The Scandal of Reason

The Scandal of Reason: A Critical Theory of Political Judgment

Albena Azmanova
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 296
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    The Scandal of Reason
    Book Description:

    Theories of justice are haunted by a paradox: the more ambitious the theory of justice, the less applicable and useful the model is to political practice; yet the more politically realistic the theory, the weaker its moral ambition, rendering it unsound and equally useless. Brokering a resolution to this "judgment paradox," Albena Azmanova advances a "critical consensus model" of judgment that serves the normative ideals of a just society without the help of ideal theory.

    Tracing the evolution of two major traditions in political philosophy -- critical theory and philosophical liberalism -- and the way they confront the judgment paradox, Azmanova critiques prevailing models of deliberative democracy and their preference for ideal theory over political applicability. Instead, she replaces the reliance on normative models of democracy with an account of the dynamics of reasoned judgment produced in democratic practices of open dialogues. Combining Hannah Arendt's study of judgment with Pierre Bourdieu's social critique of power relations, and incorporating elements of political epistemology from Kant, Wittgenstein, H. L. A. Hart, Max Weber, and American philosophical pragmatism, Azmanova centers her inquiry on the way participants in moral conflicts attribute meaning to their grievances of injustice. She then demonstrates the emancipatory potential of the model of critical deliberative judgment she forges and its capacity to guide policy making.

    This model's critical force yields from its capacity to disclose the common structural sources of injustice behind conflicting claims to justice. Moving beyond the conflict between universalist and pluralist positions, Azmanova grounds the question of "what is justice?" in the empirical reality of "who suffers?" in order to discern attainable possibilities for a less unjust world.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52728-6
    Subjects: Political Science, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION: The Scandal of Reason and the Paradox of Judgment
    (pp. 1-20)

    Poor judgment in politics tends to be costly, though it comes in remarkable diversity of occasionally entertaining form. On the eve of the French Revolution, Queen Marie-Antoinette advised the rebellious crowds to eat cake (brioche) for want of bread. She lost her head. On the eve of the American Civil War, the ruling elites in eleven Southern slave states declared secession, invoking the right to private property as justification for safeguarding slavery. They lost their cause. In the midst of the Lewinski political sex scandal, President Clinton’s denial of his extramarital affair under oath in court incurred impeachment charges of...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Political Judgment and the Vocation of Critical Theory
    (pp. 21-42)

    Shakespeare’s henry v opens with an act in which the king consults with his advisors on whether he has the right to invade and conquer France: “May I with right and conscience make this claim?” asks Henry.¹ First performed in 1599, this play supplies one of the earliest modern narratives on the impulse of power to articulate the normative grounds of its actions—it is one of the first modern accounts of political judgment. By engaging with this play, the first part of this chapter spells out the parameters of the concept of political judgment in its relation, on the...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Critical Theory: Political Judgment as Ideologiekritik
    (pp. 43-64)

    Critical social theory, as pioneered at the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research,¹ offers a particularly opportune point of departure for an inquiry into a politically realistic normative account of justice and judgment. It is well equipped to respond to the conundrum Aristotle formulated: the centrality, in politics, of judgments over the justice of social norms and the impossibility of a general theory of justice. Let us recall that, according to Aristotle, the difficulty comes from the very nature of political judgment—the fact that it is concerned with the particulars of our collective existence.² Critical Theory’s manner of resolving this...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Philosophical Liberalism: Reasonable Judgment
    (pp. 65-91)

    In the previous chapter, we saw that efforts within Critical Theory to solve the tension between the political relevance and normative rigor of the critical enterprise (the “judgment paradox”) entailed the communicative turn initiated by Jürgen Habermas. This brought about a shift from the historically situated sociocultural analysis of capitalism typical of the first generation of the Frankfurt School, toward Kantian moral universalism. In contrast, the communicative turn that John Rawls introduced in Philosophical Liberalism¹ triggered a transformation in the opposite direction: from moral universalism to the practice of political debate.

    In the search for a politically relevant normative theory,...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Philosophical Liberalism and Critical Theory in Dispute
    (pp. 92-117)

    From analysis of the ways in which the communicative turn has taken place within Critical Theory (chapter 2) and Philosophical Liberalism (chapter 3), two configurations of deliberative democracy came to view, each originating within a particular critique of power. I have presented the transformations within the two philosophical traditions as being triggered by efforts to solve what I have called the “paradox of judgment”—the tendency we often find in normative political theory of a trade-off between the model’s realism and its normative rigor (the imperative of political relevance versus that of justice). This effort, I claimed, has prompted Critical...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Judgment Unbound: Arendt
    (pp. 118-135)

    The idea of deliberative justification, around which powerful traditions of political philosophy converged at the close of the twentieth century, amounts to a radical shift in understanding of the object of philosophical inquiry: This is a transition from a search for a theory of justice to an account of judgment and judging. Democratic deliberations, as a mechanism of political judgment on the justice of social norms and political rules, seems to resolve what I have called the “judgment paradox” (the tension between the political cogency, normative rigor, and critical power of judgment) in the following way: The democratic nature of...

  10. CHAPTER 6 From Critique of Power to a Critical Theory of Judgment
    (pp. 136-159)

    A model of political judgment and normative justification is inevitably embedded within a larger analytical framework, not necessarily a normative theory of justice but some type of critique of power dynamics marked by its key constitutive elements (notions of power, agency, normative criteria, and epistemic premises). I have examined three types of critique and models of judgment they contain—those developed within Critical Theory, Philosophical Liberalism, and Hannah Arendt’s emergent conceptualization of judging. They all encounter, each in its particular way, what I call the “paradox of judgment”—the fact that the more relevant a theory of judgment attempts to...

  11. CHAPTER 7 The Political Epistemology of Judgment
    (pp. 160-179)

    I have proposed to solve the paradox of judgment—that is, the tension between the moral rigor and the political realism of a theory of justice that is damaging the critical enterprise, by focusing on the prediscursive conditions enabling judgment. To transform the discursive normative model into a critical consensus model in this way we cannot simply insert the level of what I describe in the previous chapter as a matrix of relevance inherent in the constitution of public reason (its “phronetic constitution”). To accommodate this level properly in view of a politically relevant, critical theory of judgment, we need...

  12. CHAPTER 8 The Critical Consensus Model
    (pp. 180-200)

    I have suggested that there exists a particular dimension of communication and judgment—one that can be equated with neither individual and collective interests and values nor with the “moral point of view.” This dimension, which I have called the “phronetic constitution of public reason” and which orients judgment, concerns a socially specific code of signification (by way of simultaneous attribution of meaning and significance) to issues as being relevant to the parties of a debate. It is thanks to these prediscursive dynamics that conflicting positions can be communicated within a meaningful disagreement. Critical Theory should address this phenomenon without...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Judgment, Criticism, Innovation
    (pp. 201-226)

    My analysis, thus far, aimed to discern a logic of critical validation of social and political rules. The objective has been to solve what I call the “judgment paradox” (the damaging for social criticism trade-off between the imperatives of justice and political cogency), and thereby render normative theory both politically salient and critical. In order to advance a model of judgment that offers such a synergy, I have proposed a particular interpretation of the hermeneutic turn in political philosophy that enables an analysis of the imbrications of the moral and strategic impulses of judgment. This led to the design of...

  14. CONCLUSION: Letting Go of Ideal Theory
    (pp. 227-238)

    While some philosophers are asking whether there should and could be a free lunch,¹ others, at least since Derrida and Foucault, have been noting that neither what is “free” nor what is “lunch” is a notion that is innocent of socially generated and normatively dubious dynamics of power.

    Can democratic deliberations resolve this conundrum? Can reasoned judgment, produced in democratic settings of inclusive dialogues, provide reliable guidance in the making of policy decisions? Powerful traditions in political philosophy have ventured a hesitant “yes,” voiced in the plethora of models of deliberative democracy that have emerged since the late twentieth century....

    (pp. 239-242)
  16. NOTES
    (pp. 243-264)
    (pp. 265-272)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 273-286)