Saving 1968: Thinking with Habermas against Habermas

Phaenex: Journal of Existential and Phenomenological Theory and Culture 4 (2) (2010)
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Taking Habermas’s Die nachholende Revolution as a foil, I contend that in his discussions of 1989, Habermas has misunderstood the nature of the anti-Communist revolutions. Comparing them to his writings on the public sphere and the student protest movements in Germany, I argue that the revolutions do not represent the triumph of capitalism anymore than they represent the triumph of Western democracy. Calling the events catch-up revolutions is to frame the events as the expansion of modernity and nothing more. Rather, the revolutions show that the revolutionaries in Eastern Europe were grappling with the same problem, namely the control of technical subsystems, that the students and revolutionaries of 1968 were. Viewed in the light of Habermas’s writings from the 1960s, we end up better understanding the twin extremes of capitalism and bureaucratic-totalitarianism.



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Kevin Gray
Université Laval

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