15 Pages

The state of the debate: from Habermas to habitus

Habermasian communicative action normatively calls for the creation of political institutions in which discursive processes have a central role in decision-making. In his recent work, Habermas (1998) has specified the basic shape which such political institutions should take for his concept of deliberative democracy to be practical. The cornerstone is public reason, which Habermas demonstrates in his model of the circulation of power. I am interested here only in the arc in which information generated in the public sphere is transformed through democratic procedures of governmental will-formation into communicative power. The rationality of decision outcomes should ideally be a function of the reasons proposed (the force of the better argument), assured through legally prescribed procedures of deliberation and decision-making designed to ensure sufficient approximation to ideal conditions of discursive openness under limitations of time and information. ‘The state’s raison d’être … [lies] in the guarantee of an inclusive process of opinion-and will-formation in which free and equal citizens reach an understanding on which goals and norms lie in the equal interest of all’ (Habermas, 1998: 241).