Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Staying Alive: Adorno and Habermas on Self-Preservation under Late Capitalism


I explore the points of contention between Theodor Adorno and Jürgen Habermas that account for their divergent claims about self-preservation, and maintain that Adorno has the more defensible view. Although both thinkers agree that the task of material self-preservation has largely been assumed by the welfare state and the capitalist economy, Adorno views this development as destructive and self-destructive while Habermas thinks it has benefited the lifeworld by relieving it of the burden of materially reproducing itself. Unlike Habermas, who rejects the idea of a collective subject, Adorno believes that only such a subject, conscious of its instinctual impulses and directing them toward the preservation of humanity and the environing world on which it depends for its survival, would make self-preservation rational.

Rethinking Marxism, Volume 18, Issue 3 July 2006 , pages 433 - 447

Habermas and Foucault: Deliberative Democracy and Strategic State Analysis

Contemporary Political Theory, Volume 6, Number 2, May 2007 , pp. 218-245(28)


The paper explores ways to bring the approaches of J. Habermas and M. Foucault into a productive dialogue. In particular, it argues that Habermas's concept of deliberative democracy can and should be complemented by a strategic analysis of the state as it is found in Foucault's studies of governmentality. While deliberative democracy is a critical theory of democracy that provides normative knowledge about the legitimacy of a given system, it is not well equipped to generate knowledge that could inform the choice of strategies employed by (collective) actors from civil society — especially deliberative democrats — vis-à-vis the state to pursue their goals. This kind of strategic knowledge about strengths and vulnerabilities of a given state is provided by Foucault's reading of the state as driven by varying governing rationalities. Since, particularly in his later works, Habermas finds strategic action normatively acceptable under certain circumstances, I argue that societal actors could profit from an integrated approach that incorporates Foucault's strategic analysis into the framework of deliberative democracy. This approach would yield critical knowledge of both a normative and strategic, action-guiding nature