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Democracy, Power, and Legitimacy

Democracy, Power, and Legitimacy: The Critical Theory of Jürgen Habermas

Omid A. Payrow Shabani
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 240
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    Democracy, Power, and Legitimacy
    Book Description:

    Over his long and fruitful scholarly life, Jürgen Habermas has patiently laboured to diagnose the limitations and free the potential of the project of modernity - the pursuit of the ideal of free society by rational subjects. Omid A. Payrow Shabani here analyses the development of Habermas's critical philosophy in its pursuit of a theory of justice that can address the ethico-political concerns of our diverse, pluralist, and fragmented society. He contends that Habermas's more recent work represents a position that is inadequately critical of the existing political order in liberal democracies.

    Payrow Shabani situates Habermas's current philosophical orientation by laying out its historical background and theoretical sources in the work of Kant and Hegel, and charting its movement towards an account of communicative rationality. Habermas's discourse ethics in turn translates his theory of communication into a sociological critique of democracy in advanced capitalism. Yet, Payrow Shabani argues, in his impressive effort to theorize deliberative democracy, and the role of law and power therein, Habermas concedes too much to 'real-existing' capitalism, and thus legitimizes political power as currently exercised in Western democracies.

    The deficiencies of Habermas's theory can be overcome, Payrow Shabani proposes, by appropriating Foucault's analysis of power as a contestational network of relations flowing in all directions. Similarly, he argues, incorporating Derrida's deconstructive strategy allows for a distinction between the presence of law and the attainment of justice, which is always to come,à-venir. In this view, contestation and dissent are seen as critical democratic values. For Payrow Shabani, such a refurbished critical theory recognizes the diversity of public deliberation in modern democracies, where the pursuit of the ideal of justice is an enduring negotiation that is never completed.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7381-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-13)

    The political changes that took place during the last two decades of the twentieth century contained important lessons concerning a viable socioeconomic formation and its proper political structure. While the collapse of communism de facto proved the capitalist system of market economy the winner, the end of colonialism, apartheid, and numerous dictatorships opened the doors of many non-Western countries to the experience of democracy. Under these circumstances, with the peace processes under way in Ireland (following the Good Friday Agreement), in Sri Lanka, and in the Middle East (initiated by the Oslo Peace Accord – its recent setbacks notwithstanding), advocates...

  5. Chapter 1 The Unfinished Project of Modernity and the Heritage of Critical Theory
    (pp. 14-25)

    Today, questioning the project of modernity, in a general way, constitutes the postmodern discourse. Despite this critical attitude, however, the fate of the ideals of modernity has not yet been definitely decided by the new discourse. Indeed, the debate over the viability of modern ideals is still a very open and heated one, in which Jürgen Habermas is enthusiastically advocating the feasibility of the unfinished project of modernity. To understand Habermas′s philosophical and political convictions we need to begin by probing his philosophical heritage, which consists of modernity′s roots, the formulation of Enlightenment′s ideals in the tradition of German Idealism,...

  6. Chapter 2 Communicative Action Theory and the Rational Reconstruction of Linguistic Interaction
    (pp. 26-52)

    The preceding discussion reveals that Habermas sees his philosophical project as situated within the Enlightenment tradition. Still, he conceives the Enlightenment as an incomplete project whose ideals are yet to be realized. Drawing on Kant and Hegel, he too believes that in order to achievematurityandfreedomthe enlightened subject needs to become self-reflective so as to provide its normativity out of itself:the ideal of grounding or foundation. And like Marx, Habermas believes that the task of philosophy is to give a critique of one′s time so as to allow for the reconstruction of society to overcome domination:...

  7. Chapter 3 The Communicative Ethics Controversy: Insights and Oversights
    (pp. 53-75)

    My preceding discussion illustrates that from the vantage point of the linguistic turn, Habermas′s theory of communicative action is able to address the problem of modernity from an intersubjective perspective, showing that human subjects are constituted as a result of their linguistic interaction. The situation most conducive to emancipation, it is suggested, is the discursive situation as outlined in Habermas′s theory of discourse ethics. Habermas claims that discourse ethics is a genuine descendent of Kantian moral philosophy, since, like Kantian morality, discourse ethics is deontological, cognitivist, formalist, and universalist. It is deontological in that it rejects any material ethics (i.e.,...

  8. Chapter 4 Discourse Ethics and Legitimation Problems in Advanced Capitalism
    (pp. 76-96)

    The foregoing discussion has illustrated how Habermas′s concept of reconstructive sciences enables him to abandon the monological and self-estranged voice of the philosophy of consciousness in favour of a consensual understanding of an intersubjective rationality. Formal reconstruction of such a rationality yields a communicative theory capable of resolving the problem of modernity by accounting for the constitution of modern subjects as mature, critical, and autonomous agents via their linguistic interaction. Communicative action theory, in turn, leads to an ethics of discourse, wherein competent subjects can test one another′s validity claims by norms of argumentation. Anticipation of such an ideal situation...

  9. Chapter 5 The Impediment of Critical Theory: The Seductive Complacency of the ′Is′
    (pp. 97-121)

    My foregoing discussion revealed that Habermas′s pathology of modern society takes the form of translating the insight of his theory of communicative action and discourse ethics into a social and political theory of democracy whose critical thrust is to measure the distance between the ′is′ of the political system and the ′ought′ of the utopian free society.¹ In the reconstruction of such a critical theory of society, Habermas′s appropriation of the lifeworld/system distinction and his theory of the evolution of society, while allowing for the recognition of the crisis tendencies in modern societies and for the diagnosis of the internal...

  10. Chapter 6 Recovering the Critical Impulse of Habermas′s Theory of Democracy
    (pp. 122-150)

    To provide a remedy for the problem of modernity – as the critical account of human beings′ self-constitution as moral subjects – Habermas abandoned the philosophy of consciousness in favour of a philosophy of language that allowed him to highlight the emancipatory character of communication as the underlying principle of human interaction. His formulation of this project focused on how such a symbolic reproduction of the lifeworld was disrupted by the media of material reproduction. The expression ′colonization of the lifeworld′ captured his diagnosis of the ills of modernity. The task of critical theory with respect to this problem was...

  11. Chapter 7 Constitutional Patriotism as an Answer to the Problems of Diversity and Solidarity
    (pp. 151-174)

    So far in my assessment of Habermas′s pursuit of the ideals of justice and democracy I have shown that while his theory′s discursive method and its communicative aims foster a critical character and give it an open-ended approach consistent with our post-metaphysical condition, this character and this approach are compromised as a result of a shift inBetween Facts and Normsthat marks the theory′s new orientation towards the ′real, existing democracy′ as opposed to the one that isyet to come. The modern life of liberal states is marked by a multiplicity of world views and rapid changes in...

  12. Abbreviations
    (pp. 175-176)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 177-214)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 215-232)
  15. Index
    (pp. 233-238)