Friday, February 01, 2008

Globalizing Democracy: Reflections on Habermas's Radicalism

By Pauline Johnson


According to many of his critics, Habermas is so preoccupied with `old normative maps' that he cannot really help us chart our options in a fast globalizing world. The following article contests aspects of this familiar critique. The argument is developed in three stages. First, some misapprehensions are targeted. No unreconstructed liberal, Habermas is shown to offer a discriminating interpretation of learning processes that need to guide political democracy in a global context. The far-reaching agenda of Habermas's programme for a globalized and democratized welfare project is underlined. Next, Habermas's attempt to bring forward the normative resources of liberal democratic histories is contrasted with Ulrich Beck's normative avant-gardism. This latter is shown to be a mere semblance of radicalism that serves to legitimate the triumph of one particular axis within modernization processes. Finally, the article explores a dilemma that faces Habermas's attempt to use the potentials of a particular cultural tradition as the normative grounds for a globally extended democracy. Habermas wants to avoid reducing critical theory to the mere affirmation of certain parochial cultural choices and so tries to find grounds for establishing the universal resonance of these normative contents. The last section looks into the ideological character of this attempt and considers an alternative way in which the inter-cultural significance of democratic Enlightenment commitments might be tested.

from here


Gary E Davis said...

Ms. Johnson's project is a good one (no academicism at all). But, presuming that one's Abstract accurately represents one's case, she would better have set out to use Habermasian work to counter any "attempt to use the potentials of a particular cultural tradition as the normative grounds for a globally extended democracy," rather than arguing (presuming?) that Habermas does so.

It's a common situation in (mis)reading Habermas that the reader is unable to practically distinguish between (1) "the content of form" (Hayden White's rubric), which a practice-oriented formal pragmatic-based proceduralism is, and (2) formal content, i.e., theoretically-oriented (in the scientific sense) abstract content (e.g., considering types of values implied by catalogs of values).

The ontic claim for theory of modernity is that its social-evolutionary and cognitive-developmental features are not matters of the European locale which favored its emergence, just as there's nothing especially national about a software platform—not to connote technologism with modernization theory, but only express the point that everything emerges somewhere, and Europe happened to favor modernization first. Modernization as such isn't European.

Anonymous said...

She gets the Robert Fine and Will Smiths paper completely wrong though!

Anonymous said...

She doesn't really talk much about Smith's paper. Only a line or two.

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