Ideal Theory, Real Rationality: Habermas Versus Foucault and Nietzsche
Paper for the Political Studies Association’s 50th Annual Conference, The Challenges for Democracy in the 21st Century, London School of Economics and Political Science, 10-13 April 2000
20 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2013
Date Written: April 1, 2000
Understanding rationality and power are key to understanding actual political and administrative behavior. Political and administrative theory that ignores this fact stand in danger of being at best irrelevant or, at worst, part of the problem it wishes to solve. The paper presents Jürgen Habermas as an example of a political philosopher who fails to recognize that actual political and administrative rationality largely disrupts the relevance of his ideal prescriptions. Michel Foucault is proposed as an antidote to Habermas in a comparative study of the two. Machiavellian verita effettuale (effective truth) and Nietzschean wirkliche Historie (real history) are seen as more effective means to understand and limit rationalization and power than Habermasian Diskursetik (discourse ethics).
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