- Jürgen Habermas, a German sociologist and philosopher whose work focuses on the political domain and rationality. He is best known for his theories on communicative rationality and the public sphere. Associated with the Frankfurt School, his work also focuses on the foundations of critical social theory, the analysis of advanced capitalistic societies and democracy, human freedom within modern society, the rule of law in a critical social-evolutionary context, and contemporary politics-- particularly German politics.
"Does participation in democratic procedures have only the functional meaning of silencing a defeated minority, or does it have the deliberative meaning of including the arguments of citizens in the democratic process of opinion- and will-formation? ... Democracy depends on the belief of the people that there is some scope left for collectively shaping a challenging future."
-- Jürgen Habermas
Leadership and Leitkultur
The New York Times, October 29, 2010
"Nonpublic opinions are at work in great numbers, and 'the' public opinion is indeed a fiction. Nevertheless, in a comparative sense the concept of public opinion is to be retained because the constitutional reality of the social-welfare state must be conceived as a process in the course of which a public sphere that functions effectively in the political realm is realized, that is to say, as a process in which the exercise of social power and political domination is effectively subjected to the mandate of democratic publicity."
I am asked by the CommGAP team if I would be willing to post a note on the occasion of Jürgen Habermas's 80th birthday. I am grateful for being asked, and especially pleased at the moment of reflection on a remarkable life that this requires.
Of course, his work on the relationship between communication and democratization is widely celebrated. Somewhat ruefully for some of us, since it always seems that one has just finished struggling through an engagement with his latest work when he produces yet another, often in a different field of scholarship: first the public sphere, then reason, then ethics, then law, and most recently religion. But, not to complain. These efforts are all connected together in a system of thought that has the subject of deliberative democracy at its core.