Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Habermas and a constitution for Europe - Hatto Fischer


Habermas has been responsible for the term 'constitutional patriotism'. This is in need to be discussed on the basis of how he perceives the crisis of today. That can be best understood by seeing how Habermas uses his concepts of moral, law and publicness to analyse the situation.

Publicness is derived out of his book about 'Structural changes in publicness': what used to be once the private garden of the king is nowadays a public park. Structural changes affect the role of the media in modern democracy. Here Habermas speaks about a 'pathology of communication' insofar the media is no longer supportive of the freedom of expression in a public sense, but subject to media mongrols like Berlusconi and Murdoch. Both these figures are now in disrepute but for a long time they dominated the media world as no one else could before them. And the influence of the media is not over once their powers have been checked. For news casters like CNN, BBC and Fox News use many more clever tricks so as not to be identified with outright propaganda as known under dictatorship or other forms of suppressions, but they do influence public opinion to an extent that the resulting democratic deficit has become a major concern for Habermas.

Most of his latest writings are about not only publicness but as well about the constitution, and this not for one nation but for Europe and for the world. Here begins the problem of governance for how to retain a viable linkage between forms used to make decisions and citizens and personal identity formations when there exists this democratic gap? Most EU decisions are made behind closed doors while member states behave at times like nations unwilling to give up their own sovereignty. He sees political discourse resulting out of a tension field which leaves behind the citizens. He is worried by the outcome e.g. hatred of immigrants / migrants.

To allow for a moment a different reflection about identity, one interesting question posed at the Department of Humanities at Cornell University to a group of scholars in 1987/89 was what happens to your identity when you write in a language other than your mother tongue? The writer Marie Cardinal was taken as example. There are many who write now in English even though their original language was another. Josef Conrad is a good example. The anthropologist James Clifford refers to him as having three different languages: the language of origin since he was born in Poland; the language of desire for he fell in love with a French one and went with her to Africa; and finally the language of social norms which he adopted once he married a British woman, moved to England and started to write in English.

Interestingly enough English has become a 'bridge language', or the Franco lingua of the 21st century. It entails as much a potential loss of many other languages as it can lead to many people giving up in part their own personal identities. Not to succumb to pressures is an art of personal survival.

Given the term 'cultural diversity', it does add up to the following question applicable not only to language but also to cultures as to whether or not they are different only from 'nation to nation', or really of true distinctiveness and colourful vitality, and therefore not to pressed into the scheme of conformist neutrality? The latter is always a construct and has been linked in history to the making of the nation state. Of course, there are regional identities as well. In Germany, a region like Baveria takes pride in its folklore tradition and intellectual prowness. However, this does not alter the fact that Baverian identity was the result of giving the entire region a specific cultural stamp and therefore just as confirmistic as modern identities.

As this leads to further discussions about the philosophical logic behind such constructs and use of a cultural stamp, it must be taken into consideration when examining how identity is linked to both a nation and a state. Here Z. Baumann has made some interesting remarks about a marriage which has become problematic in the meantime. Such a national identity is set up to safeguard this specific nation. Things are then assumed to be only then good if done in the national interest.

National identity makes the 'cosmopolitan' automatically into a figure not aligned with the state. In his Philosophy of Law, Hegel identifies already the Jew as a Cosmopolitan. By implication, this sets already a strong tone of anti semitism. For it is implied such a figure would not show any allegiance to the state i.e. give an oath to be loyal to the state. When visitors go through the Jewish museum in Berlin that puzzle resonates all the time. For the guide would point out that Jews served as German citizens in First World War, and therefore did show more than their allegiance, but to their amazement they found themselves suddenly in 1933 to be no longer German citizens. Needless to say, it underlines as well that Hegel's philosophy can be best understood as preparing the ground for the formation of such a national identity which is absolute in spirit once allied with the state. That leaves no space or tolerance for the Cosmopolitan or citizen of the world.

Since finding an identity in a Europe going through manifolded forms of crisis, it might be helpful here to refer to the philosopher Bart Verschaffel. He speaks about cultural identity within a Europe being problematic because for many still a fiction. However, he cautions not to negate for this reason the idea of Europe. Rather it has become a very necessary fiction and should be related to accordingly.

A Europe which was entangled in the First and Second World War needs to go forward and seek human solidarity and identity within a larger whole. By implication, it means to overcome all the Nationalism of the past. For this reason it is important for Habermas to give shape to a European constitution to allow for a new identity formation. To bring this about there is needed public discourse, and this especially after the failure to ratify the EU Constitutional Treaty in 2005. The confusion then was that while the media and many people referred to it as a potential constitution, it was in reality a combination of Charter of Rights and Maastricht Treaty between member states. For Europe is not a single collective state to which all citizens can relate and thereby give to 'equal rights' institutional substance, but is comprised of both citizens and member states with loyalities fluctuating between the national and European embodiments of modern governance. Alone the triopod of Council, Parliament and Commission at European level is enough to confuse everyone as to where lies exactly the authority to propose and to make law. However, it should be known that the European Parliament does not have this Right while the Commission does initiate laws, but does it in joint agreement with the Council of Ministers and therefore in accordance with the wishes articulated through various forms by the member states. At all times most decisive is the legal base for any European action but precisely this base is not entirely clear to citizens of Europe.

Michel Foucault  made a most interesting observation about trends in history and over time, and which is most relevant to what it takes to draft a new constitution. If it is to be accepted by all, then the process must go through various consultations, public hearings, expert opinions etc. before it is possible to think at all such a text would warrent the signature of history as being 'the' constitution of Europe. What Foucault wished to suggest is to take a closer look at how the practical discourse evolves around interpretations of already written texts. It is like moving towards a new original text. However if that fails, cautions Foucault, then there is the high risk that people will fall back and refer again to an older original text like the Bible in the Western World marked by the Christian tradition or else to the Koran which stands out over time in the Muslim world. The reason for wishing to return to an original text is that it promises to uphold at least such a value consensus so that everyone can assume and be assured that everyone abides by the same rules. After all the crisis in identity is not only of a personal and therefore marginal making in relation to the rest of society, but stems from mounting and very bitter experiences that power has become most arbitrary when it comes to applying the law. It was already stated beforehand with regards to people tearing down the Bastille because it had become the symbol for arbitrary punishment and therefore considered highly unjust. It sparked the revolt. Similar situations prevailed when the Arab spring made itself heard. It was a revolt by the many out of a wish to live in a society which does uphold 'human diginity' and therefore respects the individual integrity of everyone.

Therefore, the failure to ratify the EU constitutional treaty has many more ramifications than what politicians and even astute observers of European affairs are willing to admit, never mind able to identify as the deeper reason for the identity crisis within Europe. The latter is indicated best by a resurgent Nationalism wishing to acclaim a sovereign national identity and therefore a bid to end all kinds of external interferences. As if doors and windows are shut in all houses across Europe.

There remains to be answered the crucial question as to what identity to assume, in order to make possible governance. Understandably Habermas would relate this very much to the question about the constitution of Europe.

School of thought

Habermas is a philosopher who thinks in terms of categories needed for empirical research, but never comes so far as to undertake actually this much needed research. It is one of the greatest weaknesses in philosophy especially in German. Practically more text interpretation is being exercised instead of entering a critical dialogue with reality. The philosophical school from which Habermas derives many of his inspirations can be linked to the Frankfurt School but only partially. Interestingly enough Adorno and Horkheimer did make an exception to this rule about empiricism and philosophy. While in exile in the United States, the two did undertake an empirical research study of the 'authoritarian personality', in order to explain Fascism in Germany. Given this solid background, no wonder once back in Germany, Adorno and Horkheimer became most influential especially upon the student movement. Their writings dealt with freedom as much as with the contradictions inherent in such a society having gone through National Socialism.

For whatever reason Adorno and Horkheimer did not accept Habermas as Ph.D. Candidate. Instead he went to Gadamer who was at that time the king-maker of philosophers in post war Germany. He is considered to be the father of Hermeneutics and therefore a devoted scholar to a certain method by which ancient texts can be interpreted. Gadamer was fore mostly a devout student of Heidegger whose affinity to Fascism has often been left aside when dealing with his philosophical texts, but Gadamer gave an inkling what it meant to be his student. For he explained that thanks to Heidegger he learned how to beat his own father when it came to any argumentation. Not the dialogue between generations was furthered, but the revolt of the young against the elderly, a revolt very easily manipulated and which brought Hitler to power. Gadamer was also director of a camp for scientists during Second World War – and therefore not very far from what Solshenitzyn had described in 'First Circle of Hell'.

Gadamer's hermeneutics continues German Idealism with its particular link to Ancient Greek philosophy. He uses this method as search for truth for the purpose to uphold differentiation as class difference. He believed only an educated elite was capable of such a differentiation. By comparison a common person would only experience the body and head as either normal or bad, and nothing else in between. Idealism derives a lot from Ancient Greek philosophy in order to drive these ideals against reality experienced back in Germany. It can be understood as linking Ancient Greek philosophy, in particular Plato to a strand of thinkers which include Hegel, Fichte, Kant, Leibniz, Heidegger etc. It is acclaimed as a search for truth. Yet while Hegel would state 'the whole is truth' and Gadamer could assert in his authoritative way that only the one who knows how to use the word 'whole' (ganz) would master the German language, it was Adorno who stepped out of this tradition of thought by stating emphatically in 'minima moralia' that 'the whole is not the truth!'

What all of this means to how Habermas shaped and developed his own original thinking, that remains to be seen. Definitely he is one of the few philosophers who speak out and address issues usually left to politicians. He has been most influential amongst school teachers when it came to promote competence in communication. And Habermas was ready also to warn in terms of Human Rights when methods to bring about equality would risk to become counter productive.

Important to note as well is that Habermas opposes Post Modernism and more so Deconstructivism since a method which does not deal with contradiction in a honest way. Still, in his dialogue with Derrida he showed both an understanding of that another philosophical strand of thinking and why he could not adapt his mind to such a method.

Habermas feels very much at home especially in the American academic world. Always he would marvel at the students posing good questions when lecturing there. It means his philosophy, although influential in Germany, is not as widely appreciated as would be the case if society and politics would embrace his special brand of 'rationality' and therefore public debate.

Publicness and public discourse – gaining competence in communication

Publicness is derived out of his book about 'Structural changes in publicness' e.g. what used to be once the private garden of the king is nowadays a public park. The public space is where public truths are articulated. It allows citizens develop and validate a common understanding of what is the situation at hand.

Structural changes of this publicness come about due to several new forces. Here Habermas examines especially the role of the media in modern democracy. In doing so, he speaks about a 'pathology of communication' insofar the media is no longer supportive of the freedom of expression in a public sense, but subject to media barons like Berlusconi and Murdoch. Both these figures are now in disrepute but for a long time they dominated the media world as no one else could before them.

And the influence of the media is not over once the powers of these individuals have been checked. For media uses many more clever tricks, in order not to be identified with outright propaganda as known under dictatorship or other forms of suppressions, but negative framing, hidden advertisement, letting images speak for themselves etc. do their work.

In an age of spin doctor reports this means the media has become the message and therefore is subject to much manipulation. Added to this is the Internet which makes the difference between real and delayed time crucial when it comes to reality checks. Ever more people seem to go astray in this over exposure to media based forms of communication while the democratic deficit seems to grow.

This is a major concern for Habermas and explains why he writes about the legitimacy crisis and the democratic gap affecting the working of democracy.

Legitimacy crisis and the democratic gap

Habermas believes in reason and justice as two key concepts when it comes to seek rational politics in a modern state. If that is not brought about, then there is for him a crisis of legitimization in the making. With regards to Europe and the formation of the European Union, he makes that crisis explicit on hand of the democratic gap between decision making process and participations by citizens. That means doubts are cast upon the possibilities of citizens in Europe to take on a European identity. Instead the crisis has shown a resurgence of extreme forms of Nationalism wiping out even efforts by national politics to retain a sense of Patriotism while going through a period of time marked by austerity measures as the case in Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy.

The democratic gap in Europe is huge. While many of the EU decisions are made behind closed doors, member states are unwilling to give up their own sovereignty. At the same time, ever more regional cultural entities strive to more independence whether now Scotland or Catalonia, but also richer regions are no longer willing to give money to the poorer ones e.g. Baveria for the Länder in former East Germany or Northern Italy to Sicily. Habermas sees this as a tension field in which citizens are left behind. He is in particular worried by what outcome this has on 'human rights' e.g. hatred of immigrants / migrants.

And yet Habermas is in favor of the European Union as long as it allows for open communication and debate. For while critics have typically complained that the EU does not have the same legitimacy as nation-states because there is no such thing as a European “people,” Habermas argues that the ethical and political self-understanding of citizens in a democratic community needn’t be rooted in a historical or cultural essence. Simply put, citizens do not have to “feel” that they belong together culturally or ethnically to act in a democratic manner and experience solidarity with their neighbors, especially beyond their borders. It is enough that they share a common set of ethical and civic values and participate in a set of institutions that enable them to communicate and debate. Historically, constitutional democracy emerged from local, dynastic and national entities, he explains, and there is no reason this process should not continue beyond national boundaries. Granted, the European Commission presides over a limited government apparatus, but this role notwithstanding, the “expectation [is] that the growing mutual trust among the European peoples will give rise to a transnational, though attenuated, form of civic solidarity amongst citizens.” Habermas argues that beginning with the constitutional anchoring of rights, first in nation-states and subsequently in international law, there is “a rhythm of development” that extends from the elimination of warfare to the institutional cooperation of “domesticated” states.”


Again it shows that Habermas intends to construct a rational basis for Patriotism when it comes to deal with this democratic gap as reason for a crisis in legitimacy, but not as a reason for a revolution or rejection altogether. In that sense, Habermas remains a moderate liberal who searches for a practical discourse to bring about changes.

Since this term 'discourse' is crucial to further an understanding of what is going on, it might be helpful here to solicit the help of Michel Foucault who speaks about discussions moving ahead by interpreting previous texts, in order to write a new text. The main aim is to formulate a new basic text which can become the source of consensus for a new set of values, and therefore can be called 'constitution'.

Interestingly enough Foucault warns in case those engaged in practical discourse do not succeed in founding such a new text, then people will fall back to an original text e.g. the Bible or the Koran. For these ancient texts are still looked upon as a source of common values and may explain what is happening in a world seeking to find an answer in these texts rather than going forward.

Constitutional patriotism

Habermas takes the term 'Patriotism' one step further, in order to show a way out of the extreme Nationalism of the past as identified with the rise and fall of Hitler's National Socialism. Wishing to put allegiance to the state on a rational basis, Habermas started to speak about the need to be loyal to the constitution and not so much to an symbolic embodiment of the nation usually found in a certain state masked by symbols and flags. Rather then the blind following of a leader, politics in a democratic state would require according to Habermas constitutional loyalty or rather 'constitutional patriotism'.

Most of his latest writings are ever more about the constitution. Here Habermas does not wish to deal with just one nation but with Europe in the context of the whole world. As a matter of fact he considers the European Union to be but a transitory phase on the way to the world governance. Here then begins the problem of governance if there is lacking a basic constitution. For how to retain a viable linkage between citizens and institutional forms used to bring about decisions, especially when citizens lag behind in terms of participation?

It should not be forgotten Aristotle defined 'constitution' as holding things together while keeping those things separated which 'do not belong together'. This can include such chemicals if brought together would cause an explosion. Such a constitution remains, however, static and is based on a Right to hate (Aristotle stated things should be hated which deserve to be hated and recognized therefore this need as something natural, akin to man). The ability to hold things together while separating other elements was also perceived by Hegel as a key to power upheld cunningly so by separating that what belongs together for otherwise this would grow in strength and challenge, if not question entirely power.

History of political thought (Sabine) shows over time constitution guides over time the making of law. As this should be a creative process, it is linked to the individual and the capacity to relate morals to such value principles which can become laws. Already Kant stated the most obvious prerequisite that everyone should act according to such values which can become the norm and law for everyone. This possibility to generalize alters naturally the scope of consideration for the other, or what amounts to the difference between value consensus within a society and imposition of one's own values upon the other. Kant tried to resolve that contradiction by advocating no other human being should become the means to an end of oneself, but in reality that has never been upheld. More so Cornelius Castoriadis pointed out the problem with values is that they cannot be discussed, but are set and if anyone tries to change them, it will lead to conflict, if not to war. The consequence has been within the European Union to attempt to reach out to the other by means of 'intercultural dialogue', but this concept is very much criticized and only limited success can be claimed when using this tool.

But to come back to Habermas and his concept of 'constitutional Patriotism', it is worthy to note what can be understood when including culture as facilitating this link between individual and nation: „The object of patriotic attachment is a specific constitutional culture that mediates between the universal and the particular; and the mode of attachment is one of critical judgment.“ (Jan-Werner Müller). One interpretation of this trend underlines as well that such a concept seeks to adapt to a multi cultural society being composed of different values and hence a model for a new liberal democracy:

Constitutional Patriotism offers a new theory of citizenship and civic allegiance for today's culturally diverse liberal democracies. Rejecting conventional accounts of liberal nationalism and cosmopolitanism, Jan-Werner Müller argues for a form of political belonging centered on universalist norms, adapted for specific constitutional cultures. At the same time, he presents a novel approach to thinking about political belonging and the preconditions of democratic legitimacy beyond the nation-state. The book takes the development of the European Union as a case study, but its lessons apply also to the United States and other parts of the world.

Müller's essay starts with an engaging historical account of the origins and spread of the concept of constitutional patriotism-the idea that political attachment ought to center on the norms and values of a liberal democratic constitution rather than a national culture or the "global human community." In a more analytical part, he then proposes a critical conception of citizenship that makes room for dissent and civil disobedience while taking seriously a polity's need for stability over time. Müller's theory of constitutional patriotism responds to the challenges of the de facto multiculturalism of today's states--with a number of concrete policy implications about immigration and the preconditions for citizenship clearly spelled out. And it asks what civic empowerment could mean in a globalizing world.“

The constitution of Europe

Habermas’s most recent book, Die Verfassung Europas, has caused a stir in Germany since its publication by Suhrkamp in November; it has just been published here in an English translation as The Crisis of the European Union. But its appeal in Germany has rested not so much on Habermas’s justified indignation about the EU, but instead on his tempered optimism about the future of democracy in Europe. Die Zeit called Die Verfassung Europas “the book of the hour”; Der Spiegel, “a philosopher’s mission to save the EU”; and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a manifesto for “a second chance for a united Europe.” The near unanimous enthusiasm of reviewers probably reflected less a consensus about the book’s arguments than sheer relief, given the daily bad news from Europe, that Habermas had written a hopeful book. He affirms his longstanding commitment to a cosmopolitan Europe in which the dynamics of global capitalism can be remastered beyond the nation-state, at a supranational and global level, and he sees a radically altered European Union as a model—indeed, as the precursor—for a constitutionally sanctioned cosmopolitan world order based not on utopian illusions but on realistic assessments. “

The identity question transformed into moral impulses linked to human rights

Jürgen Habermas has shifted entirely the ground of the philosophical debate by relating identity to the most common ground for identity linked to world governance. He declares human dignity to be a moral impulse which everyone accepts world wide, therefore, it does not need any further self justification. Thus in his terms the question of identity has to do much more with 'human dignity' and respect for human rights. Also he warns that any method to rectify unjust situations can easily become themselves unjust e.g. quota for women in work places. The limits are set by being against any kind of imaginable discrimination as this follows the dream of human equality, so that an American life does not count any more than the life of an individual living in Africa or Russia, but every life is considered to be sacred. This means making free the public space for identity formations which respect human rights and in so doing safeguard human dignity.

That was very much the force behind the Arab spring starting to articulate such a need at the beginning of 2011. Yet that movement shows also what difference there exist between secular and religious forces, a difference having to do with how 'law' is defined and what is in need to be uphold, in order to be considered as legitimate power. The latter is not the same as a power not be questioned or insulted as is the case of a God or Allah. For the moment the latter is invoked, then there is a return to a slave like mentality with the only need being stressed that everyone has to prove to be a devout follower.

As Naipaul shows in his book 'Beyond Belief', that applies especially to those countries who converted to the Islam and therefore apply a totality of this logic of conversion to drive out any sense of another reality. The latter could be used to question the power as not being as perfect and all embracing as being claimed by those who hold within such a political arrangement the power of definition and of interpretation. Once these two are combined, then Fundamentalism follows out of the need to take the original text more serious than the need to draft such a new constitution that both tradition and modernity can be combined so as to provide a rational framework of references with regards to law and governance.

World governance

In view of the problems we can at best make some constructive reflections. National states must even in their own interest understand themselves as members of the international community. That is the thickest piece of wood in need to be drilled through in the coming decades. When we talk with regards to this world stage about 'politics', we mean often the action by governments which have inherited a self understanding as sovereign deciding collective bodies. But this self understanding of a Leviathan which developed itself together with the European system of states, is today no longer unbroken. What we called yesterday 'politics', changes daily its aggregate condition.”

Habermas argues in a core philosophical chapter of The Crisis of the European Union that all basic rights, dating back to the seventeenth century, are predicated on the notion of human dignity. Though human dignity was not explicitly part of the vocabulary of human rights until after World War II, the principle remains “the explosive force behind concrete utopia,” he writes. In this he follows Kant.

Human rights specify only the legal components of a broader concept of human dignity. Human rights are therefore the product of a synthesis of rational morality and positive law, and it is this fusion that “makes the citizens of our own, halfway liberal societies open to an ever more exhaustive realization of existing rights and to the ever-present acute danger of their erosion.” After World War II, he explains, a process of international law was designed to prevent, limit and resolve armed conflict—in short, to “domesticate” relations between states by removing the threat of violence and promoting the supranational capacity for action. The novelty of this innovation was to allow the monopoly of force to remain with member states while requiring them to submit to a new supranational and constitutional legal order. “

The identity question in a time of crisis can be best understood by seeing how Habermas uses concepts of moral, law and publicness to analyse the situation. Insofar as he wishes to advance world governance, he does take recourse to 'human dignity'. This is a central moral impulse with the most important attribute, namely that it needs no further justification. In that way Habermas identifies something everyone does agree upon, and this independent from religion, national identity, sex etc. To get there he calls the European Union but a mere transition from national state to world governance with individual states being prepared for giving up more and more of their national sovereign Rights.

Hatto Fischer

Kreisau 12.2.2012


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Constitutional Patriotism


“Contrary to a widespread misunderstanding, ‘constitutional patriotism’ means that the citizens make the principles of the constitution their own not merely in an abstract sense but also in the concrete historical context of their respective national histories. The cognitive approach does not go far enough if the moral contents of basic rights are to gain a foothold in convictions. Moral insights and worldwide agreement in reactions of moral outrage against gross violations of human rights alone would ensure only the paper-thin integration of the citizens into a politically constituted world society (should it one day come into existence). A solidarity among citizens, however abstract and legally mediated, develops only when the principles of justice become woven into the more finely spun web of cultural values.

….In light of the foregoing reflections, the secular character of the constitutional state does not exhibit any internal weakness inherent in the political system as such that jeopardizes its ability to stabilize itself in a cognitive or motivational sense. This does not exclude external reasons. An uncontrolled modernization of society as a whole could certainly corrode democratic bonds and undermine the form of solidarity on which the democratic state depends even through it cannot enforce it. Then the very constellation that Böckenförde has in mind would transpire, namely, the transformation of the citizens of prosperous and peaceful liberal societies into isolated, self-interested monads who use their individual liberties exclusively against one another like weapons. Evidence of such a corrosion of civic solidarity can be found in the larger context of the politically uncontrolled dynamics of the global economy and global society.

Markets, which, unlike state administrations, cannot be democratized, are increasingly assuming regulatory functions in domains of life that used to be held together by norms-in other words, by political means or through prepolitical forms of communication. Not only are private spheres as a consequence of becoming increasingly recalibrated to the mechanisms of instrumental action guided by individual preferences but the domain open to public legitimation pressures is also shrinking. Civic privatism is being reinforced by the discouraging loss of function of a mode of democratic opinion- and will-formation that in the meantime operates more or less satisfactorily only within national arenas, with the result that decision-making processes that have been displaced onto supranational levels are now beyond its reach. The fading hope in the political capacity of the international community is also promoting the trend toward the depoliticization of citizens. In the light of the conflicts and glaring social injustices of a highly fragmented global society, the disappointment is growing with every additional setback to the process of constitutionalization of international law initiated after 1945.

Post-modern theories frame these crises in terms of a critique of reason. They do not see them as a function of the selective exploitation of the rational resources implicit in Western modernity but as the logical result of a self-destructive program of intellectual and social rationalization.”

- Habermas 2009:107-108


Habermas, Jürgen 2009[2005] Between Naturalism and Religion. Ciaran Cronin, trans. Cambridge, Polity Press. Citation Style AAA 22/02/2011 By Kelly Cooper http://criticalhermeneutics.com/2011/02/constitutional-patriotism

Utopian vision and radical imagination

The key thesis of Jürgen Habermas can be discussed in certain terms.


Speaking in public and public truth

Discursive practice since Michel Foucault and Habermas in terms of publicness


Political philosophy and Articulation

A step back: what brings about an identification with both a nation and a state?

Socrates and the charge of misleading the young men

The conspiracy against the truth in Sparta

The thesis of Natalie, daughter of Marie Iliou: how to bribe historians?

Philosophy of Hegel, Fichte and Descartes - different concepts of identity

The system of Hegel: negation of the negation – Das Ich geht im Begriff zugrunde

and the negation of the otherness and of the difference

Fichte: Ich bin Ich – identical with the state

Descartes: I doubt, therefore I am – simultaneous finding of identity in connection with others – the binding power according to an economy of rules by which this formation should take place

Negative Dialectic by Adorno

Identity and Non-Identity by Adorno

In philosophy it is always critical when an abstract concept is identified through a concrete historical event or even a state of existence acclaimed as being something positive. Hegel identified his concept of state with that of the Prussian state after he saw civil servants of that state had to write their dissertations in Ancient Greek language. He took this to mean a state which is 'civilized' and therefore most advanced. In so identifying an abstract concept with a real state, he altered the content-form relationship. This is not only risky for any philosophy, but for all subsequent interpretations as there needs to be kept open the tension and even contradiction between concept and reality. The problem with this kind of reference is that single events are never self evident in terms of meanings which can and do change over time. This is why Adorno's Negative Dialectic is based on the assumption that any definition of a concept needs constant redefinitions in order to keep up with all the changes. That is why philosophy means literally working through contradictions. They can be in the concept, in reality and in the relationship between concept and reality. Given all the uncertainty, the key aim of all reflections is to attain over time consistency. That can be proven by the concepts retaining their meanings while the epistemological clarification ensures differences between original meaning and subsequent changes can be comprehended as having gained in a new stance of knowledge. Here Adorno's criticism of Walter Benjamin's 'Flaneur' as an incomplete figure to illustrate the contradictions in a society moving towards mass consumption would be a case. Adorno recommended to Benjamin that he needs that further going critical tension between concept or figure and real configurations not conforming to that figure.

Emancipation from the slave language - Ernst Bloch

Ernst Bloch: Entfremdung – Verfremdung or how to attain some self understanding – Brecht and when traveling – alienation and estrangement – reflecting the self in the mirror of others – self understanding – certainty and uncertainty – der aufrechte Gang / uprighteous walking, head up high

Post Modernism and Deconstructivism - link to Derrida


Jürgen Habermas states also that "postmodern theories frame these crises in terms of a critique of reason. They do not see them as a function of the selective exploitation of the rational resources implicit in Western modernity but as the logical result of a self-destructive program of intellectual and social rationalization."

Translated into ethical terms, if doing an exhibition in China and the government demands removal of certain items which could be linked too strongly to human rights issues, then they are dropped without any further protest. What matters more is to hold the exhibition there.

An example of this theory in practice can be taken from an interview of Lutz Engelke who had studied at Cornell and picked up along the way Post-Modernism based on Paul LeMan's easy way to get rid of contradictions. For when he organized an exhibition of German artists in Holland during Nazi occupation, and was asked why there were not included the Jewish artists, he stated that they were merely mediocre ones and hence no loss if not included. In the interview Lutz Engelke states that it is possible to be 'creative in dictatorship' as if ethical questions can be reduced to mere attitude one can adopt to certain things, and then go on or not.

See Lutz Engelke in China - http://www.triad.de/en/company/management/lutz-engelke and more specifically for the exhibition in Shanghai called 'Urban Planet', see http://www.triad.de/en/expo2010-germany)


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