Jürgen Habermas Criticism - Essay

Jürgen Habermas with Boris Frankel (interview date November 1973)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Habermas Talking: An Interview," in Theory and Society, No. 1, 1974, pp. 37-58.

[In the following interview originally conducted in November, 1973, Habermas discusses the place of socio-political, Marxist, and psychoanalytic theories in his own linguistic and epistemological philosophy, addressing various critiques of his historical materialist analysis.]

It was at Frankfurt University that Jürgen Habermas made his reputation as the new theoretical force continuing the tradition of the Horkheimer-Adorno-Marcuse brand of Critical Theory. It was also at Frankfurt that Habermas' popularity with the Left student movement changed dramatically from mutual support...

(The entire section is 9443 words.)

Martin Jay (review date 9 November 1986)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Standing Up to Paris and Bitburg," in The New York Times Book Review, November 9, 1986, p. 26.

[In the following review, Jay suggests that Autonomy and Solidarity "provides a marvelous point of entry" into Habermas's thought.]

One of the major ironies of contemporary thought is surely the fact that a champion of enlightened rationality is now more likely to speak German than French. No one represents this reversal of roles more clearly than the Frankfurt philosopher and sociologist Jürgen Habermas. Vigorously defending what he calls the "uncompleted project of modernity" as an emancipatory learning process, he has come squarely into conflict with...

(The entire section is 768 words.)

Onora O'Neill (review date 22 November 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The New Restoration," in London Review of Books, Vol. 12, No. 22, November 22, 1990, p. 13.

[In the review below, O'Neill examines various themes of The New Conservatism in terms of Habermas's engagement with contemporary cultural and political debates, concluding that his work proves that "philosophical writing may be engagé without being ephemeral."]

Should philosophers be politically committed, engagés in the manner of Socrates or of Sartre? Or should they adopt an aloof and distanced posture, like Plato after his early political disappointments, who views concern with this-worldly affairs as (at best) a conscientious return from the...

(The entire section is 1878 words.)

Douglas Kellner (review date March 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action and The New Conservatism, in Contemporary Sociology, Vol. 21, No. 2, March, 1992, pp. 278-79.

[In the following review, Kellner outlines the main concerns of Habermas's thought in Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action and The New Conservatism.]

Jürgen Habermas's New Conservatism and Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action are collections of his recent essays on his major political and theoretical concerns of the 1980s. The New Conservatism assembles articles which provide critiques of recent forms of conservative thought, while the articles in...

(The entire section is 1045 words.)

David Weberman (review date July 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, in The Philosophical Review, Vol. 101, No. 3, July, 1992, pp. 924-26.

[In the following review, Weberman explains Habermas's contribution to the field of discourse ethics, defining his methodology and its application to ethics.]

[Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action] is a well-translated edition of a book that first appeared in 1983. It has been expanded to include a fifth, more recent essay. The last three essays (two of which are short treatises in themselves) address pivotal issues in ethical theory, such as cognitivism, justification, Kantianism, and moral psychology. They...

(The entire section is 1014 words.)

Frederick J. Antczak (review date November 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, in The Quarterly Journal of Speech, Vol. 78, No. 4, November, 1992, pp. 510-11.

[In the review below, Antczak summarizes Habermas's theory of communication ethics and various potential objections from the communication scholars' perspective.]

It is a truism now accepted even by some philosophers that modern medicine saved ethics, that moral theory had been mired in the same concerns with ever-diminishing returns until it confronted the new problems that emerged from the advances in medical practice, with consequences that significantly changed both ethics and medicine. It's hardly shocking when...

(The entire section is 1228 words.)

Peter Dews (review date 13 May 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Agreeing What's Right," in London Review of Books, Vol. 15, No. 9, May 13, 1993, pp. 26-7.

[In the review below, Dews detects a change in Habermas's discourse ethics in Faktizität und Geltung, offering a thematic analysis of the philosophical principles addressed in the book.]

On 9 November last year, the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the philosopher Manfred Frank was invited to give the principal address at the memorial service which is held annually in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt. The Paulskirche was the home of the first democratically elected German national assembly, which flourished briefly amidst the revolutions of 1848–9, and, in keeping...

(The entire section is 3258 words.)

William Outhwaite (review date May 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Autonomy and Solidarity and Postmetaphysical Thinking, in Contemporary Sociology, Vol. 23, No. 3, May, 1994, pp. 456-58.

[Below, Outhwaite detects Habermas's "practical-political concerns" in Autonomy and Solidarity and outlines his philosophical approach in Postmetaphysical Thinking.]

The first edition of Autonomy and Solidarity: Interviews with Jürgen Habermas, published in 1986, rapidly established itself as the fast track into an understanding of Habermas's life and work, as well as an indispensable complement to his own massive oeuvre and the equally massive accretion of secondary literature which surrounds it. This...

(The entire section is 1237 words.)

Per Fjelstad (review date November 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Postmetaphysical Thinking and Philosophical Interventions in the Unfinished Project of Enlightenment, in The Quarterly Journal of Speech, Vol. 80, No. 4, November, 1994, pp. 500-03.

[In the following review of a festschrift dedicated to Habermas and Postmetaphysical Thinking, Fjelstad examines the "communicative implications" of Habermas's notion of "the self-hood of the individual" in the philosopher's book.]

Jürgen Habermas has afforded the self-hood of individuals a remarkably central place in his philosophy of social life. This commitment is not always evident, given Habermas's better known attention to the ideal of...

(The entire section is 2216 words.)

Dieter Misgeld (review date March 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Justification and Application, in The Review of Metaphysics, Vol. XLVIII, No. 3, March, 1995, pp. 657-58.

[In the review below, Misgeld describes the themes of Justification and Application.]

In all of his works Habermas pursues the elucidation of the modern age ("modernity") and of the principles and processes constitutive of it. The affirmation of modernity and its critique are integral to the elucidation. [Justification and Application] also pursues these themes. It is a collection of four recently published essays, all dealing with the issue of ethics, and concludes with a long and informative interview. There is also a lengthy,...

(The entire section is 549 words.)

Richard A. Posner (review date 6 May 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Law's Reason," in The New Republic, Vol. 214, May 6, 1996, pp. 26-30.

[In the following review, Posner details Habermas's central laim in Between Facts and Norms, concluding with two criticisms and two questions.]

Jürgen Habermas, who is professor emeritus of philosophy at Frankfurt University and is widely regarded as Germany's leading philosopher and social thinker, was a month short of his sixteenth birthday when Hitler's Reich collapsed. Shocked to learn of the Nazi atrocities, and free from any complicity in them, Habermas proceeded through the West German university system appalled by its unapologetic continuity with the past. Its philosophy...

(The entire section is 3982 words.)

Cass R. Sunstein (review date 18 August 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Democracy Isn't What You Think," in The New York Times Book Review, August 18, 1996, p. 18.

[Below, Sunstein reviews the question of political legitimacy addressed in Between Facts and Norms, especially Habermas's concept of "deliberative democracy."]

Most people know that the Constitution's First Amendment provides the rights to freedom of speech and to the free exercise of religion. But in the first Congress some people seriously proposed that the First Amendment should contain another right: the right on the part of constituents "to instruct" their representatives how to vote. The first Congress ultimately rejected the proposal. Roger Sherman made...

(The entire section is 1468 words.)

Timothy Dykstal (review date Fall 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Past as Future, in Southern Humanities Review, Vol. 30, Fall, 1996, pp. 375-79.

[In the review below, Dykstal questions Habermas's standard of "the norm" in The Past as Future.]

Conversation is indispensable to Jürgen Habermas. In the German philosopher's "theory of communicative action," the values that sustain a good conversation—that is, one that produces greater understanding—are perhaps the only transhistorical imperative that we have. We speak in order to be understood, and we can use that desire for understanding to criticize whatever—from material deprivations to immaterial, or ideological, distortions—would defeat it....

(The entire section is 1872 words.)