85 of 86 people found the following review helpful
Best Introduction to Habermas,
This review is from: Habermas: A Very Short Introduction (Paperback)
I have been reading Habermas and books about Habermas on and off since 2000. Habermas' writings are clearly difficult, and so do most introductions to Habermas. Most introductions to Habermas follow the chronology of Habermas' work, usually starting with the work on Public Sphere through to the tome on legal theory (Between Facts and Norms). Those introductions usually succeed in portraying Habermas as a dazzling thinker of enormous breadth, and does serve the purpose of encouraging their readers to pursue serious reading of Habermas' difficult works.
Not this Introduction - this one is much better. The format of Very Short Introductions does not allow the traditional approach, and the author does an outstanding job in putting Habermas' theory and its various pieces in context. As the other reviewer mentioned, the author describes Habermas' five "research programmes" which forms an integrated whole. In one sentence, Habermas uses the pragmatic theory of meaning to develop a theory of communicative actions which forms the basis of three aspects - ethical, social and political - of his "practical" (practical as in "Critique of Practical Reasons") theories which tries to describe both the realities and normative ideals for modern (Western) societies in the late 20th centures. After summarizing the research programmes which put Habermas' huge corpus in context, the author proceeds to describe each of the programme in its highlights - in this the author successfully condenses Habermas' work into simple themes and conceptual distinctions. Given the short length of the exposition, I was very positively surprised by the author's ability to include at the end of most chapters summaries of critical views regarding Habermas' theories (e.g. the Habermas vs. Rawls debate) - and the author clearly holds a sympathetic yet objective stand in describing both sides of the arguments.
So in summary, this book is superior to most other Introductions in that:
1. The language is simpler and clearer - not burdened by Habermas' difficult writings
2. Covers Habermas' programmes in logical rather than strict chronological order - which puts different aspects of Habermas' works in context (also coverage is up to Truth and Justification, which is nearly one decade beyond the time of Between Facts and Norms)
3. Describes Habermas' breadth but also identifies the unifying concerns of Habermas as a "practical theorist"
4. Presents both the structure and key critiques to Habermas' theories - thereby allowing readers to prioritize which of Habermas' works to read after this Introduction. (Realistically, who would have time to read everything Habermas wrote?)
Bravo to the author and Oxford in publishing this good work!
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Initial post: Nov 5, 2010 8:50:33 AM PDT
Giordano Bruno says:
Excellent review, Mr. Law. I'll be looking over your other offerings.
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