The Past as Future

Jurgen Habermas, Author, Max Pensky, Translator, Peter Uwe Hohendahl, Introduction by
Jurgen Habermas, Author, Max Pensky, Translator, Peter Uwe Hohendahl, Introduction by University of Nebraska Press $40 (185p) ISBN 978-0-8032-2371-4
Paperback - 187 pages - 978-0-8032-7266-8
Paperback - 185 pages - 978-0-7456-1454-0
Hardcover - 185 pages - 978-0-7456-1453-3
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Although Habermas ( Knowledge and Human Interests ) has recently developed some small popular following in the U.S., it is still nothing like his experience in Europe, where he is a sort of eminence grise , an academic philosopher with forebears in the Frankfurt School and prominence in critical theory. His champions find him profound, his detractors abstruse, but he belongs to a German tradition of tightly argued criticism and system-building. The Past as Future is not a major work but a collection of interviews that Habermas gave to Michael Haller, sometime editor of Der Spiegel . Understandably, much of the book is geared to the interests of a German audience. In discussing the Gulf War, for example, he focuses on the chemical weapons Germany supplied to Iraq, and he reflects on the marginalization of the G.D.R. in the post-Wall period, on reunification and the growth of nationalism. Interestingly, he endorses war if international law is violated, since law embodies ethical principles. He also has intriguing suggestions on the role of the intellectual in political debate and the relation between theory and practice, morality and everyday speech. But perhaps not everything Habermas utters is worth recording. As James Joyce once remarked in dismissing his own public, ``They would probably publish my collected pawn tickets.'' (Aug.)
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