Democracy, Pluralism and the Idea of Public Reason: Rawls and Habermas in Comparative Perspective
CEU Political Science Journal, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp. 433-457, 2011
25 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2011
Date Written: November 15, 2011
The notion of public reason, developed by two of the most influential contemporary political thinkers - Jürgen Habermas and John Rawls - as well as the contemporary discussions on the concepts of citizenship, civil society and the public sphere, among others, are all manifestations of the attempt to handle the thorny issue of the relationship between difference and equality. This article analyzes these two conceptualizations of public reason in a comparative perspective and its main contention is that the point where they depart each other is too important to be neglected. Although Habermas himself described his criticism of Rawls as a “familial dispute” and stated that he is engaged in a “friendly and provocative” critique in such a way that Rawls’s theory can reveal its strengths, this article insists that the use of public reason is conceptualized radically differently by Rawls and Habermas.
Keywords: Public reason, democracy, pluralism, Rawls, Habermas
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