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The Derrida - Habermas Reader

Edited by Lasse Thomassen

This is the first book to consider the debate between two of the most prominent philosophers and social theorists of the 20th century: Jacques Derrida and Jürgen Habermas. It presents a unique collection of articles by the two figures and by those who have written about them, and includes pieces published in English for the first time.

The book will be of interest to students and scholars with an interest in the implications of Derrida's deconstruction and Habermas's critical theory for issues such as international relations, Europe, tolerance, rights, multiculturalism and identity politics, and the nature of philosophy.

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Introduction: Between Deconstruction and Rational Reconstruction (Lasse Thomassen)
Part I: Philosophy and Literature
1 Levelling the Genre Distinction between Philosophy and Literature (Jürgen Habermas)
2 Is There a Philosophical Language? (Jacques Derrida)
3 Habermas, Derrida, and the Functions of Philosophy (Richard Rorty)
Part II: Ethics and Politics
4 An Allegory of Modernity/Postmodernity: Habermas and Derrida (Richard J. Bernstein)
5 Frankfurt Impromtu - Remarks on Derrida and Habermas (Simon Critchley)
6 Performative Powerlessness - A Response to Simon Critchley (Jacques Derrida)
7 How Respond to the Ethical Question (Jürgen Habermas)
8 Democracy and Difference: Reflections on the Metapolitics of Lyotard Derrida (Seyla Benhabib)
Part III: Identity/Difference: Rights, Tolerance and Political Space
9 Dead Rights, Live Futures: On Habermas's Attempt to Reconcile Constitutionalism and Democracy (Bonnie Honig)
10 'A bizarre, even opaque practice': Habermas on Constitutionalism and Democracy (Lasse Thomassen)
11 Religious Tolerance - The Pacemaker for Cultural Rights (Jürgen Habermas)
12 Hostipitality (Jacques Derrida)
13 Between Deliberation and Deconstruction: The Condition of Post-National Democracy (Martin Morris)
Part IV: Beyond the Nation State: Europe, Cosmopolitanism and International Law
14 For a Justice to Come: An Interview witj Jacques Derrida (Jacques Derrida and Lieven De Cauter)
15 February 15, or What Binds Europeans Together: A Plea for a Common Foreign Policy, Beginning in the Heart of Europe (Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida)
16 Between Hope and Terror: Habermas and Derrida Plead for the Im/Possible (Martin Beck Matustik)
17 Honesty of Thought (Jacques Derrida)
18 A Last Farewell: Derrida's Enlightening Impact (Jürgen Habermas)

About the Author

Lasse Thomassen is Senior Lecturer in the School of Politics and International Relations at Queen Mary, University of London. He is the author of Deconstructing Habermas (Routledge, 2007) and Habermas: A Guide for the Perplexed (Continuum, 2010), and the co-editor of Radical Democracy: Politics between Abundance and Lack (Manchester University Press, 2005) and the editor of The Derrida-Habermas Reader (Edinburgh University Press, 2006). Currently he is working on the concept of representation and new forms of radical politics.


This is a most welcome volume. It provides the reader not only with an wonderful overview of the deep philosophical differences that divide Derrida and Habermas, but also with some sense of their common hopes as Europeans and cosmopolitan citizens. The excellent selection of primary texts is supported by a small number of well-chosen commentaries on the two thinkers.
- Stephen K. White, James Hart Professor of Politics, University of Virginia
The belated rapprochement between Derrida and Habermas after decades of cross-purpose exchange is one of the most important and heartening events in recent intellectual history. This exceptionally well-edited volume brings together a range of representative texts which show how their earlier disagreements took hold but also how they came to acknowledge a sense of shared aims and interests. Above all it demonstrates the extent to which their thinking was challenged and subject to careful re-assessment on both sides in response to world-political developments following 9/11, the resurgence of religious fundamentalism in various forms, and the Bush administration’s ‘war on terrorism’. Along with these texts by the main protagonists goes a fine selection of commentaries on various aspects of the Derrida/Habermas relationship, drawing out their points of convergence and divergence on some of the most pressing political and ethical issues of our age. Altogether they make a fitting tribute to two figures who have done much to reinvigorate the tradition of philosophy as socially engaged while remaining true to its distinctive vocation of autonomous critical thought. That their dialogue should have been cut short by Derrida’s untimely death is a cruel irony but all the more reason to value this immensely significant and thought-provoking volume
- Professor Christopher Norris, Cardiff University
Under the editorship of Lasse Thomassen, the volume collects some of the most interesting and wide-ranging contributions to the Derrida-Habermas discussion... all of the essays assembled in The Derrida-Habermas Reader are significant contributions to a rich and vibrant dialogue inaugurated by two of the most prominent philosophers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Scholars and students of Derrida and Habermas are well counseled to grant them careful consideration.
- Richard Ganis, University of Salford, Radical Philosophy
Thomassen has given us an excellent introductory work.
- Kevin W. Gray, PhaenEx