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Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy Paperback – 1 Aug 1997

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Product details

  • Paperback: 636 pages
  • Publisher: Polity Press; New Ed edition (1 Aug. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745620116
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745620114
  • Product Dimensions: 15.8 x 5.5 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 153,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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′Rich, important ... proceeding through the magisterial scrutiny of theoretical approaches in law, sociology, philosophy and politics, it offers plenty for students of these disciplines to chew on.′ Times Higher Education Supplement

′A significant development of his theory ... Rehg′s translation of Between Facts and Norms is clear and precise and his Introduction helpful.′ British Journal of Sociology

′In Between Facts and Norms, Habermas offers an inspiring and intellectually stimulating diagnosis of the predicament of modern law ... his contribution will undoubtedly have a lasting influence on this crucially important debate.′ Democratization

′For at least a generation Jurgen Habermas′s work has made a significant impact on a variety of important debates in philosophy and the social sciences. Between Facts and Norms ... brings together many of Habermas′s earlier concerns and weaves them into a comprehensive and brilliant critical theory of actually existing democracy. From the perspective of the discipline of politics this is undoubtedly Habermas′s most important work. Of course, Habermas′s work is dense, challenging and incredibly broad in its range. It is also controversial, and this work will certainly not win over his most trenchant critics. None of this amounts to a valid excuse to ignore it. This book really is essential reading for anyone who is interested in exploring at depth the possibilities of realizing a genuinely democratic future.′ Political Studies

′Such a scholarly intensity deserves to be read at first hand.′ Sociology, Ian Roberts, Univerisity of Durham

′Eleven Years after his monumental Theory of Communicative Action (1981), Jürgen Habermas has again presented an opus magnum.′ Otfried Höffe, Universität Tübingen, Mind

Jürgen Habermas has been awarded the prestigious ′Friedenspreis des deutschen Buchhandels′ prize for 2001

From the Back Cover

In Between Facts and Norms Habermas works out the legal and political implications of his theoretical approach, bringing to fruition the project announced more than three decades ago in The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. Between Facts and Norms is a major contribution to current debates on the role of law and the prospects for the development of democracy in contemporary societies. Habermas develops a distinctive account of the nature of law, arguing that law is characterized by an internal tension between factual and normative aspects. He links this account to a broader argument concerning the formation of the modern constitutional state and the role of democratic deliberation as a means of securing the legitimacy of legal norms in complex, pluralistic societies.

Habermas develops a proceduralist conception of democracy which emphasizes the importance of citizens organizing themselves in informal associations and voicing their concerns in a variety of public settings. If the formal processes of law–making in modern societies are to sustain their legitimacy, they must be capable of taking account of the concerns of ordinary citizens. In our complex, pluralistic societies, the legitimacy of political decision–making processes depends on a robust civil society and a vibrant public sphere.

Between Facts and Norms is an outstanding work by one the most important social and political thinkers of our time. It will be a focal point of debate for many years to come in the fields of social and political theory, sociology, politics and philosophy.

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Format: Paperback
Habermas made a critical theory into law knowledge. And I glad to his opinion, because now I can explain "the discourse theory of law" for law and power in my country, Indonesia.
And then, I can make a "strategy of deconstruction" for the language of "rule of law" at Indonesian too.
Thank you, Sincerely
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x906f10cc) out of 5 stars 10 reviews
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90706c30) out of 5 stars Put Your Hope in the Law 26 Sept. 2005
By Mark G. Thames - Published on
Format: Paperback
A big book on the big topic of 'how do we all get along' by one of the biggest of living philosophers.

I'll not address the details of the argument or Habermas's place in left-wing politics. Instead, I'll address the intellectual and cultural context.

What Habermas says he is doing is looking for a way to hold societies together that are no longer composed only of one ethnic group; that are no longer made up of adherents of one religion; and are no longer made up of people who accept one myth of their nation or one philosophy of life. We wouldn't need his contribution here, he is saying, if we were not in "postmetaphysical" times--by which he means two things. First, he means that we're in a scientific, secular era when the educated classes, anyway, of major Western countries can no longer be convinced of much of anything by *religious* arguments. Religion doesn't command much belief among social elites, and many others, let alone the kind of universal belief it once inspired. And theology has long since been driven from the position of being 'queen of the sciences' by physics. The second thing he means by "postmetaphysical" (which he uses instead of "postmodern") is that we live in a time when it's hard for any of us to believe that only what we believe is true, and that what we believe is totally true...because our world is so interconnected and we are aware of so many different religions and worldviews people have. That is, religious and worldview pluralism relativizes the authority any one religion or worldview could have now.

Mostly Habermas thinks our "enlightened" state of cosmopolitan equality is really good. But he acknowledges that we've lost something in losing the certainties and meaning and ethics of religions. Among other things we've lost is the social glue that holds citizens of countries together. Since Habermas is a social philosopher of hope, who wants to prevent a Nazi regime and a Holocaust from ever happening again, this is really important to him.

So after saying why socialist welfare states, with their paternalistic governments, and unregulated capitalism, with its discrimination against those who are such losers as to not be affluent, can't be the way forward, he then surveys and rejects other options. Of course, the way forward is his theory, which in his lingo is a constitutional deliberative democracy with a free public sphere and a vibrant lifeworld. Never mind all that, unless you want to get into his theory. The force of it here is that, in a way most people afraid of getting speeding tickets would not expect, he, as a leftie, sees The Law as the best means for keeping all of us together. Even if we don't respect each other so much, basically, if we respect the law we can get along. Even if we don't care about each other so much, if we do as much for each other as the law demands, society will be livable. So the right kind of law makes possible a peaceful society of people who radically disagree on really basic stuff that would often make people violent.

The book is designed to sort out the right kind of law. It is the kind that you can obey not just because you'll get in trouble if you don't, but also because you can agree in principle with how the law was made (even if you don't like the law itself). And the right way to make laws is for people to talk long enough and openly enough with each other in political publics and fora to come up with basic rules of the game we can all live with.

Highly technical, highly abstract, assumes you know basic stuff about Aristotle and Kant without him explaining it, amazingly comprehensive. Underrated in the US because it's not done in the usual Anglo-American way, but not only great for legal theory types, but also for people doing Rawls or Rorty or Derrida or MacIntyre. And for systematic thinker people, think of Between Facts and Norms as Habermas's equivalent of Aristotle's Politics or Hegel's Philosophy of Right. If you like the Olympic pool these guys swim in, this is gold medal contender material.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90f44c48) out of 5 stars Democracy: well-known, little understood 27 Jun. 2005
By Christina Andrews - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Some commentators of Habermas' work have argued that he changed his position from "The Theory of Communicative Action" (see review in here at to "Between Facts and Norms" (BF&N). In the preface of the English edition of BF&N the author himself replies to this issue: Habermas hopes that the book will clear the impression that "the theory of communicative action is blind to institutional reality -or that it could even have anarchist consequences (p. xi)". Thus, the purpose of BF&N is to apply discourse theory to the analysis of democracy in modern societies and not to change the route of his critical theory, as some have argued. Having said this, the reader may be interested to know whether it is possible to understand this book without reading TCA first. I would reply to this question with a cautious "yes". But, of course, something of the understanding will be missed without the theoretical background of Habermas' magnum opus. For someone who would like to read BF&N but is not willing to digest TCA's two volumes, I recommend reading his essay "Three Normative Models of Democracy" (in "The Inclusion of the Other", ed. by Ciaran Cronin and Pablo de Greiff, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998). This essay presents an outline of the arguments that Habermas will fully develop in BF&N. In this book, he proposes a normative model of democracy as a middle point alternative to the republican and the liberal models. While the republican model relies on Rousseau's idea of collective opinion and will-formation, which demands communication and consensus, the liberal model attributes supremacy to the institutional protection of individual freedom. Habermas affirms that his proposal is normatively "stronger" than the liberal model, but "weaker" than the republican model. In other words, in his deliberative model of democracy, institutions should do more than just protecting the individual from state oppression and act also as carriers of communicative rationality. Institutions are crucial to democracy because they act as legitimacy 'gatekeepers', transforming public opinion into communicative power. "According to discourse theory, the success of deliberative politics depends not on a collectively acting citizenry but on the institutionalization of the corresponding procedures and conditions of communication, as well as on the interplay of institutionalized deliberative processes with informally developed public opinions" (BF&N, p. 298). In a deliberative democracy, opinion formation in the public sphere is to be transferred to the legal and political systems in order to legitimize binding decisions that apply to a political community.

Habermas model is not, therefore, a radical departure from what we know nowadays as a "democratic system". However, most existing democracies lack the conditions for an unconstrained opinion formation in the public sphere due to ideological manipulation,as Habermas points out. Thus, democratic institutions do not guarantee an authentic democracy. As much as Habermas see institutions to be fundamental to democracy, the improvement of the democratic system cannot come from within the institutionalized system. Institutions can stabilize democracy, but are not meant to change society. According to Habermas, only communication action is able to lead us out of our current political predicament.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90d639b4) out of 5 stars The Latest Major Work by Habermas 13 Dec. 2006
By D. Thomas - Published on
Format: Paperback
Habermas's central concern is implied by this book's title. We can't really see a law as a law unless it's backed up with enforcement. That's law as a "fact." But we also want law to reflect values that we can rationalize and validate. That's law as a "norm." This difficult study is worth the effort for anyone who wonders about law's nature and about how ideas like "justice" claim our attention. Habermas wants to define an idea of law that lies "between" law as a fact (what law is and says) and law as a value or norm (what law ought to be, or what we feel law ought to be). The most immediate test case is a circumstance like Nazi Germany, where policies of Jewish extermination were "in fact" legitimated within the state power structure. Doesn't law as a "fact," in that case, seem illegitimate, an indefensible "norm"? If you are interested in an argument that respects the importance of state might but also resists the notion that might makes right, then this book should be on your list.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90706e04) out of 5 stars Important but... 14 April 2011
By J.F. Quackenbush - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The ideas and thinking here are striking and original. It loses a star however because for someone who cares as much about communication as Habermas and his translator do, between the two of them they are guilty of repeatedly making the ideas here as opaque as possible through sloppy writing. What I mean by this is that this is very slow reading as the reader has to often read the same sentence repeatedly parsing it out in various ways to attempt to discern what relation is intended between various clauses. For example, from page 11 (chosen at random): "Both moments--that a thought overshoots the bounds of an individual consciousness and that its content is independent of an individuals stream of experience--can only be described in such a way that linguistic expressions have /identical meanings/ for different users."

What, exactly, does that even mean? Habermas is apparently talking about the Fregean distinction between thoughts and representations that he has just outlined as the foundation of the "linguistic turn." All fine and good. But then there's the unusual word choice of "moments." That's philosopher-ese and means something like "aspect" or "factor" (a bit of jargon that I've never personally seen much use for. Just say aspect if you mean aspect).The word choice is unsettling even for someone who is versed in the jargon because in this context, a discussion of the history of the linguistic turn in the philosophy of mind, makes the word unecessarily vague. Occurring as it does at the beginning of a sentence, immediately followed by an extended explicatory aside, it might just as easily mean the more usual definition of moment: a point in time. This, combined with the disconnect of the subject of this sentence with its predicate makes everything all the more confusing. And speaking of that predicate, what Habermas/Rehg have to say about those "moments" is that they "can only be described in such a way that linguistic expressions have identical meanings for different users." Care to count with me the unecessary words in that clause?

I think what it means is something like the following sentence:

Both aspects of a thought--1,) it is shared beyond a single consciousness and 2.) it is independent of any single person's experience--require that different single utterances still mean the same thing to all speakers.

I submit that my reformulation expresses the same idea, and does so without unecessary grammatical acrobatics on the part of the reader. The book is frankly chock full of this sort of tortured prose.

So while this is important stuff, and truly essential reading for all people with a serious interest in legal theory, political science, moral theory, and the current state of postmetaphysical pragmatism, brace yourself. Because reading it really is like being stretched on the rack at times, and for no good reason other than the lack of a good copy-editor.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x906ff210) out of 5 stars Very complex! 28 Jan. 2013
By Lara - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has given me more than one headache as reading it requires the highest level of concentration. It is very complex, but extremely insightful, so don't be discouraged if you feel that you are not quite comprehending everything immediately. It is an amazing Habermasian work, however! Highly recommended, especially for scholars interested in Habermas.
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