Hermeneutics, Citizenship, and the Public Sphere

By Roberto Alejandro

Subjects: Political Theory
Series: SUNY series in Political Theory: Contemporary Issues
Paperback : 9780791414880, 291 pages, July 1993
Hardcover : 9780791414873, 291 pages, July 1993

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Table of contents


Introduction: Citizenship and the Aleph

Chapter 1. Models of Citizenship and Hermeneutics

1. 1 Introduction

1. 2 Citizenship as universality and as a legal construction

1. 3 Citizenship as neutrality

1. 4 Citizenship as communality and participation

1. 5 Citizenship as amelioration of class conflicts

1. 6 Citizenship as self-sufficiency

1. 7 Citizenship as a hermeneutic endeavor

Chapter 2. Citizenship, Irony, Adriftness: Richard Rorty's Hermeneutics

2. 1 Introduction

2. 2 Pragmatism and historicity

2. 3 Contingency and politics

2. 4 Metaphysical "foundations" and historical ones: A critique of Rorty's conception of history

2. 5 Conversation and Rorty's ideal citizen

2. 6 Irony and pluralism

2. 7 Irony, solidarity, or why reading books is not enough

2. 8 Conclusion

Chapter 3. Citizenship and Gadamer's Hermeneutics

3. 1 Understanding, interpretation, language

3. 2 Citizenship and dialogue

3. 3 Historicity and universality

3. 4 Phronesis, techne, solidarity: Gadamer's analysis of the modern polis

3. 5 Hermeneutics and the limits of conversation

Chapter 4. Toward a Hermeneutic-Historical Consciousness

4. 1 Hermeneutics and memory

4. 2 A hermeneutic-historical consciousness

4. 3 Hermeneutics and a minimalist conception of the good

4. 4 Replies and answers

Chapter 5. Hermeneutics and the Limits of Difference

5. 1 Difference and the critique of universality

5. 2 The confusion of the West

5. 3 The differend: Victims and the fate of phrases

5. 4 The Impossible Consensus

5. 5 Negotiations, ruses and the odd couple: Kantianism and paganism

5. 6 Justice or the triumph of paganism

5. 7 The limits of difference

Chapter 6. The Quest for Community and the Quest for Glory: John Dewey's and Hannah Arendt's Visions of the Public Sphere

6. 1 The public: Democracy as community life

6. 2 The crisis of the political

6. 3 Action, politics, and mass society

Chapter 7. Communication and the Public Sphere: The Case of Habermas

7. 1 Introduction

7. 2 The public sphere and the ideal speech situation

7. 3 Psychoanalysis and communication

7. 4 Distorted communication and the Leninist temptation

7. 5 Critique, praxis, emancipation

Chapter 8. Play vs. Simulacrum: A Hermeneutic Conception of the Public Sphere

8. 1 Introduction

8. 2 The masses and the end of the political: The case of Baudrillard

8. 3 Masses, resistance, apocalypse

8. 4 Play and the political

8. 5 Conclusion





This book sheds new light on the question of democratic politics by proposing a hermeneutic conception of citizenship and the public sphere. At the same time, it presents a critique of the postmodern arguments advanced by Richard Rorty, Jean-Francois Lyotard, and Jean Baudrillard. Questioning a dominant interpretation that sees Gadamer's hermeneutics as the expression of a conservative project, Alejandro argues that it includes an important element of critique that could challenge dominant structures and practices.

Roberto Alejandro is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.


"This is an important and insightful book. Alejandro fuses recent debates between liberals and communitarians and between postmodernists and their critics, as well as between Gadamer's hermeneutics and critical theory, with important literature on the notions of community and citizenship from the perspective of the broad hermeneutical tradition. This synthesis throws fresh light on the work of Dewey, Rorty, Gadamer, Habermas, Arendt, Baudrillard, and others, and makes a significant contribution to the importance of recent work on citizenship for social theory and public life. " — Robert Hollinger, Iowa State University

"Immensely useful for scholars interested in democratic theory and the impact of continental philosophy on it. The best critique of Rorty I've seen recently, and very revealing on Baudrillard. I found it very suggestive and helpful for my own work on ideology, consciousness, and democratic theory. " — Philip Green, Smith College