Communicative Power in Habermas’s Theory of Democracy

European Journal of Political Theory 3 (4):433-454 (2004)
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This article critically examines Jürgen Habermas’s theory of democracy as developed in Between Facts and Norms. In particular, it focuses on the concept of communicative power and argues that there is a crucial ambiguity in Habermas’s use of this concept. Since communicative power is the key normative resource that is supposed to counter the norm-free steering media of money and administrative power, its role within the theory must be made clear. The article begins by explaining the normative and social-theoretic foundations of the theory. Then it highlights the normative importance of the public sphere in Habermas’s two-track model of deliberative politics, before turning to the problems with the concept of communicative power. Two alternative readings of its role are provided in order to demonstrate how it needs to be further clarified



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Jeffrey Flynn
Fordham University