Skip to main content


Habermas and Modernity

Richard J. Bernstein

ISBN: 978-0-745-60067-3 January 1991 Polity 240 Pages


Jurgen Habermas is one of the leading and one of the most challenging social theorists of our time. During the past several decades he has been developing a systematic critical analysis of modernity - its historical origins, pathologies and future prospects. He is a thinker who has been uncannily attuned to the basic moods and vital concerns of contemporary culture. He stubbornly resists those who claim that Western rationality is exhausted, that the Enlightenment legacy is dead and that the project of modernity is a failure. He has elaborated a comprehensive theory of rationality and the rationalisation processes of modernisation - one which highlights the intersubjective character of communicative action. His ambitious and carefully argues intellectual project invites - indeed commands - rigorous critical scrutiny.

This collection of critical essays draws together leading thinkers from a variety of fields in order to assess some of Habermas's major theses concerning the philosophical, cultural and social conditions of modernity. In his substantial reply to these critics Habermas clarifies and defends his view, specifying a range of new problems which demand further analysis.

This book is an invaluable resource for understanding Habermas's work and an essential text for anyone who is interested in current debates about the nature of, ad prospects for, contemporary societies and modern culture.


Part I:.

1. Reason, Utopia and the Dialectic of Enlightenment: Albrecht Wellmer.

2. Psychic Thermidor and the Rebirth of Rebellious Subjectivity: Jurgen Habermas.

3. Neoconservative Culture Criticism in the United States and West Germany: An Intellectual Movement in Two Political Cultres: Jurgen Habermas.

4. Reason Without Revolution? Habermas's Theorie des Kommunikativen Handelns: Antony Giddens.

Part II: Symposium..

1. Habermas and Modernism: Martin Jay.

2. reason and Happiness: Some Psychoanalytic Themes in Critical Theory: Joel Whitebook.

3. Habermas and Lyotard on Postmodernity: Ricard Rorty.

4. Reflections on Rationalization in the Theory of Communicative Action: Thomas McCarthy.

5. Questions and Counterquestions: Jurgen Habermas.


Bibliographical Note.


'This volume, culminating in Habermas's spirited response to his critics, will be required reading for anyone concerned with the complex dispute currently raging between `modernism' and `post-modernism' (or between liberalism and post-liberalism). Bernstein's introduction is easily the most lucid essay-length discussion of this problem and of Habermas's opus available today.'
Fred R. Dallamayr