and disagreement, not least through the public comment process. These claims are illustrated with concrete, if somewhat stylized, discussions of how the executive branch often operates.

12. Applying Deliberative Democracy in Africa: Uganda’s First Deliberative Polls
by James S. Fishkin, Roy William Mayega, Lynn Atuyambe, Nathan Tumuhamye, Julius Ssentongo, Alice Siu & William Bazeyo

Practical experiments with deliberative democracy, instituted with random samples of the public, have had success in many countries. But this approach has never before been tried in Sub-Saharan Africa. Reflecting on the first two applications in Uganda, we apply the same criteria for success commonly used for such projects in the most advanced countries. Can this approach work successfully with samples of a public low in literacy and education? Can it work on some of the critical policy choices faced by the public in rural Uganda? This essay reflects on quantitative and qualitative results from Uganda's first Deliberative Polls. We find that the projects were representative in both attitudes and demographics. They produced substantial opinion change supported by identifiable reasons. They avoided distortions from inequality and polarization. They produced actionable results that can be expected to influence policy on difficult choices.

13. Authoritarian Deliberation in China
by Baogang He & Mark E. Warren

Authoritarian rule in China increasingly involves a wide variety of deliberative practices. These practices combine authoritarian command with deliberative influence, producing the apparent anomaly of authoritarian deliberation. Although deliberation and democracy are usually found together, they are distinct phenomena. Democracy involves the inclusion of individuals in matters that affect them through distributions of empowerments like votes and rights. Deliberation is the kind of communication that involves persuasion-based influence. Combinations of command-based power and deliberative influence – like authoritarian deliberation – are now pervading Chinese politics, likely a consequence of the failures of command authoritarianism under the conditions of complexity and pluralism produced by market-oriented development. The concept of authoritarian deliberation frames two possible trajectories of political development in China. One possibility is that the increasing use of deliberative practices stabilizes and strengthens authoritarian rule. An alternative possibility is that deliberative practices serve as a leading edge of democratization.