This is a constructive critique of Habermas’s account of rationality, which is central to his political theory and has sparked theoretical and empirical research across academia. Habermas and many critical theorists caricature means-ends rationality, e.g. by wrongly depicting it as egocentric. This weakens Habermas’s attempt to distinguish means-ends rationality from his hugely important and influential idea of communicative rationality. I suggest that sincerity and autonomy, rather than non-egocentrism, are the key distinguishing features of communicative rationality. This shows that communicative rationality actually overlaps with means-ends rationality. Indeed, means-ends rationality is needed by critical theorists, as I exemplify by showing its use in deliberative democracy. Moreover, means-ends rationality will be present in discourse ethics, as I show with the example of moral discourse about gay marriage. My article thus challenges decades of what Habermas and critical theorists have written on means-ends and communicative rationality, but I stay broadly true to – and hopefully improve – Habermas’s account of rationality.
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DOI 10.1177/1474885119867679
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A Theory of Justice: Revised Edition.John Rawls - 1999 - Harvard University Press.
Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action.David M. Rasmussen - 1993 - Philosophical Quarterly 43 (173):571.
The Nature of Rationality.Robert Nozick - 1994 - Princeton University Press.
Studies in the Way of Words.D. E. Over - 1990 - Philosophical Quarterly 40 (160):393-395.
Knowledge and Human Interests.Richard W. Miller - 1975 - Philosophical Review 84 (2):261.

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