Lebenswelt and Reflexive
in Habermas and Honneth
Humboldt Kolleg São Paulo, 2009
Nythamar de Oliveira
Research Projects (1999-2009)
 Comparative study of theories of justice in
Kant, Rawls, Habermas, and Honneth
 Contributions of Rawls, Habermas, and Honneth’s social
philosophy to a normative theory of democracy
 The normative grounds of a critical theory of justice
 Reflective Equilibrium & the System-Lifeworld Nexus
 The phenomenological deficit of critical theory
Supported by: Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung,
CNPq , Capes, PUCRS
What is democracy?
• “the government of the people, by the people,
for the people” (A. Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, 1863)
• J. Habermas,"Three Normative Models of
Democracy" (in Seyla Benhabib, Democracy
and Difference, Princeton Univ. Press, 1996)
• Habermas’s proceduralist democracy
• liberal (J. Locke, J. Rawls) and republican
models (J.-J. Rousseau, H. Arendt)
• Axel Honneth’s reflexive democracy
Rawls, Habermas, Honneth:
Communitarian Critique of Liberalism:
Normative Self & Critique of Power
Deliberative Democracy and “The Other of Justice”
J. Rawls, A Theory of Justice (1971)
Principles of Constitutional, Liberal Democracy
Equal Liberty Principle
Fair Equality of Opportunity
Difference Principle (Maximin Rule)
Procedural device of reflective equilibrium
Kant’s procedural test of universalizability:
categorical imperative as universal Verfahren
• Justice as Fairness : Political Liberalism
Student und Politik (1961)
• Social movements, struggles for liberation
• Axel Honneth, Struggle for recognition (1992)
Habermas’s Dual Conception
• Political culture arises out of delicate networks
of mentalities and convictions which cannot
be generated by or simply steered through
administrative measures (juridical, political,
economic, policy-making, technical systems)
• System  Lebenswelt (pre-reflective horizon
of meaning, intersubjective aspects oriented
toward socially, linguistically shared
understanding of everyday practices – Kultur,
Gesellschaft, Persönlichkeit)
Habermas on democracy: technology,
science, and the lifeworld
“I should like to reformulate this problem with
reference to political decision-making... we shall
understand 'technology' to mean scientifically
rationalized control of objectified processes. It refers
to the system in which research and technology are
coupled with feedback from the economy and
administration. We shall understand 'democracy' to
mean the institutionally secured forms of general
and public communication that deal with the
practical question of how [humans] can and want to
live under the objective conditions of their everexpanding power of control...”
From Ideologiekritik To Diskursethik:
Communicative Action
• “Our problem can then be stated as one of the
relation between technology and democracy:
how can the power of technical control be
brought within the range of the consensus of
acting and transacting citizens?” (Technik und
Wissenschaft als Ideologie, 1968)
• Systemic world of institutions (capacity of
responding to the functional demands
imposed by the environment / context)
Lebenswelt (lifeworld)
• Forms of cultural, societal and personal
reproduction that are integrated through the
norms consensually accepted by all
participants in the social world.
• The rationalization of the Lebenswelt renders
possible the differentiation of autonomous
subsystems, opening up the utopian horizon
of a civil society in which the spheres of action
formally organized of the bourgeoisie
constitute the foundations of the posttraditional social world of human beings
(private sphere) and citizens (public sphere)
A Phenomenology of Justice
• Social Ontology, Intersubjectivity, Moral Grammar
• A. Honneth, Kritik der Macht (1985):
• Critical Theory must go beyond Adorno’s totalizing
domination of nature, in order to understand social
intersubjective relations and concrete societies;
• Both Foucault and Habermas help us move beyond
this modern predicament, as they propose postHegelian, alternative accounts to fix the sociological
deficit:an action-theoretic paradigm of struggle and a
paradigm of mutual understanding of critical theory
A Phenomenology of Justice:
Ontology, Intersubjectivity, Language
Honneth: The impossibility of
immune communicative reason
• The Lebenswelt stands overall for the horizon
of socially, culturally sedimented linguistic
meanings that make up the background
environment of competences, practices, and
attitudes shared by social actors.
• The instrumentalization of social action in the
very attempt to tackle the paradox of the
rationalization of lifeworldly relations lead to
social pathologies within our democracies
“Von Rawls bis Honneth”
• J. Rawls, TJ § 40: “noumenal selves”
• PL: “political culture” / “overlapping
consensus” / global theory of democracy
• A. Honneth: intersubjective self-identity &
mutual recognition: in hermeneutic terms,
moral, legal, and political contexts of
signification; normative conception of the
person yields to challenge of perspectivism
inherent in cultural relativism:fact of pluralism
Reflexive Intersubjectivity of
Democratic Ethos
• Reflexive/Reflective Equilibrium inherent in a
Dialetic of Recognition and Alterity
• The horizons of signification of the lifeworld
refer us back to endless dialogues,
interlocutions and learning processes
• The social ethos of radical democracy unveils
itself thru self-understanding(Selbstverstehen)
as emancipatory, deliberative & participatory
only and only if mutual recognition is
achieved thru social public policies
Axel Honneth
• The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral
Grammar of Social Conflicts (Kampf um
Anerkennung, 1992)
• Ethical Lifeworld (Sittlichkeit) ↔ Intersubjectivity
• Patterns of Intersubjective Recognition:
• Love/Friendship – Rights – Solidarity
• Forms of Disrespect:
• Abuse / Rape – Social Exclusion – Insult / Denigration
The Phenomenological Deficit of
Critical Theory
• One cannot account for the social pathologies
of the Lebenswelt (esp. racism, sexism,
classism) without a self-understanding
(Selbstverstehen) correlated to the processes
of reification and subsystemic colonization
• The juridification of systemic-institutional
and normative relations requires a correlated
reflexivity, both active and passive, between
these & the self individuated thru socialization
A Pragmatist Perspectivism
• Honneth’s intersubjective recognition in a
social phenomenology of the Lebenswelt
• Habermas’s tripartite, intersubjective aspects
of the lifeworld oriented toward socially,
linguistically shared understanding of
everyday practices (verständigungs-orientiert
handelnden Aspekte: Kultur, Gesellschaft,
• Rawls’s method of reflective equilibrium
Pragmatic-Formal Perspectivism
• Semantic-pragmatic correlation between
Lifeworld (Lebenswelt) and Systems
• Moral normativity (discourse ethics) is correlated to
the social, political question of institucionalization of
life forms, in the very conception of an integrated
model, differentiating the systemic technologies of
institutions from lifeworld technologies, keeping the
tension between instrumental and communicative
• Reflexive Democracy from below in the making
Formal-Pragmatic Correlation
System of Rights
Deliberative Politics
Economic Systems
Technologies of the Self
• Our problem can then be stated as one of the
relation between technology and democracy: how
can the power of technical control be brought within
the range of the consensus of acting and transacting
citizens? (Habermas)
• Governing people is not a way to force people to do
what the governor wants; it is always a versatile
equilibrium, with complementarity and conflicts
between techniques which assure coercion and
processes through which the self is constructed or
modified by [her]himself (Foucault)
Perspektivismus der Lebenswelt:
Social Ontology
Nancy Fraser vs. Axel Honneth
• Justice & Democracy: distribution-recognition
• Sérgio Costa, The Sociological Construction of Race
in Brazil (2002)
• Paulo Neves, Anti-Racist Struggle (2005)
• Ricardo Mendonça, Recognition at stake: Habermas,
Honneth, Fraser (2006)
• Celi Pinto, Note on the Fraser-Honneth Controversy
in light of the Brazilian scenario (2008)
Affirmative Action
• An institutional effort to rectify past injustice
and to obtain a situation closer to the ideal of
equal opportunity by policies aimed at a
historically socio-politically non-dominant
group (typically, ethnic minority groups and
women of all races), esp. intended to promote
fair access to education or employment.
• Social policies, educational policies to rectify
racial, economic inequalities in Brazil.
Costa’s critique of tropical reason
• A critical stand against modernist, teleological
accounts of racism;
• The limitations of importing European
patterns of modernity and identity to the
Brazilian context;
• Race transformed into a tool for social analysis
and normative desideratum, an incomplete,
biased understanding of the Brazilian makeup,
an objectifying view of social relations.
Pinto’s complementarity thesis
• Distribution cannot be reduced to recognition;
• Recognition is a highly polysemous word and
its reduction to an exclusive definition misses
both its heuristic value for social theory and
its potential for struggles for justice;
• Recognition qua self-recognition (self-esteem,
in Honneth) and qua status (in Fraser) are not
mutually exclusive, but are different moments
of the same process of theoretical elaboration
and political struggle.
Normative Conception of the Person
• articulated within its own co-constitutive
lifeworld in reflective equilibrium, conceived
as a procedural device between a nonideal
theory of human nature (“we ourselves” and
our considered judgments or common sense
intuitions of right and good) and an ideal
theory of a public conception of justice that
refers to free and equal persons with 2 moral
powers sense of justice & conception of good
Recasting Global Justice
 Global Justice ↔ Global Ethics (Kant, Rawls,
 The Global-Local problematic is to be dealt with from
the perspective of a Phenomenology of Justice
 Transcendental-Semantic Perspectivism:
Ontology, Subjectivity, Language
 Globalization not only economic, but also in cultural,
political, religious, and social systems
 International Relations & Law: Human Rights
 Juridification of Freedom / Equality / Sociality
 (Hobbesian) Political Realism vs. (Kantian)
Cosmopolitanism : Pluralistic Universalism ↔
Reflexive Cooperation within Global Community
Political Realism: might makes right
 Thrasymachus: "what is good for the stronger"
 Thucydides, Machiavelli, Hobbes
 Modern Realpolitik / Moral Relativism
 Nietzsche’s will to power / critique of modernity
 Heidegger’s critique of subjectivity / technology
 Foucault’s critique of disciplinary power
 Rawls & Habermas: in order to keep our freedoms and
rights we must rehabilitate the normative grounds of
social criticism (Baynes)
 Normative – sociological – phenomenological deficits
AA and Social Movements
• African-American Civil Rights (1955-1968)
• Martin Luther King & Feminism
• Struggles against colonialism
• Liberation Movements in the Third World
• Cold War (1945-1989)
• Globalization and Democratization
• Cultural Studies and Postcolonial Studies
The Myth of Racial Democracy
• Gilberto Freyre, Casa-Grande e Senzala, 1933
(Masters and Slaves)
• Recasting Brazil’s authoritarian lifeworld colonial
slaveholding past
• Countering racist analyses (Oliveira Vianna)
• In praise of miscigenation:mulato, pardo, moreno
• Frank Tannenbaum, Slave & Citizen (1946)
• Carl Degler, Neither Black Nor White (1971)
• Cultural Relativism (Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict)
Affirmative Action After Rawls
• Equal Liberty + Fair Equality of Opportunities
• Thomas Nagel & Judith Jarvis Thomson (1973)
• Ongoing debates in the United States
supporting and opposing affirmative action
have shown the highly complex problem of
social integration in a pluralist democracy that
takes diversity seriously.
• Albert Mosley, Louis Pojman, and Robert
Fullinwider: pros and cons
Affirmative Action
• Backward-looking and forward-looking justifications
of affirmative action, whether they tend to be more or
less deontological or utilitarian, seem to require some
substantive approach to racial and cultural identity
• AA policies: preferential hiring, nontraditional casting,
quotas, minority scholarships, equal opportunities for
underrepresented groups, reverse discrimination.
• Discrimination: the act of discriminating, to
differentiate, to discern, to judge how one thing differs
from another on the basis of some rational criterion.
• Prejudice: a discrimination based on irrelevant grounds
(social, racial or sexual).
a priori
Idea of Freedom
Formal Intuition
Transcendental Self
Gott / Universal
Torah / Rechte
Salus / Liebe
John Rawls
“Justice as Fairness”
• A Theory of Justice, Cambridge, Mass.:
Harvard University Press, 1971. [ TJ ]
• Political Liberalism, New York: Columbia
University Press, 1993 (Dewey Lectures) [ PL ]
• The Law of Peoples, Harvard University Press,
1999. (Oxford Amnesty Lectures) [ LP ]
Liberalismo Político - Igualitarismo Socioliberal
Rawls, A Theory of Justice (1971)
• “Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as
truth is of systems of thought.”
• “A conception of justice which generalizes and
carries to a higher level of abstraction the familiar
theory of the social contract in Locke, Rousseau,
and Kant.”
• “Distributive justice ...the role of its principles in
assigning rights and duties.”
• An ethical-political, comprehensive conception
(TJ) paves the way for PL and LP (political realism)
TJ: Principles of Justice
• First: Each person is to have an equal right to the
most extensive scheme of equal basic liberties
compatible with a similar scheme of liberties for
others. (Equal Liberty Principle)
• Second: Social and economic inequalities are to
be arranged so that : a) offices and positions
must be open to everyone under conditions of
fair equality of opportunity; b) they are to be of
the greatest benefit to the least-advantaged
members of society (Difference Principle).
Maximin = maximum minimorum
• Rational choice theories & utilitarianism: choice
produces highest payoff for the worst outcome
• Property-owning democracy vs. Welfare State
• Society: fair system of social cooperation among
free, equal citizens from one generation to other
• All primary goods (liberty & opportunity, income and
wealth, the bases of self-respect) are to be distributed
equally unless an unequal distribution of any of these
goods is to the advantage of the less favored.
Reconhecimento & Movimento Social
• O movimento negro teria cumprido um papel
importante ao fazer as denúncias contra o
racismo, obrigando assim a sociedade
brasileira a olhar para si própria com menos
condescendência em relação à questão racial.
Isso, de certa forma, havia sido alcançado;
agora teria chegado a vez de a sociedade civil
intervir, incorporando as demandas antiracistas na agenda pública do País.
Habermas, Rawls, Honneth
• Habermas como árbitro entre Honneth (teoria da
justiça calcada na noção de auto-realização) e
Fraser (princípio da paridade de participação):
• Se é por meio da participação interativa que a
auto-realização pode ser pensada de maneira
moral, é apenas através de uma socialização
minimamente saudável que os indivíduos podem
afirmar-se como sujeitos e participar da
construção de uma sociedade mais justa, por
meio da troca livre e permanente de pretensões
de validade criticáveis.
Juridificação de Políticas Públicas
• “Apenas uma concepção política pode levar à
constituição de um novo status cujo elemento
principal precisa ser o reconhecimento pela
totalidade da comunidade política de uma falha
na sua concepção de justiça. A correção desta
falha que pode surgir ou do diálogo ou da luta
social deve corresponder a novos direitos cuja
institucionalização política é condição sine qua
non para a sua vigência ... é fundamental que o
reconhecimento abandone o campo do self e se
implante definitivamente na arena política legal”
(Leonardo Avritzer, 2007)
Paradoxo do Auto-Reconhecimento
• “Por exemplo, nos EUA, programas como affirmative
action e outros benefícios proporcionam incentivos
àqueles que se identificam como minorias. Contudo,
ao se identificar publicamente dessa maneira, a pessoa
está explicitamente assumindo o caráter subalterno de
sua posição. Isto leva a uma contradição prática na
qual, para se tornar igual, a pessoa deve apresentar-se
como inferior. Resta-nos saber se esse tipo de
programa é capaz de superar essa contradição”
• (João Feres, 2002).
• 1. A distribuição não pode ser reduzida ao reconhecimento,
sob pena de anulá-la como questão de justiça.
• 2. Reconhecimento é um conceito polissêmico e sua redução
a uma definição exclusiva retira tanto seu valor heurístico para
a teoria social, como sua potencialidade na luta por justiça.
• 3. O reconhecimento como auto-reconhecimento (estima)
encontrado na tese de Honneth e o reconhecimento como
status, encontrada na tese de Fraser, não se excluem, mas
fazem parte de momentos distintos de elaboração teórica e
da luta política, que em algumas circunstâncias podem
aparecer como complementares.
Desrespeito e Dialética do
• 4. O reconhecimento como política pública e como política
de Estado independe do auto-reconhecimento dos sujeitos
individuais, mas está limitado a uma gama específica de
remédios, para usar a terminologia de Fraser.
• 5. O reconhecimento como auto-reconhecimento é
essencial para a construção do sujeito da ação na luta
social. Só existe o dominado contra a dominação se este se
reconhecer como tal. Não há feminismo antes da feminista,
assim como não há paridade participativa antes do sujeito
auto-reconhecido como igual.
• 6. Tanto em Fraser como em Honneth há uma ausência de
momentos de construção de situações de desrespeito, de
não-reconhecimento e de reconhecimento, o que limita o
alcance de teorias.
Honneth et les 3 Hs
(Hegel, Husserl, Heidegger)
• A filosofia social de Sartre compreendeu que
conflitos sociais são disruptivos em relações
de reconhecimento entre atores coletivos.
• O anti-semitismo é visto como uma forma de
desrespeito social, evitando a reificação
recíproca do dualismo ontológico entre o ensoi e o pour-soi de L'être et le néant.
• Sartre evita o auto-engano do Dasein mas sua
filosofia da história é marxista-heideggeriana
Intersubjetividade ↔ Sittlichkeit
• Honneth recorre à concepção hegeliana de
eticidade ao criticar o dualismo de Habermas
como uma falha sistêmica: temos de retornar
a concepções substantivas do bem a fim de
almejarmos os melhores procedimentos, até
quando buscamos reparar injustiças e danos
• Habermas escamoteia falhas antropológicas
em sua confusão entre procedimentos &meios
sistêmicos e a normatividade da Lebenswelt
Uma Fenomenologia da Justiça
• Perspectivismo pragmático-formal corrige e
reconstrói uma semântica transcendental,
reformulada nos seguintes termos:
• As relações possíveis entre a ontologia social e a
intersubjetividade inerentes a uma fenomenologia
do mundo da vida nos remetem a três perspectivas
epistêmicas ou paradigmas correlatos (Correlação
• Ontologia, Subjetividade e Linguagem
Mundo da Vida & Equilíbrio Reflexivo
• Perspectivas intersubjetivas do mundo da vida
orientadas ao entendimento compartilhado
de práticas cotidianas social e linguisticamente
co-constitutivas do self e identidade étnica,
nacional (cultura, sociedade, personalidade)
• Transformação semântico-hermenêutica do
equilíbrio reflexivo (Rawls): contextos de
significação moral, legal e política (Forst);
perspectivismo do “fato do pluralismo”