Towards a discourse-theoretical account of authority and obligation in the postnational constellation

Philosophy and Social Criticism 38 (6):537-567 (2012)
Normative questions concerning political authority and political obligation are widely seen as central questions of political philosophy. Current global transformations require an innovative response from normative political thinking about these two topics. In light of a concrete example of the supranational forms of authority and obligation that have been and are emerging beyond the national state and beyond the traditional domains of international law, I lay out what has become the standard approach to authority and obligation and indicate why this approach is inadequate in contemporary circumstances. I sketch an alternative approach and suggest how the most promising exemplar of this kind, Habermas’ discourse theory of law and politics, can better deal with the example. Having thus made plausible the advantages of the discourse theory of the alternative approach, I end with an ‘internal’ critique of Habermas’ own recent writings on the global political order
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