Tim Rosenkranz reports on the significance of a recent article by the German philosopher and social critic Jürgen Habermas. -Jeff
On April 7, 2011 Germany’s political news magazine “Süeddeutsche Zeitung” published a piece by Habermas in which he openly attacks Chancellor Angela Merkel for her “opinion-poll dominated opportunism.” While the article focused on the problem of European integration and the continuing democracy deficit of the institutional frame of the European Union, Jürgen Habermas points his finger at significant systemic problems of today’s democratic political process – between civil society, the public sphere, political elites and the media-sphere – the problem being the loss of larger political projects in a process driven by the short-term politics of public opinion polls.
While Habermas is still a vocal figure in the academic landscape, at least in the last decade, he limits his editorial participation in larger public debates in the media. If he does speak up, it is mostly concerning the problems of European integration and its democratic process. The recent article “Merkels von Demoskopie geleiteter Opportunismus” (“Merkel’s opinion-poll dominated opportunism”) is not an exception. What caught my attention, however, is that Habermas rarely criticizes German politicians directly in person. It is also unusual in that the article is a theoretical expansion within his larger intellectual frame of “deliberative democracy.”
Very atypical for him, Habermas condenses the larger theoretical problem in one paragraph, which I would translate accordingly:
In general, today’s politics seemingly is transforming into an aggregate condition defined by the abdication of perspective and the will to create (Gestaltungswille). The expanding complexity of issues demanding regulation compels [the political actors] to short term reactions within shrinking scopes of action. As if politicians have adopted the unmasking view of system theory, they follow without shame the opportunistic script of opinion poll dominated (demoskopiegeleitet) power pragmatism.
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Read more: Jürgen Habermas on Power to the Polls