File spoon-archives/habermas.archive/habermas_2000/habermas.0004, message 26

Subject: HAB: Re: Popular Sovereignty as Procedure
Date: Thu, 13 Apr 2000 00:47:39 +0100


Read the following today, hope it's useful regarding your question about
"popular sovereignty" as an "empty space".
In _Habermas and the Public Sphere_ (ed. Calhoun), Habermas writes, page
452 (in Further reflections on the public sphere):
"Discourses do not govern. They generate a communicative power that
cannot take the place of administration but can only influence it. This
influence is limited to the procurement and withdrawal of legitimation.
Communicative power cannot supply a substitute for the systematic inner
logic of public bureaucracies. Rather, it achieves an impact on this
logic "in a siegelike manner". If the sovereignty of the people is in
this fashion dissolved into procedures and attempts, the symbolic place
of power - a vacuum since 1789, that is, since the revolutionary
abolishment of paternalistic forms of domination - also remains empty and
is not filled with new identity-conveying symbolisations, like people or
nations, as Rodel, following Claude Lefort, would have it.


>Is there a slight shift in the emphasis of Habermas's moral theory of
>to his theory of deliberative democracy?
>On pg. 486 of BFN, habermas writes, "The public sphere thus reproduces
>*self-referentially* [emphaiss in text], and in doing so reveals the
place to
>which the expectation of a sovereign self-organization of society has
>withdrawn.  The idea of popular sovereignty is thereby
>[my emphasis]... Subjectless and anonymous, an intersubjectively
>popular sovereignty withdraws into democratic procedures and the
>communicative presuppositions of their implementation."
>I take this to mean that "popular sovereignty" is an "empty space" - a
>that cannot be filled by any susbtance (above the dissolution of the
>tautology), lest the procedures themselves lose their formal character
and side
>with a given substance.  My immediate reaction is that this has some
>similarities to Zizek's "absent centre of political ontology" but I'm
not quite
>interested in purusing that here.  More to point, I'm interested if this
>a shift in Habermas's thinking, albeit slight, from his moral theory,
>doesn't appear to have the same "hole in the middle."
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