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Habermas und Rorty

Patriotism and the Political Left in Germany and the USA


BA, Blockseminar in englischer Sprache, 8ECTS

Termine: 9., 10. und 11. Mai 2014, jeweils 9:00 - 18:00 Uhr, HG 162

Moodle-Passwort: SoSe_2014


Richard Rorty advocates an American patriotism that the world need not fear. Jürgen Habermas urges a similar patriotism for the Federal Republic. For the American superpower, as for Europe’s leading economic power, cosmopolitan patriotism differs markedly from the typical alternative: the worldwide export of an American or a German ‘way of life’. For only a democracy engaged in constant, penetrating self-criticism can practice cosmopolitan patriotism. Only those democracies can practice cosmopolitan patriotism that always engage in thoughtful self-criticism. Rorty and Habermas both regard this pragmatic commitment to mutual perspective-taking as a key feature of true patriotism. But each describes this commitment in a way specific to his particular country and culture. Habermas’s notion of constitutional patriotism replaces any emotional attachment to nation, country, people, and history with notions of freedom and equality, guided by principles and grounded in the legal system. Constitutional patriotism understands citizens not as Volk but as demos. It views them as participants within a democratic public sphere open to all, engaged in critical debate and decision-making. Rorty, by contrast, argues that a lack of national pride enfeebles vigorous, effective debate. Political communication can be imaginative and productive only if participants are emotionally invested in their own country, whether out of pride or shame. The great American poet of the nineteenth century, Walt Whitman, asserts provocatively: “democracy is a great word, whose history … remains unwritten, because that history has yet to be enacted”. Rorty and Habermas share Whitman’s conviction yet differ in how they answer the question: Why can the prospects for a patriotism of the left —— the party of hope, after all —— today only be regarded with pessimism? This seminar responds to this question by reconstructing the approaches of two of the most influential thinkers of our time; by analyzing the normative problems of the political left, comparing the American case with its German counterpart; and by identifying potential foundations for progressive politics in an era of neo-conservatism.



Richard Rorty, Stolz auf unser Land: Die amerikanische Linke und der Patriotismus (Suhrkamp Verlag, 1999) oder die englische Originalfassung: Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America (Harvard University Press, 1998)


Jürgen Habermas, “Staatsbürgerschaft und nationale Identität” in Habermas, Faktizität und Geltung (Suhrkamp Verlag, 1998) oder die englische Übersetzung: “Citizenship and National Identity” in Habermas, Between Facts and Norms (MIT Press, 1996)


Teilnahmevoraussetzung: At a sophisticated level of English, students must be able to read challenging philosophical texts, discuss them orally in seminar, and analyze them comparatively in writing.


Leistungsnachweis: Für einen benoteten Schein (8 ECTS; keine 3 oder 6 ETCS möglich): Ein textanalytischer Aufsatz, der eine bestimmte Fragestellung kritisch und eingehend diskutiert, zwischen 12 und 15 Seiten in deutscher oder englischer Sprache. Die Themen der Aufsätze müssen bis zum 6. Mai mit mir abgesprochen werden; eine kurze E-Mail mit einem Arbeitstitel sowie einem „thesis-statement“ reicht aus. Abgabetermin ist der 25. August 2014.



Freitag, d. 9. Mai 2014

Vormittag ▪ Rorty: “American National Pride: Whitman and Dewey”

Nachmittag ▪ Habermas: “The Past and Future of the Nation-State”

Samstag, d. 10. Mai 2014

Vormittag ▪ Rorty: “The Eclipse of the Reformist Left”

Nachmittag ▪ Habermas: “Nation-State and Democracy in a Unified Europe”

Sonntag, d. 11. Mai 2014

Vormittag ▪ Rorty: “A Cultural Left”

Nachmittag ▪ Habermas: “Immigration and the Chauvinism of Affluence: A Debate”