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Philosophy and politics - Habermas and liberalism?

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by innonimatu, Jun 20, 2019.

  1. innonimatu

    innonimatu Warlord

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    I rather enjoyed reading a piece on Habermas' philosophy, thought it would be nice to share here, especially as there are people both german and interested in philosophy (@yung.carl.jung ?) on the forum.

    Was modern liberalism and its definitions of ideal (and permissible) politics indeed a phenomenon that could subsist only under the protection, and for the support, of empires? It may seem rather counter-intuitive, empire is associated with autocratic rule and repression. But successful empires can't rely on that.

    In the end this critic may be no more than what Foucault and followers did 40 years ago, another person pointing out that power has ways of disguising itself and recruiting the service of ideas and techniques that are not identified with it. But even if it is not original, it is worth discussing because of its implicit assessment and prediction: the fragmentation of imperial power is the cause of the contemporary decline of political liberalism. What do you think?

    (if someone has the patience to read the whole thing :lol:)
     
  2. Kyriakos

    Kyriakos Alien spiral maker

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    I hope there is an ongoing discussion. I haven't read it, and currently cannot... But I will be paying attention :)
     
  3. Estebonrober

    Estebonrober Warlord

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    The world is a vampire.
     
  4. Broken_Erika

    Broken_Erika Nothing

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    The world certainly does suck.
     
  5. yung.carl.jung

    yung.carl.jung Morose & Lugubrious

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    I'll post a longer reply these days. I live in (near) Frankfurt and so Habermas influence on humanities and general political thought is expectedly huge. Moreso in sociology than philosophy. In my philosophy department though Frankfurt school theorists aren't taught that often, so most of what I know about Habermas / Adorno / Marcuse is self taught. It's a shame, but we do other interesting theorists instead :)
     
  6. Hrothbern

    Hrothbern Warlord

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    These kind of theories are not my forte.

    Got to read myself into it.

    As first glance remark:

    I think that bonding and cohesion between people happens very much from shared activities, from doing... caused by practical necessities and small in reach benefits around those necessities.

    Discussions are not aimed at bonding and cohesion. Are more a random, if not chaotising factor giving insights, where theoretical divisions are a side effect.

    Deleberations are the middleground.

    A clear governing structure (that empire), needing deliberations to adapt to the obvious (like techs), has enough basic bonding and cohesion to allow for a certain budget of analysing discussions, of dis-bonding discussions.

    The usefullness of analysing discussions follows the normal input-output saturation curve. On the X-axis the amount of liberal discussions, on the Y-axis the increasing insights (usefull to adapt the governal deliberations).

    But
    Whereas the increasing insights, and usefulness saturates at increasing liberal discussions... the amount of dis-bonding/division does not saturates (is more linear if not exponentional from entrenching effects).

    From there you could argue that there is an optimum for the amount of discussions to achieve a communicating stable deliberation culture in stable governance.

    Anyway
    this is just a first glance blurp.

    EDIT
    I think I should add here that it makes sense to distinguish between discussions that add insights for deliberations you need to do for practical necessities (and mostly within your sphere of influence) on the one hand... and discussions that give insights of a more non-direct-practical nature (a hobby, an interest, just for the sake of an opinion... mostly on topics outside your sphere of influence) on the other hand.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2019
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  7. Terxpahseyton

    Terxpahseyton How much Parmesan to put on your umbrella?

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  8. innonimatu

    innonimatu Warlord

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    I think that the ideal concept of discussion in Habermas was political, the idea that everything can be talked about by reasonable people who will ultimately agree on something. That such must be the foundation of political power. And that change of ideas accompanies (I don't know how much it influenced) the process of dissolution of "traditional" politics into the mess we live with today.

    The author of the piece opposes these ideas as untrue:

    And after doing a criticism of the idea of discussion as a deceitful, limiting freedom:

    In the meanwhile he posed the question of how dependent/cooperative this realm of organized discussion was on the protection of imperial structures. Their end may well mean its end. But also it seems to me that in the end this author wonders whether what seems to be disengagement with discussion according to the liberal framework may be also a new generation of people unwilling to play the game?

    It is an opinion I am sympathetic to. Because I have long had the impression that politics starting in the 1970s turned away from meaningful (often very much opposed) choices, into neutered discussions on technicalities. A lot of talk, but little choice. Less "communication" but more forceful identification with certain choices may be in store for the future?
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2019
  9. Hrothbern

    Hrothbern Warlord

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    cnage ?
     
  10. BornInCantaloup

    BornInCantaloup Agent of Chaos

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    I think so, too. I read this piece the other day and it bothered me that the author did not even take the time to present Habermas' thesis.
    Habermas is interested in laying out the ideal conditions for speech, negociation and, ultimately, consensus. Well, at least in the context of this article.

    To start with, the author goes "BREXIIIT !!" as if an argument that, because "BREXIIIT !!", the ideal conditions of speech couldn't be defined...
    (I take it as : speech can be instrumentalized, therefore it isn't even useful to think about the structures that could support a liberal, democratic, progressive, moral, etc. discourse within the boundaries of an organization (government, administration, private) or in the public sphere (media, political speech).
    Well, this "therefore" is a bold shortcut if I ever saw one and the bulk of his argument, as far as I could understand.)
    Then he randomly quotes one liners from dozens of sources as if they constituted arguments of authority...
    He also gratuitously implies that Habermas' vocabulary is "inherently confused", hints at "so-called liberals" who are not what they seem...
    He poses Habermas as a successor to Adorno... What ? As a university chair of philosophy, maybe, but certainly not in the history of ideas.


    Then what use is his "critique" ? To me this is a piece of opinion.
    I don't like Habermas much either but the author could start with giving credit to his topic and making an honest presentation.

    After a while, the author says :
    "To express it paradoxically, for Habermas most communication in our society is not an instance of communicative action; it is “distorted” to the extent to which it does not conform to the normative rules that are implicit in communication itself. So it is crucial to distinguish between (distorted) pseudo-communication, which takes place under conditions of social coercion, and genuine discourse, a form of speech-action that is free of all forms of social domination."
    So, if he were being honest, he wouldn't go all "BREXIIIT !!" on his reader and present us with start his presentation with what is, in fact, an exemplary case of distorted communication, as if it were a contradiction to Habermas' arguments...
    To be clear : in communicative action, both parties would aim to understand each other. The liberal tradition doesn't have a monopoly on this. Socrates called this dialogue. Honest dialogue, quest for truth brings concord. Those could be deemed important issues when trying to, for example, elaborate a political structure. This is why we have a separation of powers, for example, and it goes on.
    I don't think the author adresses the point.


    We should dissolve the United Nations because "BREXIIIT !!"
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2019
  11. BornInCantaloup

    BornInCantaloup Agent of Chaos

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    It's no use thinking about speech since THE SUN prints photographs in colour.

    Ha ! You felt that, Habermas ? Not so witty now, are you, little boy ? Hehehe...
     
  12. Lexicus

    Lexicus Warlord

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    So I tried to read this on friday last week but ended up clicking on some links in the piece and ended up down a real internet rabbit hole, all without having read more than a few paragraphs of the initial piece, but now I'm posting here to create an obligation for myself because I really do want to read this it looks interesting.
     
  13. innonimatu

    innonimatu Warlord

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    I should have explained myself, it would be hard to parse even without the typo (change). I meant that there was (imho) a change of ideas about politics, the way of doing politics, which happened around the time this philosophy became the mainstream view. Politics became less confrontational, the centre expelled the margins from possibly having power. Politics henceforth revolved around discussing incremental tweaks on what was already in place. Which cumulatively can change a lot (the slow dismantling of social safety networks in many countries). But it was no longer acceptable in "good political speech" to defend radical change to the status quo, alternative ways of organizing society.

    Habermas' philosophy was necessarily the philosophy for an era where the range of political options was neutered. Beneath the "radicalism" of the 1970s (think the numerous "radical" parties, the fringe political violence) the "centre" was taking over and ruling out anything "radical".

    If we are reaching the terminus of that era, the bankruptcy of this idea that stability is good and politics must revolve around it, then this predominant political philosophy will also be replaced with something else. The "radical" philosophers of the 1970s (I'm thinking Foucalt as an example) denounced the presence of power conditioning speech, social organization, everything, conditioning always the realm of the possible. But that had no practical impact, it was just accepted as something that is. The radicalism of the 1970s was an abortion, a mere game that the people involved had no intention of following up on.
    The real radicalism had happened before in the 20th century, and it involved conflicts of ideas here no negotiation could be carried out, where discussion could not lead to compromise. This was the interregnum on liberalism, between WW1 and some time after WW2. This does not fit into Habermas' theory of communication (and politics!), in fact he stood opposed to it, just as liberalism is opposed to it. The issue is: history never stops and liberalism is but one possible state. HEnce his theory is not, can never be, universal. And the question is whether we are moving to (or already entering) another state.

    I think he did it reasonably well, within the limitations of not creating an even lengthier text. I confess that I had had a mild dislike of Habermas' ideas ever since I had to hear one of his fans telling me about them...

    And he does not pose Habermas as an intellectual successor to Adorno. He only mentions that one succeeded the other, and goes on to explicitly say that with it came different ideas. HE could have simply not mentioned Adorno, but the purpose was to state that Habermas broke with the views that had been held before he took over. That his philosophy was different.

    The conflicts and seemingly irreconcilable positions about brexit are an acceptable example of those different politics where compromise cannot happen. There are other possible examples, especially historical ones in that period between the great wars. But the present deserves to be looked at.
     
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  14. BornInCantaloup

    BornInCantaloup Agent of Chaos

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    I agree Habermas isn't concerned with referendum types of issues, nor is he concerned with general politics.
    This is why I find the Brexit example particularly poor. From the start : David Cameron launched the topic thinking he could run another mandate on it... The Brexit should be a classic example of instrumentalized politics, of the traditional right trying to revive itself, desperately trying to create stakes, debate, opposition, trying to find a ground to set dividing lines because "they are different" and "they stand for something" and toying with the further right. Only if they "are different" can they do "politics".
    It happens everywhere but it is definitely not a case of communication as Habermas understands it.

    Habermas is relevant if you look at institution building, if you look at relationships between worker unions and employers, if you look at the relevance of public media and public education, if you look at international or intergovernmental organizations (those of the Society of Nations type) or within an administration...
    How people are interested isn't his issue. Of course, people will defend their interests and have different positions of power. And this is why the structure of the institution matters, so as to set conditions for a favourable outcome. There's no defining what this favourable outcome is but a favourable combination of rules and behaviours will allow the worker union to have relationships with the employer, a Ministry, an administration, a news media, other worker unions.
    Under those favourable conditions, it is only more likely that a common ground will be reached or, at the very least, that the interest of one will not prevail absolutely.

    On Foucault, I think he has been extremely well read in places where top-down power is exerted. Control happened, keeps happening.
    If you accept that, I understand what you say about the politics of the 1970's and the centre, and the consensus about liberal democracy, and how politics were gradually neutered. In fact, it is only because politics have been neutered that David Cameron had to reach so deep beneath his hat and came up with the Brexit.
    As an analysis, this is more of a Baudrillard stance, however, if you're looking to act on it, perhaps it means that Habermas, or the fight for liberalism, would be radical nowadays.
    We haven't "done democracy" yet.
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2019
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