Posts Tagged ‘Jürgen Habermas’

October 3rd, 2016

A cautious rapprochement: Habermas and Taylor on translation and articulacy

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Conversation Statue Downtown Calgary WinterIn the past ten to fifteen years, discussions around the contested role of religion in the political public sphere have often centered on Jürgen Habermas and Charles Taylor, for many obvious and legitimate reasons. Not only are the two thinkers some of the most well-established in their fields, but they also share a deep appreciation of one another. Habermas’s reflections have perhaps drawn the bulk of attention and pushback, as religion had previously gone nearly unmentioned in his good half-century of academic work. Taylor also rarely discussed religion explicitly in his early career, but his more recent reflections seem to flow more naturally from his oeuvre, and come as less of a surprise to his readers.

In 2015, Taylor and Habermas were honored together in their shared reception of the Kluge Prize. While the two share significant overlap in their general push for a more accommodating role of religion in secular society, it is still worth taking a closer look at their divergences, particularly with regard to their views of language. Taylor has just released the first installment of what is to be a two-volume series entitled “The Language Animal.” We haven’t heard much from Habermas in recent years, but much of the secondary literature still focuses on his notion of the “post-secular,” mentioned in his 2001 speech in Frankfurt, as well as his 2005 volume Between Naturalism and Religion. His 2012 essay collection, Postmetaphysical Thinking II, has received less attention but shows a slight shift in emphasis. In what follows, I seek to provide an overview of Habermas’s and Taylor’s respective notions of “translation” and “articulacy,” and to accentuate their differences in order to consider where this discourse may go from here.

February 11th, 2016

A thought-provoking study

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Saba Mahmood | Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority ReportIn Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report, Saba Mahmood has produced a valuable account both of how the idea of separating religion from politics came to be central to the development of the “religiously neutral” state in Europe (beginning with the Thirty Years War in the seventeenth century and culminating in the new nations after the First World War) and of how that idea became politically important in the postcolonial Middle East. In particular, she describes how in constituting religious identities, the state in modern Egypt creates unexpected opportunities for political power and social confrontation among those who seek to regulate, as well as those who claim to represent, religious minorities. Her detailed analysis of the rich historical and ethnographic material she has assembled reinforces the conclusion that instead of regarding the secular state as the solution to discrimination against religious minorities, it must itself be understood as part of the problem. So I offer a few reflections prompted by her excellent study, first on liberal ideals that are commonly said to promote equal treatment for minorities, and then about the secular anxiety that preceded the 2013 coup against the elected president Mohamed Morsi.

November 6th, 2014

Faith as an Option

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Hans Joas’s Faith as an Option is primarily concerned with debunking two myths: first, the idea that modernization—advances in technology and the sciences—renders religious belief obsolete; second, the argument that secularization leads to moral decay. Joas, a leading European social theorist, is more than aware that criticisms of these claims are hardly new—contemporary scholars no longer prove keen to establish a law or rule connecting modernization and secularization, and there seems to be little or no correlation between societies with higher rates of atheism and moral decline. Instead, Joas’s study mainly aims to provide a series of illuminating explanations for why these views captured the imaginations of so many for so long.

February 13th, 2014

The theology blind spot

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I have always been puzzled by the fact that Charles Taylor starts his book A Secular Age with a long quote from Bede Griffith in order to describe a religious type of experience. It is the description of a scene experienced by the author as a school-boy: trees are blossoming, birds are singing, the author has the sensation that angels are present and that God is looking down on him. My question is: Why this quote? Why choose an image and a language of sunset, trees and birds in order to describe something for which the different languages of theology have worked out precise and elaborate codifications? I understand, of course, that in the context of the introduction to A Secular Age, Taylor uses this quote in order to make a soft claim to the human openness to experiences of transcendental nature. He uses the rest of the eight-hundred pages of the book to explore why it has become increasingly rare and difficult in our secular age to live these kinds of experiences, let alone to look for them in the context of an organized religious tradition. Most of us, he says, live our lives in an “immanent frame” and religious belief “has become one option among many.”

August 26th, 2013

CFP: Post-Secularism Between Public Reason and Political Theology

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Guest Editors Camil Ungureanu and Lasse Thomassen are requesting submissions for a special issue of the journal The European Legacy scheduled for late 2014.

October 16th, 2012

The view from Berlin: An interview with Hubert Knoblauch

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Hubert Knoblauch is a professor of sociology at the Technical University of Berlin, where he specializes in general sociological theory, sociology of knowledge, and the sociology of religion. A student of Thomas Luckmann, he is among the most distinguished representatives of the sociology of religion in Germany today. This summer, we sat down together over some of Berlin’s famously bad Indian food to discuss the sociology of religion in Germany, the influence of Jürgen Habermas, the meaning of spirituality, and ways to quit smoking.

August 16th, 2012

Enter the Post-Secular

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It was, then, a stirring sight to see Habermas sit down with Cardinal Ratzinger in 2004 for a philosophical dialogue. It is hard not to miss a breath at the image of both men in conversation, one the arch-defender of reason and rationality, described by Habermasian scholar Thomas McCarthy as the “last great rationalist,” and the other, renowned as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (and subsequently as Pope Benedict XVI), for his steadfast theological defense of Catholic tradition and moral teaching. At the same time, the twinning of the two Germans made for a fitting tableau: through their long careers, both have shown little interest in sociological realities and have remained intellectually aloof from lived experience.

January 26th, 2012

The context of religious pluralism

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Akeel Bilgrami’s article, “Secularism: Its Content and Context,” is an important and welcome contribution on a topic that has acquired momentum with the renaissance of the public role of religions, in democratic and non-democratic societies alike. Bilgrami clarifies in a penetrating and lucid way, three fundamental ideas on secularism: first, that it is “a stance to be taken about religion”; second, that it is not an indication of the form of government or the liberal nature of a regime; and third, that the context is a crucial factor in issues concerning the relationship between politics and religion.

January 5th, 2012

What are the uses of religion?

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Raising issues central to post-secularism, Ryan Gillespie reviews three distinct recent works—Steven D. Smith’s The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse, Terry Eagleton’s Reason, Faith and Revolution, and Jürgen Habermas’ Between Naturalism and Religion— in the International Journal of Communication.

November 2nd, 2011

Jürgen Habermas on myth and ritual

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This video is an excerpt of a lecture by Jürgen Habermas, delievered at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs on October 19th.

July 25th, 2011

The political theology of freedom and unfreedom

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Kahn has identified an ideal—the sacrificial ideal of freedom—that exists both as an ideal and at times in practice. And while the U.S. is certainly his main subject, he describes an ideal of freedom that has purchase well beyond American borders. Perhaps this freedom is what we’ve seen evoked by some of the protesters in the Middle East and North Africa in recent months. And Kahn is right to draw our attention to the claim that there is something miraculous in the plausible appearance of “the people.” Conjuring the people by giving up one’s self seems to represent just the kind of freedom and popular sovereignty that Kahn has in mind. The challenge for those who accept Kahn’s ideal is how to bring the individual and the conjured popular sovereign into a sufficient degree of unity with the apparatus of government, for such is the condition of more lasting freedom. These are the directions in which Kahn pushes us, and we need not think that he is correct on a factual or phenomenological level all of the time in order to examine this ideal, to ask when and how it emerges, and to see it as something astounding and “theological.”

June 16th, 2011

Religion und Öffentlichkeit

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The German translation, by Michael Adrian, of The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere will be published by Suhrkamp Verlag in October.

March 22nd, 2011

The post-secular: A different account

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John Boy, in a post on March 15th, titled “What we talk about when we talk about the postsecular,” provides a brisk empirical overview of his key word’s appearance in recent discourse. But it is not at all what I talk about when I talk about the post-secular, and in many ways I think Boy’s account is rather wrong-headed.

Boy takes his cue from a lecture delivered by Jürgen Habermas in 2001, where Habermas proposes to bridge the gap posited by Ernst Bloch’s notion of non-synchronicity—which is simply an uncritical early version of Johannes Fabian’s “denial of coevalness,” in his Time and the Other—through “democratically enlightened common sense.” However, what this “common sense” means for Habermas—“a translation of religious positions” into (for example) “Kant’s postmetaphysical ethics”—is in no sense post-secular! It is in fact the essence of the secularization thesis itself, in one of its most prominent historical guises . . . .

March 16th, 2011

Religion’s many powers

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To say that religion has power in the public sphere is not to say that it can be easily absorbed or that it should be. It is a basis for radical challenges and radical questions; it brings enthusiasm, passion, indignation, outrage, and love. If enthusiasm is sometimes harnessed to unreflective conviction, passion is also vital to critical engagement with existing institutions and dangerous trends. The public sphere and the practice of public reason have power too. And they not only take from religion but also offer it opportunities to advance by reflection and critical argument.

March 15th, 2011

What we talk about when we talk about the postsecular

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The term “postsecular” is quickly becoming a keyword for scholars of religion and public life. So what is it all about? An overview of its uses and meanings.

March 2nd, 2011

El poder de la religión

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El poder de la religión en la esfera pública, the Spanish language edition of The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere, will be released late this month by Trotta Editorial.

November 3rd, 2010

Religion as a catalyst of rationalization

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The centrality of religion to social theory in general and philosophy in particular explains why Jürgen Habermas has dealt with it, in both substantive and creative ways, in all of his work. Indeed, religion can be used as a lens through which to glimpse both the coherence and the transformation of his distinctive theories of social development and his rethinking of the philosophy of reason as a theory of social rationalization.

For Habermas, religion has been a continuous concern precisely because it is related to both the emergence of reason and the development of a public space of reason-giving. Religious ideas, according to Habermas, are never mere irrational speculation. Rather, they possess a form, a grammar or syntax, that unleashes rational insights, even arguments; they contain, not just specific semantic contents about God, but also a particular structure that catalyzes rational argumentation.

November 3rd, 2010

Habermas and Religion

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Edited by Craig Calhoun, Eduardo Mendieta, and Jonathan VanAntwerpen, Habermas and Religion presents a series of original and sustained engagements with Habermas’s writing on religion in the public sphere, featuring new work and critical reflections from leading philosophers, social and political theorists, and anthropologists. Contributors to the volume respond both to Habermas’s ambitious and well-developed philosophical project and to his most recent work on religion. The book closes with an extended response from Habermas—itself a major statement from one of today’s most important thinkers.

October 31st, 2010

“Leadership and Leitkultur”

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In The New York Times, Jürgen Habermas discusses the current political situation in Germany and the general challenge to liberal democracy enfolded in attempts to define and defend a national culture.

October 1st, 2010

An empirical perspective on religious and secular reasons

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This “religion in the public sphere” thread has featured debates about whether citizens of liberal democratic societies can offer religious reasons for public laws that will be coercive on all citizens, or whether they must use, in John Rawls’s terms, “public reason.” . . . This normative debate is about what people should do in public debates, but knowing what people actually do would allow theorists to develop greater nuance in their analyses. When we see what people actually do, we can further inquire as to whether there are social structures that are pushing people toward good or bad behavior. For example, it is possible that the normative structure of the contemporary public sphere works so strongly against certain normative proposals that they should just be abandoned as utopian. Moreover, it is possible that we may gain normative wisdom from the collective practices of citizens. In any event, given the many hundreds of normative analyses, some empirical examinations may usefully agitate the debate.

July 7th, 2010

Waiting for Godot, who is either late or not coming at all

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I wondered how long it would take DPDF participants to undo what I thought I had carefully assembled in my opening post on “Secularism, secularization, and why the difference matters.”  Not very long at all, it seems.  And so, I will try a response here to Justin Reynolds and Alex Hernandez, both of whom have questioned what I actually mean by saying that “secularization” is a conceptual improvement over “secularism.”

June 18th, 2010

Secularism, secularization, and why the difference matters

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Several decades ago, well before there had been any concerted effort among historians and sociologists of religion to trash the standard model of the “secularization thesis,” Jürgen Habermas famously pronounced modernity an “unfinished project,” and then proceeded to outline both the conditions needed to complete the project and the barriers that the twentieth century had thrown up in its way. This is obviously not the place to rehearse Habermas’s ideas, especially since so many others have done it well. . . . But, for the present purposes, I think we can usefully boil the conditions down to two.

With this essay by Vincent Pecora we introduce “Notes from the field,”  a new collaboration of The Immanent Frame and the SSRC’s DPDF Program.—ed.

April 23rd, 2010

Muslims in European public spheres and the limits of liberal theories of citizenship

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istanbul'un Orta Yeri Minare by :::Melike::: "ex oriente lux" | Photograph used under a Creative Commons licenseRecent events in Europe, from the cartoon crisis in Denmark to the controversy over the construction of minarets in Switzerland, have brought the status of Islam in the secular public sphere to the forefront of European political debates. The consequences of these debates can be seen in a hardening of the boundary between what is public and what is private, as many assume that religion generally belongs to the private sphere. Collective views in Europe have come to dictate that any claim or expression in public space deriving from religious beliefs be seen as illegitimate. As Jürgen Habermas has noted, the liberal vision of a secular public sphere imposes a special burden on the shoulders of religious citizens. Many believers, however, would not be able to undertake such an artificial division in their own minds between their religious beliefs and their civic commitments without destabilizing their existence as pious persons.

April 14th, 2010

New Habermas dialogues on religion and secularism

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An op-ed by Stanley Fish in Monday’s New York Times discusses a new publication comprising the proceedings from a course of dialogues between Habermas and four Jesuit academics in 2007. They have previously appeared in German, but they are now being published in English for the first time under the title An Awareness of What is Missing: Faith and Reason in a Post-secular Age.

March 10th, 2010

The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere

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In The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere, due out spring 2011 from Columbia University Press and the SSRC, Judith Butler, Jürgen Habermas, Charles Taylor, and Cornel West interrogate the specificity of religious and  secular reasons, dispositions, and ethical orientations in relation to democratic politics, each taking up a different strand of the complex intertwinement of religion and the public sphere in the contemporary world.

February 3rd, 2010

A postsecular world society?: An interview with Jürgen Habermas

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“We should not throw out the baby with the bathwater. The debate over the sociological thesis of secularization has led to a revision above all in respect to prognostic statements. On the one hand, the system of religion has become more differentiated and has limited itself to pastoral care, that is, it has largely lost other functions. On the other hand, there is no global connection between societal modernization and religion’s increasing loss of significance, a connection that would be so close that we could count on the disappearance of religion. In the still undecided dispute as to whether the religious USA or the largely secularized Western Europe is the exception to a general developmental trend, José Casanova for example has developed interesting new hypotheses. In any case, globally we have to count on the continuing vitality of world religions.”

December 4th, 2009

Rethinking secularism: The power of religion in the public sphere

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On October 22, 2009, over 1000 people gathered in the vast and venerable Great Hall at New York City’s Cooper Union to listen to four of our time’s preeminent public intellectuals discuss the place of religion in contemporary politics and public life. We have gathered links to recordings, transcripts and other materials related to this event, as well as relevant posts from the archives of The Immanent Frame. We encourage you to browse, read, listen and, of course, contribute your own reflections to our ongoing discussion of “the power of religion in the public sphere.”

November 20th, 2009

Jürgen Habermas and Charles Taylor in conversation

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rethinkingIn a symposium convened by the Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU, the Social Science Research Council and the Humanities Institute at Stony Brook University, Judith Butler, Jürgen Habermas, Charles Taylor, and Cornel West came together last month to discuss the project of “rethinking secularism.” Today we are posting audio and a transcript of the October 22 discussion between Habermas and Taylor, moderated by Craig Calhoun, in which the two leading philosophers discuss the place of religion in the public sphere and whether there are differences in kind between religious and secular reasons. (Listen to the paper presentations that preceded this discussion here. Add your own voice to the discussion here.)

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October 23rd, 2009

Open thread: The power of religion in the public sphere

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Four of the world’s leading public intellectuals came together yesterday in the historic Great Hall at Cooper Union to discuss “Rethinking Secularism.” In an electrifying symposium convened by the Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU, the Social Science Research Council and the Humanities Institute at Stony Brook University, Judith Butler, Jürgen Habermas, Charles Taylor, and Cornel West gave powerful accounts of religion in the public sphere. The Immanent Frame invites you to respond to the symposium presentations by submitting comments in the space below. UPDATE: Listen to audio of the event here.

October 19th, 2009

The philosopher-citizen

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habermasJürgen Habermas is one of the most prominent philosophers on the global scene of the last half century. His work is of an impressive range and depth. It would be impossible to sum it up in a short essay, but I shall try to single out three facets of his extraordinary achievement which help throw light on his deserved fame and influence.

September 15th, 2008

Translation and transformation

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In my last post, I closed with two questions relating to Jurgen Habermas’s recent work on religion and the public sphere: First, is a genealogical or language-theoretical reconstruction of reason adequate without an existential connection between social and cultural history on the one hand and individual biography on the other? Second, is “translation” an adequate conceptualization of what is involved in making religious insights accessible to nonreligious participants in public discourse (and vice-versa)? The two questions are closely related, for the issue is how communication is achieved across lines of deep difference. Helpful as translation may be, it is not the whole story. […]

August 11th, 2008

The renouncers

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What has become clear to me in recent years is that the old dream of progress, which used to be assumed, is being replaced in popular culture by visions of disaster, ecological catastrophe in particular. If, as I believe, we human beings are at least to some extent in charge of our own evolution, we are in a highly demanding situation. Never before have calls for criticism of and alternatives to the existing order seemed so urgent. It is in this context that I want to consider whether the heritage of “the axial age“—the period in antiquity that gave rise to such social critique through practices of renunciation—is a resource or a burden in our current human crisis. […]

April 24th, 2008

Secularism and critique

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What are we to think of the idea, entertained by Rawls for a time, that one can legitimately ask of a religiously and philosophically diverse democracy that everyone deliberate in a language of reason alone, leaving their religious views in the vestibule of the public sphere? The tyrannical nature of this demand was rapidly appreciated by Rawls, to his credit. But we ought to ask why the proposition arose in the first place.

April 21st, 2008

Secularism and the paradoxes of Muslim politics

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Few books in Islamic studies have been as eagerly awaited or intensely debated prior to publication as Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na`im’s Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Shari`a. Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law at Emory University, An-Na`im has for more than twenty years been a tireless proponent of a deeply religious but liberal-modernist reformation of Islamic politics and ethics. […]

March 24th, 2008

“Recognizing” religion

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Religion appears in liberal theory first and foremost as an occasion for tolerance and neutrality. This orientation is reinforced by both the classification of religion as essentially a private matter, and the view that religion is in some sense a “survival” from an earlier era – not a field of vital growth within modernity. […]

March 14th, 2008

An ideal of conscientious engagement

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Many political theorists, pundits and even presidential candidates have advocated some variation on the claim that religious and secular reasons have a differential justificatory potential: at least some kinds of secular reason, but no kinds of religious reason, suffice to justify coercive laws in a pluralistic democracy….I disagree with this differential treatment of the religious and the secular — not only Habermas’ particular formulation, but any position relevantly like it.

March 5th, 2008

Taking religion seriously

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What distinguishes Habermas from Rawls on religion in the public sphere is not Habermas’s slightly amended view of public reason, but his willingness to entertain the idea that religion has a positive and substantive role to play in public debate.

February 26th, 2008

Religious reasons & secular revelations

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That Jürgen Habermas and I probably agree on most fundamental issues does not mean that there are no differences between us; indeed we have engaged in a friendly debate over some of our differences over many years. Habermas writes as a “methodological atheist,” which means that when doing philosophy or social science, he presumes nothing about particular religious beliefs. Another friend of mine, the well-known sociologist Peter Berger, who is a professed Christian, also does his sociology from the point of view of methodological atheism. I have heard him in a public lecture say, “Now I am taking off my sociological hat and putting on my theological hat.” I don’t have two hats; I am a Christian sociologist. […]

January 29th, 2008

Inclusion and accountability in the public sphere

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In his essay “Religion in the Public Sphere,” Habermas joins the debate between liberals and critics of liberalism on the proper role of religion in the public sphere. His proposal focuses on what each side of the debate gets right: the liberal emphasis on the obligation to provide nonreligious reasons in support of coercive policies with which all citizens must comply, on one side, and the critic’s insistence on the right of religious citizens to adopt their religious stance in public deliberation about such policies, on the other. […]

January 17th, 2008


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zwischen-naturalismus-und-religion.jpgMore than most other great systematic thinkers of our time, Jürgen Habermas has for decades consistently expressed his views on the burning issues of the day, finding inspiration for his philosophical work in contemporary realities. There is still no sign of any let-up in his tremendous capacity to produce analyses of the contemporary world. With his new volume of essays, Zwischen Naturalismus und Religion, the philosopher now presents us with a collection of writings from the 2001-2004 period […]

January 3rd, 2008

Religions and the postnational constellation

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habermas_the-postnational-constellation.jpgGranted that there is a global economy, global culture, global law, global civil society, even global festivals, why are global institutions both so promising and so weak? I want to turn to Jürgen Habermas, Europe’s leading social philosopher, for help, looking particularly at his remarkable essay of 1998, “The Postnational Constellation and the Future of Democracy.”