The force of political argument

Political Theory 32 (6):825-848 (2004)
Abstract
In this essay, the author examines the tensions that emerge between the practice of essay writing and a commitment to philosophical justification as the model for political argument in contemporary political thought. He focuses on Jürgen Habermas's adoption of the performative contradiction as an ideal for communicative exchange and shows the unacknowledged role that sincerity plays in Habermas's argument. He then links this account to his explorations of the rise of aesthetic criticism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and its contribution to democratic thought. Turning to one of the key literary and political critics of the period, William Hazlitt, the author shows how his theory of essay composition lends itself to a radical democratic imaginary that complicates the account of political argument Habermas sets out. Hazlitt's essays, the author concludes, are exemplary in their embracing of contradiction as a condition of democratic life
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