Habermas and the political sciences: The relationship between theory and practice

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 39 (3):381-407 (2009)
Jürgen Habermas’s theories have received enormous attention in the public sphere as well as in political science. It is therefore surprising that his method, rational reconstruction, is not more debated. In political science the method is of particular interest because of its ambition to bridge the gap between empirical and normative approaches. In this article the author traces Habermas’s interest in rational reconstruction by going back to his writings on theory and practice and subsequently shows what the method’s main principles are. He then specifies how this methodological conception is used in Habermas’s political theory. Finally, the introduction of an empirical design allows the author to discuss one of the fundamental tensions in Habermas’s approach: the hypotheses arrived at through rational reconstruction are empirical hypotheses but cannot be tested by empirical means
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