+ All Categories
Home > Documents > Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy

Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy

Date post: 10-Apr-2018
Upload: aparnnanithyaall
View: 227 times
Download: 0 times
Share this document with a friend
Embed Size (px)

of 26

  • 8/8/2019 Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy


    Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & DemocracyAuthor(s): Nancy S. LoveSource: Polity, Vol. 22, No. 2 (Winter, 1989), pp. 269-293Published by: Palgrave Macmillan JournalsStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3234835

    Accessed: 21/03/2009 03:00

    Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at

    http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless

    you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you

    may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.

    Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at


    Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed

    page of such transmission.

    JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to build trusted digital archives for scholarship. We work with the

    scholarly community to preserve their work and the materials they rely upon, and to build a common research platform that

    promotes the discovery and use of these resources. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected].

    Palgrave Macmillan Journals is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Polity.


  • 8/8/2019 Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy


    Foucault & HabermasonDiscourse& Democracy*Nancy S. LoveThe PennsylvaniaStateUniversityTheproblemof modernity s thesubject of a continuingdebate thatrevolvesaround three issues:rationality, ubjectivity,and democracy.JurgenHabermasandMichelFoucault aremajor igures in thisdebate. Theauthorarguesthat theirpositionson democraticdiscourseare one-sided.Still, theirdebatedefinesthe tasksof democratic heoryby raisingthe questionsa balanced heoryof democraticdiscoursemustconsider: Whendoes subjectivitybecomesubjection?Whendoescommunicationbecomeconfession?Whendoes democracybecomedomination?NancyS. Love is AssociateProfessorof PoliticalScienceat ThePennsylvaniaState University.She is authorof Marx,Nietzsche,andModernity ColumbiaUniversityPress)and editorof IdeologyandRevolution ChathamHouse).The problemof modernity s the subjectof continuingdebate. Twothemesemergeclearly n the various formulationsof that problem:ra-tionality and subjectivity.What foundations does reason retain in apluralizedworld? What autonomyremainsfor individuals n a masssociety?Democracy s a less frequentbut equally important heme. Isparticipatorypoliticsall but obsolete in the modern state?And, sincedemocracydependsupon rationalsubjects, s it implicatedn the prob-lem of modernity?Ultimately,the questionbecomes what should besaved fromthe modernproject.Criticaltheorists and post-structuralists,he primaryparticipantsnthis debate, have taken opposing positions. Jiirgen HabermasandMichel Foucaulthave beenmajorvoices for theirrespective ides.1Un-

    *Theauthorwould like to thankWilliamConnolly,FredDallmayr,DianeRubenstein,andStephenWhite orhelpfulcomments ndsuggestions.A fellowshiprom he AmericanCouncilof LearnedSocieties upported esearchor this article.1. MartinJayhas argued hat the futureof westernMarxism ies in the confrontationbetweenHabermas ndFoucault, nMarxism nd Totality:TheAdventures f a Conceptfrom Lukdcs o Habermas Berkeley:University f CaliforniaPress,1984),p. 509.

    Polity VolumeXXII, Number 2 Winter1989VolumeXXII, Number 2olity Winter1989

  • 8/8/2019 Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy


    270 Foucault& Habermason Discourse& Democracy

    fortunately,Foucault'suntimelydeathcut theirconfrontation hort,butnot beforetheyhadidentified heircommonconcerns.Foucault pokeof"a strangecase of non-penetrationbetweentwo very similartypes ofthinking," similar in their basic question: "What is the history ofreason?"2Even as he labeledpost-structuralistsyoungconservatives,"Habermasacknowledged imilaritiesbetween "the critiqueof instru-mentalreasonand the analysisof formationsof discourseandpower."3Yet Foucaultand Habermashad also begunto disagree.HabermasportrayedFoucaultas "anti-modern,"arguingthat he rejectedmuchwhich should be saved from the still uncompletedmodernproject.4Foucaultdid say that "manwouldbe erased,like a face drawn n thesand at the edge of the sea," but he regardedthe choice "for" or"against"modernityas "intellectual lackmail."5As these remarks ug-gest,FoucaultandHabermasrequentlyalkedpastone another.Intheirdebate,theyoften missedopportunitiesor dialogue.6HereI attempt o constructhat misseddialogue.Myfocusis theprob-lem of democracy,specifically he relationshipbetweendemocracyanddiscourse,though I also discussrationalityand subjectivityas relatedthemes.I arguethat the positionsof HabermasandFoucaulton demo-craticdiscourseare one-sided.As NancyFraserhas suggested, heyareblindedby theirfears.7Foucault,fearinga disciplinaryociety,focuseson the constrainingpowersof democraticdiscourse.Habermas, earingthe end of individuality,emphasizes ts enablingpowers.Neithercon-sidershow rationalcommunicationboth enablesand constrains,andneitheradequatelybalancesthe two in his approach o discourseanddemocracy.Beforebeginning,however,I shouldaddressa possibleobjection.Tosome, my approach-debate and balance-may seem to favor Haber-mas. I do assumethat Habermasand Foucaultare arguingwith oneanother.Bypresentingheirpositionson modernity, placethemwithinHabermas'ssphereof rationalargumentation.This bias, if it is one,2. MichelFoucault, "Structuralismnd Post-structuralism."nterviewwith GerardRaulet,Telos 55 (Spring1983):200.3. JiirgenHabermas,"A Philosophico-Politicalrofile,"NewLeftReview151(May/-June 1985): 81.4. Ibid., p. 83.5. Michel Foucault, The Orderof Things:An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (New

    York:VintageBooks, 1973),p. 387.6. Unfortunately, previous onferencebetweenpoststructuralistsnd critical heoristswasno exception.See RainerRochlitz,"TheMissedMeeting-A ConferenceReportonFrenchandGermanPhilosophy,"Telos66 (Winter1985-86):124-28.7. Nancy Fraser,"MichelFoucault:A 'YoungConservative'?",Ethics96 (October1981): 165-84.

  • 8/8/2019 Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy


    NancyS. Love 271

    seemsunavoidable.As Habermasputsit, "if we arenot free... to rejector to acceptthe validityclaimsboundup withthe cognitivepotentialofthe human species, it is senselessto want to 'decide' for or againstreason, for or against the expansion of the potential for reasonedaction."8Rationalarguments ourtool, evenfor assessingreason.Latein life, Foucaultexpressed omesympathy or thisapproach, aying,"inthe seriousplay of questionsand answers,in the work of reciprocalelucidation he rightsof eachpersonare in some sense immanent n thediscussion."9With this reference to rights, Foucault also grants another of myassumptions.Mysearch or balancepresumeshat there s emancipatorypotential nthe modernproject.SinceFoucaultoftengestures oward heachievements f modernity, his is not necessarily Habermasian ias. Iwill argue, however, that it is Habermas who provides criteriafordistinguishingthose achievementsfrom liabilities. For this reason,Habermas haracterizes oucault'sconceptof rationalityas one-sidedlyinstrumentaland his own, which adds communicativeorms, as morecomplete.'?Thisimplies hatHabermasncorporatesFoucault's nsightswithin his own balancedphilosophicalframework.Othershave fur-thered his interpretation y drawinguponHabermas o analyzegapsinFoucault'sphilosophy." But I do not think that by providingsuchcriteria,HabermasencompassesFoucault or achieves a balance. Theirdebatealso allowsFoucaultto raiseseriousreservationsabout Haber-mas's debts to modernity.By using each philosophyto illustratetheother'slimitations,I intendto pose the questions hat a morebalanced

    8. JiirgenHabermas,"Towarda Reconstructionf HistoricalMaterialism"n Com-munication ndthe Evolutionof Society,ThomasMcCarthy,r. (Boston:BeaconPress,1979),p. 177.9. MichelFoucault,"Polemics, Politics, and Problematizations: n InterviewwithMichelFoucault,"in TheFoucaultReader,ed. Paul Rabinow(New York:Pantheon,1984), p. 379. Citingthis passage,DavidIngram peaksof a "remarkableonvergence"betweenHabermas ndFoucault n "Foucaultandthe Frankfurt chool:A DiscourseonNietzsche,Power,andKnowledge,"PraxisInternational (October1986):311-27.10. Jiirgen Habermas,Interviewby Angelo Bolaffi, Telos 39 (Spring 1979): 170;"Modernity ersusPostmodernity,"New GermanCritique 2 (Winter1981):13.11. See PeterDews,Logics of Disintegration: oststructuralist hought ndtheClaimsOf CriticalTheoryLondon:Verso,1987),pp.220-42andhisearlier"PowerandSubjec-tivity in Foucault,"New Left Review 144 (1984):73-95; Nancy Fraser,"FoucaultonModernPower:Empirical nsightsand NormativeConfusions,"PraxisInternational(October1981):272-87 and "Michel Foucault:A 'YoungConservative'?",p. 180. In"Foucault'sChallengeo CriticalTheory,"AmericanPoliticalScienceReview,80 (June1986):419-32, StephenK. Whiteargues hat a Foucauldian xamination f Habermas'scategoriess also needed.

  • 8/8/2019 Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy


    272 Foucault& Habermason Discourse& Democracy

    view of democraticdiscourseand a more balancedview of modernitymust address.I. EnlightenmentThe debatebetweenHabermasand Foucaultbeginswith a discussionofthe Enlightenment,as that is when the rational subject of moderndemocracies originates. Habermas frequently distinguishes criticaltheoristsfrom post-structuralists y arguingthat the formerradicalizeand the latter reject Enlightenment.'2Habermas includes Foucaultamong the post-structuralistswhose "anti-modernism"abandons thestill uncompletedmodernproject. Against the post-structuralist osi-tion, Habermasmaintains hat "modern life-worldsare differentiatedandshould remainso, in orderthat the reflexivityof traditions, he in-dividuationof the social subject,and the universalistic oundationsofjusticeandmoralitydo not go all to hell."'3If these are the characteris-tics Habermasassociateswithmodernity, hen hiscritiqueof Foucault sfar too blunt. A more subtle analysis suggeststhat Foucaultrejectsuniversalism,retains differentiationand reflexivity, and relies uponindividuality.NancyFraserprovidesthe basis for suchan analysisby arguing hatFoucaultdoes not criticizeEnlightenment erse but ratheroneaspectofit: humanism."4 ven humanismhe criticizes ess for its conceptsandvaluesthan for its universalisticnterpretations f them. AccordingtoFoucault,humanismhas a distinctiveobject-Man-who emergedwitha new power/knowledgeregime n the late eighteenthcentury.Man issimultaneouslyonstitutedas theepistemological bjectandthepoliticalsubjectof thatregime.As thissubject/object,Man is a strange wo-sidedentityor "doublet."Foucault dentifies hreemanifestations f this Man"doublet." First, in the transcendental/empiricalouble, Man consti-tutesthe world of empiricalobjectsand is constitutedby them.Second,in the cogito/unthoughtdouble, Man knowshimself to be determinedbyunknown orces andis determined ythem.Third, n the retreat-and-return-of-the-originouble,Mancreateshistoryand is createdby pastevents.In eachcase, the subjectpole suggestsman'sautonomyandra-

    12. Jiirgen Habermas, "The Entwinement of Myth and Enlightenment: Re-ReadingDialectic of Enlightenment, " New German Critique 26 (Spring/Summer 1982): 13, 28-30;and "A Philosophico-Political Profile," p. 82.13. Jiirgen Habermas, "The Dialectics of Rationalization," Interview with Axel Hon-neth, Eberhard Knodler-Bunte, and Arno Widmann, Telos 49 (Fall 1981): 15.14. Fraser, "Michel Foucault: A 'Young Conservative'?," p. 166. I am indebted toFraser for this analysis of Foucault's critique of humanism.

  • 8/8/2019 Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy


    NancyS. Love 273

    tionality,but the object pole deniesthem. The humanistprojectis tomake the subjectpole masterthe object pole, to overcome he otherinnature,self, and society.'5This humanistproject clearlyhas universalisticendencies.Theseap-pearin anthropologicaland teleological dealizationsof the Enlighten-ment as a stagein Man'sself-formation.Foucaultrejects heseidealiza-tions butnot Enlightenmenttself.Anthropologicalonceptionsof Manexpress he self-defeating haracter f the humanistproject: he subjectMan is itself an objectification.Teleologicalconceptionsof Man'sself-formationcorrelatewithdisciplinaryechniques or Man'ssubjugation,specificallywith new waysof administering ndutilizing ime.16Unlikehumanists,FoucaultregardsEnlightenmenteasonas onlyone of manyrationalities.He argues hat it canbe criticizedwithout apsing nto irra-tionality,that there can be rationalcritiquesof Enlightenment eason.Indeed,he regards uchcriticismas the ethos of Enlightenment, nd heconcludes hat humanismandEnlightenment re at odds.7This stance towardEnlightenment learlyconflicts with Habermas'suniversalism.AlthoughHabermasassociatesmodernitywiththe differ-entiationof value-spheres,each of which has its own rationality,heregards his differentiation s partof a universaldevelopmental rocessandargues hatuniversal tructures f consciousness inkthesemultiplerationalities.Culturalrelativists(Habermas ncludesFoucaultamongthem) merely operateat a different,a less abstract,level of analysis:"Whetherand, if so, how the relativismof valuecontentsaffects theuniversalcharacterof the direction of the rationalizationprocess,depends .. on the level at whichthepluralismof 'basicpointsof view'is set."'8Habermas etsthis level betweenmultiplecontentsand univer-sal forms:"Theunityof rationalityn the multiplicityof valuespheresrationalized ccording o their nner ogicsis securedpreciselyat the for-mal level of argumentativeedemptionof validityclaims."'9Foucault, however,would not identify the issue here as "levels ofanalysis."He does not acceptHabermas'sdistinctionbetweenuniversalformsof argumentationndparticular ontentsof arguments.Mycom-

    15. Michel Foucault, The Order of Things, ch. 9.16. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. tr. Alan Sheridan(New York: Vintage Books, 1979), p. 60.17. Foucault, "What is Enlightenment?" in The Foucault Reader, 42-43. For this cri-tique of Habermas, see: Foucault, "Structuralism and Poststructuralism," p. 201 and

    "Space, Knowledge, and Power," in The Foucault Reader, p. 249.18. Jiirgen Habermas, The Theoryof CommunicativeAction, vol. 1, Reason and the Ra-tionalization of Society, tr. Thomas McCarthy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1984), p. 181.19. Ibid., p. 249.

  • 8/8/2019 Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy


    274 Foucault& Habermason Discourse&Democracy

    parisonof their views on discoursewill reveal that FoucaultregardsHabermas'sargumentativeedemptionof validityclaims,his notionofdiscursivetruth, as part of a particularpower/knowledgeregime.Foucaultportrays he idea of truthand the searchfor it as peculiarlymodern preoccupations.Habermas'suniversal forms are particularcontents.20ThoughFoucaultrejectshumanismwith its universalisticendencies,he retainstwo othercomponentsHabermasassociateswith modernity:differentiationand reflexivity.Accordingto Habermas,modernworldviews, unlike mythicalones, differentiatebetweennatureand culture.

    This differentiation eginswiththeexternalworld:nature s desocializedand societyis denaturalized.Latera conceptof the internalworld,ofsubjectivity, develops to complement external nature and culture.Modernsocietiesnot only differentiatebetween hese threeworlds,butalso adoptdifferentattitudes owardeach, i.e., an instrumentalelationto nature,a moral relation o society,andan expressive elation o self.Correspondingo these attitudesare distinctvalidityclaimsto truth,rightness,and sincerity.Habermasarguesthat differentiationmakesrationalcommunicationpossible. Formal world conceptsallow membersof society to adoptreflexiveattitudes oward heirnaturaland socialworld. Individuals anmake assertionsabout the one objectiveworldand theirown intersub-jectiveone. Partners n communication an assessthese assertions:Arecertain statementsabout objectiveconditionstrue?Are certainactionsrightwithregard o socialnorms?Thatis, formalworldconceptsallowindividualscollectivelyto assert and to examinevalidity claims. AsHabermasputs it, "a decenteredunderstanding f the worldopensupthe possibilityof dealingwith the worldof facts in a cognitivelyobjec-tified mannerand with the worldof interpersonalelations n a legallyand morallyobjectifiedmanner."21Decentrationalso freessubjectivityfrom objectification,sinceindividuals an also discusstheirdesiresandfeelings.Habermas aysthat, "we call a personrationalwho interpretsthenatureof his desiresandfeelings n the lightof culturally stablishedstandardsof value,but especially f he canadopta reflectiveattitude othe very value standards through which desires and feelings areinterpreted."22Accordingto Habermas, ncreasingnterpretive ctivityand increas-

    20. Michel Foucault, "Truth and Power," Interview with Alessandro Fontana andPasquale Pasquino, in Power/Knowledge, ed. Colin Gordon (New York: Pantheon, 1980),p. 133.21. Jiirgen Habermas, Theory of Communicative Action, vol. 1, p. 216.22. Ibid., p. 20.

  • 8/8/2019 Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy


    NancyS. Love 275

    ingly rational orientationsaccompany decenteredworld views. Hedescribescultural modernizationas a movement from "normativelyascribedagreements" o "communicatively chievedunderstandings."Differentiation,reflexivityand the culturalrationalization ccompany-ingthemare,heargues,necessary onditions oranemancipatedociety."The more cultural traditionspredecidewhich validityclaims, when,where,for what, fromwhom, and to whommust be accepted,the lesstheparticipantshemselveshavethepossibilityof makingexplicitandex-amining the potential grounds on which their yes/no positions arebased."23Cultural ationalization, owever, s not a sufficientconditionfor emancipation.Participants n rational communicationprocessesmustdecide whattheyregardas the good life.Foucaultalso associatesEnlightenmentwitha reflexiverelation o cul-tural raditions.Theethos of Enlightenments "a critiqueof whatwe aresaying, thinking, and doing through a historical ontology ofourselves."24He describes his ethosas a "limit-attitude,"not only thediscoveryof limits but also their transgression.Yet Foucault, unlikeHabermas,does not seekuniversal ormsaboveand beyond particularcontents. Instead, he examines modern discourse,i.e., the discourseabout Man, as an historicalevent in our constitutionas subjects.Hisgenealogy s directed owardidentifying,withinthe events whichmadeus what we are,thepossibility or us to be otherwise.He asks:"In whatis givento us as universal,necessary,obligatory,whatplaceis occupiedby whatever is singular, contingent, and the product of arbitraryconstraints?"2Thisproject,whichhe callsa "criticalontologyof ourselves,"mustbeexperimental,must"putitself to the testof reality."26We mustexplorethe limitsuponus andidentifythosewecantransgress.But,recognizingtheirdangers,Foucaultrejectsglobal projectsfor a new Man.He is notseekinga new "program."Instead,appropriateestsarespecific strug-gles, partial transformations of our actions and thoughts. These"historico-practicalests"are "workcarriedoutbyourselves,uponour-selvesas free humanbeings."27As this self-critical, elf-creative thos,Enlightenmenturthers reedom.Foucault describes this work as the study of "practicalsystems."Those systemsare the forms of rationalitywhichorganizehow we actand the freedomwe have in acting. ParallelingHabermas'sdifferenti-

    23. Ibid., p. 70.24. Foucault, "What is Enlightenment?" in The Foucault Reader, p. 45.25. Ibid.26. Ibid., p. 47.27. Ibid.

  • 8/8/2019 Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy


    276 Foucault& Habermason Discourse& Democracyated modernworld, Foucault identifies three areas from which thesesystemsarise: "relationsof controloverthings,relationsof actionuponothers,relationswithoneself."28Theseare therespective xes of knowl-edge, power, and ethics. The criticalquestionscorrespondingo theseareas are:"How are we constitutedas subjectsof our own knowledge?How are we constitutedas subjectswho exerciseor submit o powerrela-tions? How are we constitutedas moralsubjectsof our ownactions?"29Foucault dentifieswhat s at stake nthis work: "How can thegrowthofcapabilities be disconnected from the intensification of powerrelations?"30ForFoucault,it is extremelydifficult,perhaps mpossible, o discon-nectcapabilities rompower.This is becausesubjectivity, he sourceofthosecapabilities,s already ubjugation.Hisconcern s themultipleob-jectificationswhichmake humanssubjects.He identifiestwo meaningsof subject:"subject o someoneelsebycontrolanddependence, ndtiedto his own identityby a conscienceor self-knowledge."31hesesuggestthat subjectificationand objectificationare inseparableprocesses.Thesubject s constitutedas an objectof societyand self.According o Foucault,disciplinary owersubjugateshe modern ub-ject. Disciplinary ower s distinctivebecause t totalizesas it individual-izes,orbecause t createscapacitiesas constraints.By subjectingndivid-uals to constantsurveillance,t forcesthemto scrutinize hemselves on-stantly:"He who is subjected o a fieldof visibility,andwho knowsit,assumesresponsibilityor the constraintsof power;he makesthemplayspontaneously ponhimself;he inscribesn himself hepowerrelation nwhichhe simultaneously laysbothroles;he becomes heprinciple f hisownsubjection."32 his constitutionof the individualswhom it liberatesis the dark side of the Enlightenment.As Foucaultputs it: "The real,corporaldisciplinesconstituted he foundationof the formal,juridicalliberties. . . . The Enlightenment which discovered the liberties alsoinvented he disciplines."33Habermasquestions his conclusion.He argues hatcultural ationali-zation not only allows individuals o adopt reflexive attitudestowardnatureand society,but also frees subjectivity rom objectification.As

    28. Ibid., p. 48.29. Ibid., p. 49.30. Ibid., p. 48.31. Michel Foucault, "The Subject and Power," appendix to Michel Foucault: BeyondStructuralism and Hermeneutics by Hubert L. Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow (Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 1982), p. 212.32. Foucault, Discipline and Punish, p. 203.33. Ibid., p. 222.

  • 8/8/2019 Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy


    NancyS. Love 277

    rationalpositionshave explicablegrounds, so rationalindividualsex-plaintheirpreferencesn argument. n orderto argue,individuals earnto considerhowtheirpreferencesook to others,to adopta third-personperspectiveon their subjectiveworld. While arguing,they also learnwhichof theirpersonalpreferences regeneralizablenterests.Habermasmaintains hat "evaluative xpressionsor standardsof valuehavejusti-ficatory orcewhentheycharacterize need n sucha waythat addresseescan, in the framework f a commonculturalheritage,recognizen theseinterpretations heir own needs."34For Habermas,subjects who sogroundtheir preferenceshave rationallyexamined and autonomouslychosenthem. In contrast,"anyonewho is so privatisticn his attitudesand evaluations hattheycannotbe explainedand renderedplausiblebyappeal o standards f evaluations notbehaving ationally."35 y impli-cation, suchindividualsalso cannotachieveautonomy.In comparisonwithHabermas,Foucault'sanalysisof Enlightenmentseemsone-sidedand incomplete.Once Foucault associatessubjectivitywith subjugation,he cannot disconnectour capacitiesfrom the con-straintsupon us. Instead,he disconnects ndividuation rom freedom;the self becomesaninnerworldproducedbyexternal timuli.As Haber-mas puts it, "genealogicalhistoriography ealswith an objectdomainfromwhichthe theoryof powerhas erasedall tracesof communicativeactionsentangledn life worldcontexts."36 oucaultasks us to examinehow subjectificationimits us and to resist those limits. But what in uscan criticizeand transgress?OnceFoucaultdefinessubjectivityas sub-jugation,where can he turnfor resistance?Foucaultrecognizes his problem.He definesour task as liberationfrom "the typeof individuationwhich is linkedto the state"and says,"We haveto promotenewforms of subjectivityhrough he refusalofthis kindof individuality. . "37 In such statements, he relies upon indi-viduality,whichis Habermas's ourth characteristic f modernity.ButFoucaultdoes not providecriteriafor distinguishingbetweentypes ofindividuality r formsof subjectivity.38lthoughhe implies hatreflex-ivitycan enableas well as constrain,his reflexivesubjectsare conform-ists, not critics.Theyconformevenas theycriticize, or theircriticismsconstrainedby its objects.

    34. Habermas, Theory of Communicative Action, vol. 1, p. 92.35. Ibid., p. 17.36. Jiirgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, tr. FrederickLawrence (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1987), ch. X, p. 286.37. Foucault, "The Subject and Power," p. 216; emphasis added.38. For a more developed discussion, see Dews, Logics of Disintegration, ch. 5, and"Power and Subjectivity in Foucault," p. 95.

  • 8/8/2019 Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy


    278 Foucault& Habermason Discourse& Democracy

    Habermas'sapproachto Enlightenment, pecificallyhis conceptofcommunicativerationality, provides the criterion Foucault lacks. Aliberated subject still conforms, but to "communicativelyachievedunderstandings"ot to "normatively scribedagreements."But Haber-mas'sapproachs alsoone-sided.He focuseson capacities,on communi-cationasindividuation, ndneglectsconstraints.Moreprecisely,herele-gatesconstraints o instrumental istortionsof communication nd ex-cludes them from communicationtself. Yet willingnessand abilitytoobjectifyoneself,to make oneselftransparento others,arethe founda-tions of his rationalsubjectivity.This looks suspiciously ike the self-defeatinghumanistproject:subjectsmasterobjectsbybecomingobjectsthemselves.Whatdistinguisheshejustificationfromthe normalizationof personal preferences?What remains of othernesswithin the self?Withinsociety?39Habermasalso acknowledgeshis problem.He admitsthat language"presentsinalienably ndividualaspects in unavoidablygeneralcate-gories."40For thisreason,expressivevalidityclaimscan only bejudgedsincereor insincere.He also says,

    nothingmakesme more nervous han the imputation hatbecausethe theoryof communicative ction focuses attentionon the socialfacticityof recognizedvalidity-claims,t proposesor at least sug-gests a rationalisticutopian society. I do not regardthe fullytransparent-let me add in this context: or indeed a homogenizedand unified-society as an ideal-.41Still, it remainsan open question"how far the net of intersubjectivitymustbe spread n orderto stabilize he identityof individualsas wellasthatof the socialgroup."42 Habermas's oncern s the formalprecondi-tions for democraticdiscourse.He does not address ts content,in thiscase, whatwe shouldrevealandwhenwe shouldreveal t.Whatthen is thedebatebetweenFoucaultand Habermas egardingheEnlightenment nd its product,the rationalsubject?Foucaultdoes notrejectEnlightenment; e, like Habermas,wouldradicalize t. Nor doesFoucaultrejectmodernity;he abandonsuniversalism, ut retainsreflex-

    39. For such a Foucauldian critique of Habermas, see: William E. Connolly,"Discipline, Politics and Ambiguity," Political Theory, 11 (August 1983): 334-35.40. Jiirgen Habermas, "On Systematically Distorted Communication," Inquiry 13(1970): 211.41. Habermas, "A Philosophico-Political Profile," p. 94.42. Jiirgen Habermas, "Towards a Theory of Communicative Competence," Inquiry 13(1970): 373.

  • 8/8/2019 Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy


    NancyS. Love 279

    ivityanddifferentiation.He also reliesuponsubjectivity houghhisownanalysisprecludest. It is here,on theissue of subjectivity,hatmutuallybeneficial debate begins. Foucault must recognize that subjectivityenables: t offers the possibilityof self-understandingnd self-determi-nation.Critical eflexivityprovidesa criterion ordistinguishing indsofsubjectivity.Habermasoffers thiscriterion,but he does not adequatelyaddress how subjectivityalso constrains and thus fails to protectothernessadequatelywithinthe self and society.II. DiscourseHabermas'sand Foucault'sdifferencesregarding he rationalsubjectshapetheir debate over democraticdiscourse.Foucault's ideas on dis-course revolve around the relationshipbetween truth and power.According o Foucauit,the traditionalphilosophicaldictum,"you shallknowthe truth andthe truthshall set you free," is hopelesslynaive.Sotoo is the critiqueof ideologywhich, followingthis dictum,juxtaposesliberatingtruths to powerful illusions. Foucault argues that truth isneitheroutsideof powernorlacking n powerandhencecannotbejuxta-posedto it. Theproductionof truth andtruth s produced)s thoroughlyimbuedwithpower.Foucaultcharacterizesheir nteraction:" 'Truth' slinked in a circularrelation with systemsof powerwhichproduceandsustainit, and to effects of powerwhichit induces and whichextendit."43Foucaultexplores hesepowerrelationswhichcreate ruthand thepowereffects truthcreates.He analyzes discourses as manifestations of a power/knowledgeregimeor a regimeof truth. In "TheDiscourseon Language,"Foucaultidentifies hreetypesof proceduresproducingdiscourse.44irst,rulesofexclusiondeterminewhat discourses acceptable.Amongtheserulesareprohibitions,e.g., what we can say, when andwherewe can sayit, andwhocansaywhat.Also includedhere s thedivisionbetweenreasonandfolly which Foucaultunderstandsas a divisionbetween commonandidiosyncratic peech.Here, too, and to some extentencompassingpro-hibitionsand divisions,the will to truthoperates,excludingdesire andpowerfromdiscourse.Second,these external ulesarecomplemented yinternalones, whichincludemechanisms or identifying ruth, such asculturalnarratives rauthor's ntentions o which t mustconform.Theyalso includetechniquesor procedures or acquiring ruth. The distinct

    43. Michel Foucault, "Truth and Power" in Power/Knowledge," p. 133.44. Michel Foucault, "The Discourse on Language," appendix to The Archaeology ofKnowledge, tr. A. M. Sheridan Smith (New York: Pantheon, 1972), pp. 215-39.

  • 8/8/2019 Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy


    280 Foucault& Habermason Discourse& Democracy

    disciplineswhich dentifytruthby themethods,rules,tools, etc. used toproduce t belonghere.Third,conditionsof employment ndappropria-tion constraindiscourse.Regarding mployment,Foucaultarguesthatareasof discoursearenot equallyopenandpenetrable.Rituals,fellow-ships,anddoctrines electqualifiedspeakers.Educationdetermineswhoearnsthesequalificationsandtherebydistributes peakersamongkindsof discourse. These three types of proceduresrespectivelymaster thepowers, control the appearances,and establish the producers ofdiscourse.Theyarethe multipleconstraintsby whichit produces ruth.Although poweraffects how discoursesproduce ruth,truthalso haseffectsof power.Foucaultargues hat definiterelationsof knowledge c-companycertaintypes of power.The disciplinarydiscoursecharacter-isticof oursocietyhas this doubleepistemological ndpoliticaleffect. Itcreatesa soul to be knownanda subjection o be maintained.45Wehavealreadyexamined hesecondeffect, oursimultaneous onstitutionas thesubjectsandobjectsof politics;surveillance eachesus to scrutinize ndto normalizeourselves.The firsteffect, the knowledgerelation,also in-volves overlapping ubjectificationand objectification.Two modes ofproducingtruth accompanydisciplinarypower:scientificand confes-sional discourse. In another context, we have also alreadyseen thesciences associated with discipline. They are the human sciencesdedicatedto knowingand developingthe object Man. What remains,and what is most relevanthere, is the subjectiveside of knowledge:confession.Involumeoneof TheHistoryof Sexuality,Foucaultdescribeswesternmanas the "confessinganimal."46Confession,he argues, s the charac-teristic discourse of reflexivesubjects, a discoursein which subjectsdiscussthemselves.Confessionproduces ruth n two senses.First,indi-viduals must confess the truth about themselves.Foucaultarguesthatour Christianheritage,now secularized,requires ndividuals o revealtheirdesiresas wellas theirtransgressionsn discourse.He saysthat"weare forced to producethe truth of powerthat our societydemands,ofwhichit hasneed, in orderto function:we mustspeakthe truth;we areconstrained rcondemned o confessorto discover he truth."47 econd,this discourseitself aims at truth. In confession, we submit our truedesires for examinationand evaluationto determinewhetherthey aretrue, whether hey conformto acceptedand/or acceptablenorms. "In

    45. Foucault, Discipline and Punish, p. 305.46. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: Introduction, vol. 1 (New York: VintageBooks, 1980), p. 57.47. Michel Foucault, "Two Lectures" in Power/Knowledge, p. 93.

  • 8/8/2019 Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy


    NancyS. Love 281

    the end, we are judged, condemned,classified,and.determinedn ourundertakings, estined o a certainmodeof livingor dying,as a functionof the true discourseswhich are the bearersof specific effects ofpower."48Discoursenot onlyjudgesdesiresbut also administershem.In TheHistoryof Sexuality,Foucault llustrateshowthediscourseon sexdisplaces, intensifies,reorientsor otherwise modifies desire. He con-cludesthat a multiplicationof discourse nvolves an intensificationofinterventionsof power.49Whensubjectsknow and controlthemselves,they are also known and controlled.WhereasFoucaultregardsall speechas discourseandregardsall dis-coursesas implicatednpower,Habermasdefinesdiscoursemorerestric-tively. Discourseis speechfreed from power.50 n discourse,speakersassessvalidity-claims asedupon theirgrounds.This communicationsrationalbecauseonly "the peculiarly onstraint-freeorceof the betterargument"operates.5 Habermasspells out the preconditions or ra-tionalcommunication.Linguistic ompetence, .e., masteryof linguisticrules,is one. But it is a necessary,not a sufficient,precondition.Haber-masregards peechas a pragmaticactivity; ts purpose s mutualunder-standing.Achievingunderstanding lso requirescommunicative om-petence, i.e., masteryof an appropriate ommunicative ontext. Thatcontext should approximate,if it cannot achieve, the ideal speechsituation.

    According o Habermas,dealspeech nvolvessymmetricalelationsn"the distributionof assertionand dispute,revelationandconcealment,prescription nd conformityamongthe partnersof communication."52Habermaspresents hesesymmetries s respectiveinguisticconceptionsof truth, freedom,andjustice.Unrestrained iscussionn whichallopin-ions can be criticized eads to unconstrainedonsensus, o his discursivedefinitionof truth.Unimpaired elf-representationhich ncludesrecog-nitionof others'self-representationseconciles ommunication nd indi-viduation,and therebyrealizes freedom.Complementarityf expecta-tions allowsuniversalunderstanding,nforcesuniversalized orms,andtherebycreates ustice.Habermas laimsthatwhen thesesymmetriesx-ist, communication s unconstrained y its own linguisticor pragmaticstructure.5Foucaultclearlywould contest this claim. Habermas's heoryof ra-

    48. Ibid., p. 94.49. Foucault, History of Sexuality, p. 60.50. Habermas, Theory of Communicative Action, vol. 1, p. 42.51. Ibid., p. 26.52. Habermas, "Towards a Theory of Communicative Competence," p. 371.53. Ibid., p. 372.

  • 8/8/2019 Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy


    282 Foucault& Habermason Discourse& Democracy

    tional communication emovesonly some of the constraintsFoucaultassociateswith discourse.Regarding ulesof exclusion,linguisticcom-petenceperpetuates he distinctionbetweencommon and idiosyncraticspeech,andexcludes he latter.AlthoughHabermasdiscusses he trans-formationof languagethrough persistent,creativeusage, he clearlyprivilegesstandardspeechacts.54Linguisticcompetencealso privilegesverbal nteractions.Habermas tigmatizesnon-linguisticommunicationas a pre-linguisticeversion.5Still,Habermas nsiststhat theagenda orcommunication e open.Anythingwhichcanbeverbalizedmaybe said.Thisresponds, n part, to Foucault'sconcernaboutrulesof exclusion.Habermas lso addressesFoucault'scharge hatdiscourses selectivelyappropriated nd employed.He stipulates hat anyonemay placeany-thingon the agenda.Habermasacknowledgeshatthisconditionwill bedifficult o fulfill. The economicandpoliticalassymetrieswhichcurrent-ly distortdiscoursemust be overcome.56Habermashas been criticizedfor failing to explainhow to overcome them. But here too the idealspeechsituationseemsto pushcommunicationn what Foucaultwouldregardas an appropriatedirection.Or doesit? ForFoucault,afterassymetries reovercome,onceanyonecan say anything,discourseremainsconstrained.Habermas eekssym-metryin dialoguebecauseonly unconstrained ommunication reatesunconstrained onsensus,his discursivedefinitionof truth.The will totruth, to determine he truthby rationalargument,motivates Haber-masiandiscourse.But Foucaultassociates hewillto truth,as well as theaccompanying xclusionof desireand powerfrom discourse,with ourpower/knowledgeregime.In "The Discourseon Language,"Foucaultends his critique of constraintsupon discourse by asking whetheruninterrupteddiscourse is desirable. His answer is no." EvenHabermas'sdealspeechsituation,perhapsespecially hatsituation,ex-pressespower. The will to truthmanifestin ideal speechis internal odiscipline.Habermasiandiscourse constrainsin both of the senses Foucaultdiscusses: ndividualsmustspeakthe truthandspeechaims at truth.Wehavealreadyexamined he firstsense:rationalcommunicationdependsupon speakers'sincerity,in Foucault'sterms, upon their willingnessto confess. Habermas's econd conditionfor ideal speech,i.e., mutual

    54. Habermas, "On Systematically Distorted Communication," p. 207.55. Habermas, "Systematically Distorted Communication," p. 215 and "Towards aTheory of Communicative Competence," p. 369.56. Habermas, "Towards a Theory of Communicative Competence," p. 372.57. Foucault, "Discourse on Language," p. 229.

  • 8/8/2019 Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy


    NancyS. Love 283

    self-representation, oes not adequatelyaddress he constraints his in-volves. Mutual self-representation nly superficiallyreconcilescom-municationand individuation,since individuationalreadyrepresses.Foucaultarguesthat individualsare vehiclesof power: "In fact, it isalreadyone of the primeeffects of powerthat certainbodies, certaingestures,certaindiscourses,certain desires come to be identifiedandconstitutedas individuals."s5 orFoucault,transparentubjectivitys aproblem,not a solution.Discourse also constrains n a second sense:truth is the goal of ourconfessions.Habermasasksus to realizethe rationalitypotentialfoundin the validitybasisof speech.To do so, we must rationalizeour socialrelationsand our cultural traditions. Social relations are rationalizedwhen individuals discuss their desires, reach a consensus regardinggeneralizable nes, andapplythatconsensusequally o all. Thisapplica-tion of generalnormsto specificindividuals s the thirdcondition ofideal speech; t is Habermasianustice. Cultural raditionsarerational-ized when they are discussed and affirmed or denied. Habermas'sdistinctions between "normativelyascribed agreement"and "com-municativelyachievedunderstanding"s relevanthere. He arguesthat"thegreater he shareof prelinguisticallyixedmotivationswhichcannotbe freelyconverted n publiccommunication, he greaterthe deviancefromthe model of purecommunicative ction.""9The questionthatariseshere is: How rationalcan and shouldsocietybe? Regarding ocietalrationalization,we havealreadyseen thatdesirescannotalwaysbe verbalized.Canthey alwaysbe generalized?Cancon-flicts always be resolved with yes/no decisions?Are those decisionsalwaysapplicableo individuals?Withrespect o culturalrationalizationadditionalquestions arise. Does social identity also rest upon non-rationalbonds whichwe cannot,and neednot, assess?Does Habermasrespectsuchbonds? Does he distinguishhem fromirrationalism? f so,how? These questionssuggestthat truthmay be more contingentandambiguous hanHabermasallows.Habermasacknowledgeshis problem.He professesrespect or tradi-tional understandingsnd admits that "actualformsof life and actuallife-historiesare embeddedin unique histories."60 The lifeworld, thebackgroundorcommunication,s simultaneouslyscribedandachievedeven in modernsocieties.Thisalsoapplies o Habermas'sheoryof com-municativeaction.He says, "insofaras it refersto structures f the life-

    58. Foucault, "Two Lectures" in Power/Knowledge, p. 98.59. Habermas,"Towardsa Theoryof Communicative ompetence,"p. 373.60. Habermas, Theory of Communicative Action, vol. 1, p. 70.

  • 8/8/2019 Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy


    284 Foucault& Habermason Discourse& Democracy

    world, t has to explicatea background nowledgeoverwhichno one candisposeat will. The lifeworld s at first'given'to the theoreticianasit isto thelayperson)as his or herown, in a paradoxicalmanner."61Forthisreason,Habermasdisavows ransparentruthas wellas transparentub-jectivity:Stabilityand absenceof ambiguityare rather he exception n thecommunicative racticeof everydayife. A morerealisticpicture sthat drawnby ethnomethodologists-of a diffuse, fragile,contin-uouslyrevisedandonlymomentarilyuccessfulcommunicationnwhichparticipants elyon problematic ndunclarifiedpresupposi-tions and feel theirway from one occasionalcommonality o thenext.62

    If truth s so contingent,so ambiguous,Habermas houldexploreotherformsof communication, .g., symbolicpolitics,and he shouldqualifyhis claimsfor communicativeationality.He should stressthe tentativenatureof the consensusreached n democraticdiscourseand thedangersof unreflectively mposing it upon individuals.63nstead, he leaveshimselfopen to the chargeof hyper-rationalism.Theambiguityandcontingency f discourse s not, however, ustifica-tion for abandoning ruthaltogether.Thispositionposesa problem orFoucault. Foucaultarguesthat "we are subjected o the productionoftruththrough powerand we cannot exercisepowerexceptthroughtheproductionof truth." 4The associationof truthand freedommasks hispower. Accordingto Foucault,power requiressuch masks:"Power istolerableonly on condition that it mask a substantialpart of itself.Power as a general imit set on freedomis, at least in our society, thegeneralform of its acceptability."65oucaultunmasks ruth,revealingits complicityn power.Theproblem s that hiscritiqueof truthalsoap-pliesto his own revelations.Habermas nalyzes hisproblemand accusesFoucaultof overtrelativ-ism and covert normativism.He characterizesFoucault's relativism:"Each counter-powermoves within the horizonof powerwhichit at-tacks,andtransforms tselfas soon as it is victorious nto a complexof

    61. Fred Dallmayr discusses this tension in Habermas's concept of the lifeworld in "Life-world and Communicative Action: Habermas," in Critical Encounters (South Bend, IN:University of Notre Dame Press, 1987), p. 73-100.62. Habermas, Theory of Communicative Action, p. 100-101.63. See Connolly, "Discipline, Politics, and Ambiguity."64. Foucault, "Two Lectures" in Power/Knowledge, p. 93.65. Foucault,History of Sexuality,p. 86.

  • 8/8/2019 Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy


    NancyS. Love 285

    powerwhichprovokesa newcounter-power."66 Thatis, Foucault'sno-tion of power/knowledgeregimesdoes not permitprivilegedcounter-powers.It undermineshevaliditynot onlyof rulingdiscourses,butalsoof his counter-discourse.Yet Foucault needsto distinguishamongdis-courses based upon their complicityin power. Otherwisehe cannotanswerHabermas'squestions:"Why is strugglepreferable o submis-sion? Why ought domination to be resisted?"Habermasarguesthat"only with the introductionof normativenotions could he [Foucault]beginto tellus what is wrongwiththe modernpower/knowledge egimeand why we ought to oppose it."67Foucault,however,doesnot introducea normative oundation or hiscounter-discourse; e merely assumes one. Ironically,his normativeassumptionsncludethe traditionalassociationbetweentruth and free-dom whichhe attacks.By unmaskingruth as power,Foucaultprovidesa new truthwhich freesus.68Foucaultknowsthathe needsto distinguishamongkinds of discourse.He calls for "a newpolitics of truth," for"changes" n the "political,economic,and institutionalregimeof theproductionof truth.""69uthis associationof truthwithpowerprecludesthe liberatingdiscoursehe desires.Habermas'sandFoucault'sdebateon discourseparallels hat on sub-jectivity.Foucaultneedsto recognize hatdiscourseenables;he requirescriteria or distinguishing etweenpowerandvalidity-claims.Habermasprovidessuch criteriawith his ideal speech situation. But Habermasneglectshow discoursecan also constrain. He is insensitive o power,especially o the powerof truth.

    III. DemocracyTheHabermas-Foucaultebateregardingheliberatingpotentialof dis-course centers on the distinctionbetweenpower and validityclaims.Foucaultmaintainshatthisdistinctionmaskspoweras truthandHaber-mas arguesthat it providesa normative oundationfor critique.SinceHabermas'sdistinctiondependson the democratization f discourse,Iconcludewiththeirdebateon dominationand democracy.

    66. Jiirgen Habermas, "The Genealogical Writing of History: On Some Aporias inFoucault's Theory of Power," Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory, 10 (1986):4-5. Habermas develops this argument in ThePhilosophical Discourse of Modernity, chs.IX-X, pp. 238-93.67. Ibid., p. 7.68. See Charles Taylor, "Foucault on Freedom and Truth," Political Theory 12 (May1984): 173-74.69. Foucault, "Truth and Power" in Power/Knowledge, p. 133; emphasis added.

  • 8/8/2019 Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy


    286 Foucault& Habermason Discourse& Democracy

    Habermas arelydiscussesdomination.He treats hetopicmostexten-sively in the article, "Hannah Arendt'sCommunicationsConceptofPower." Therehe adoptsArendt'sdistinctionbetween orce andpower.Forceexistswhen "thepurposive-rationalctor,whois interested nlyinthe success of his action, . . . dispose[s] of means with which he can com-pel a subjectcapableof choice,whetherby threatof sanctions,persua-sion, or by cleverchannelingof choices."70Habermasargues hat forceaccompaniesstrategicactions which are attemptsto instrumentalizeanother's will. He concedesthat strategicaction allowsgenuineagree-ments,e.g., bargainsandcompromises,but onlyas meansto individualends.Agreements not the telos of strategicaction,andthecompromisesor bargainswhichresult are not unconstrained.Incontrast,"thefundamental henomenonof power s not the instru-mentalizationof another'swill, but the formationof a commonwill incommunicationdirectedtowardreachingagreement."71 he poweroftheconsensuscommunication reatesrestson the rationalvalidityclaimsimmanent n speech,on the "forceless force" of the betterargument.Althoughthispower s an endin itself, it still hasits uses.Arendtarguesthat "power serves to maintain the praxis from which it springs."72Communicative ctionproducesan intersubjectivelyhared ife-world,i.e., a commonwill,which s embodiedn political nstitutions.Thelegit-imacy of these institutionsarisesfrom unconstrained ommunication.Theymustprotect t to perpetuatehemselves.HabermasdoessupplementArendt'sanalysis,but herconceptof com-municativepower remainsfundamental.73 ommunicativepowerpro-vides Habermas'snormativefoundationfor criticizing orce. He says,"with the communications onceptof power,we can makethe institu-tionalizationof relationsof forcecomprehensibles a transformationfforce into a poweroutfittedwith the appearance f legitimacy."74 hatis, the conceptof communicativepowerallows him to distinguishbe-tweenpowerandvalidity-claims.Yet FoucaultregardsHabermas'sdistinctionbetween orceandpower

    70. Jiirgen Habermas, "Hannah Arendt's Communications Concept of Power," SocialResearch 44 (Spring 1977): 3-4.71. Ibid., p. 4.72. Ibid.73. According to Habermas, the acquisition, maintenance, and employment of powermay involve force and violence, but only communication can generate the legitimacy uponwhich these other activities rely. (Jiirgen Habermas, "A Reply to my Critics" in Habermas:CriticalDebates, ed. John Thompson and David Held (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1982),

    p. 269).74. Habermas, "Hannah Arendt's Communications Concept of Power," p. 4.

  • 8/8/2019 Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy


    NancyS. Love 287

    as primarilya semanticone.7 Foucault definesa power-relation s "amodeof actionuponother actions"and maintains hat"to livein socie-ty is to livein such a waythatactionuponotheractions s possible-andin facton-going."He concludes hat "a societywithoutpower-relationscanonlybe an abstraction."76 ommunication, s a wayof actinguponothers,is always mplicatedn power.77According o Foucault,the dis-tinctionbetween forceand power,the idea of powerwithoutcoercion,rests on a juridicalor negativeconceptof power.Thisconceptof poweris central o democraticheory.Democratic heorists uxtaposerightstosovereignty; he problemof rightsbecomes a problemof sovereignty.Foucaultarguesthat this discourseof right, like that of truth, maskspower.It "efface[s]the domination ntrinsic o power n order o presentthe latter at the levelof appearanceundertwo differentaspects:on theone hand,as the legitimate ightsof sovereignty,and on the otheras thelegal obligationto obey it."78 Foucaultrevealshow right, like truth,originatesn and extendsdomination.To do so, he substitutes he problemof domination/subjugationorsovereignty/obedience.This substitution s necessary o explainthe in-timateconnectionsbetweendemocraticpoliticsand disciplinarypower.According o Foucault,discipline s a non-sovereignpower; t circulatesin the capillariesof societiesconstitutingheircitizen-subjects.A theoryof sovereigntywhichbasespolitical egitimacy ndpoliticalobligationonindividual ightsconceals hispower.Fromtheperspective f sovereign-ty, institutionsand laws basedon public rightlook democratic,not dis-ciplinary.But Foucaultargues hatthe democratizationf sovereigntysitself grounded in discipline: "The juridical systems . . . have enabledsovereigntyo be democratisedhrough he constitutionof a publicrightarticulated poncollectivesovereignty,whileat thesametime this demo-cratisation of sovereignty was fundamentallydeterminedby andgrounded n mechanisms f disciplinary oercion."79Disciplinenormal-izes individuals,insuringthat democraciescohere or, in Habermas'scase, thatdiscoursecreatesconsensus.Foucaultconcludes hat "it is notthroughrecourse o sovereignty gainstdiscipline hat the effectsof dis-ciplinarypower can be limited, because sovereigntyand disciplinarymechanisms are two absolutely integral constituentsof the generalmechanismof powerin our society."80

    75. Michel Foucault, "Politics and Ethics: An Interview," in The Foucault Reader, p.378.76. Foucault, "Subject and Power," p. 222.77. Ibid., p. 217.78. Foucault, "Two Lectures," in Power/Knowledge, p. 95.79. Ibid., p. 105.80. Ibid., p. 108.

  • 8/8/2019 Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy


    288 Foucault& Habermason Discourse& Democracy

    Habermas'sconceptof communicativepoweris such a recourse osovereignty gainstdiscipline.He providesa democraticustification orpoliticalpower,grounding egitimacy ndobligationon aprocessof will-formation in which all participate freely and equally. Habermasacknowledgeshat force,or whatFoucaultmightcalldiscipline,accom-paniesevenlegitimatepoliticalorders:

    A sphereof valueto whichsocially nfluentialdeasbelongcangen-erallyonlybeincompletely mbodiedna legitimate rder.This canbe seenin the forcethat is builtinto the structure f actionnormsdespite their "consensualcharacter."Norms requiresanctions,either externalsanctions(disapprovalby members n the case ofconventions,an organization'scoerciveapparatus n the case oflegalnorms)or innersanctions suchas shameandguiltin thecaseof ethicalnorms.)8'

    But, althoughHabermasacknowledges he power of norms and thepresenceof normalization,he does not limitconsensusaccordingly.When Habermasdoes discussthe constraintsconsensuscreates,hisconcern s less thegeneralization r normalization f particularntereststhantheparticularismf presumably eneral nterests.Habermasnsists:"Inno sensedo I beginfrom thebasisthat inall, or eveninthemajorityof politicaldecisions, egalor administrativeegulations,a general nter-est is at stake."82He argues hat whereparticularnterestsareat stake,bargaining ndcompromiseareentirelyappropriate ndspeculateshatthe "pluralismof life-forms" andthe "individualism f life-styles"willeven increase n a socialistsociety.83Buthow does Habermasdistinguishbetweena trueand a falseconsen-sus?Betweenparticular nd general nterests?Habermasdoes not pro-vide a prioricriteria or making hesedistinctions.Theyresultfrom theprocessof democraticwill-formationtself.Participantsn rationalcom-municationdecidewhat the limitsof consensus houldbeandwhenthoselimits shouldbe revised.This seemsappropriate s long as the institu-tionalpreconditionsor democraticdiscourseexist. Habermasacknowl-edgesthat institutional ransformationsrerequiredhere.84 hosetrans-81. Habermas, Theory of Communicative Action, vol. 1, p. 190.82. Habermas, "A Philosophico-Political Profile," p. 95.83. Ibid., p. 96.84. Habermas, "Arendt's Communications Concept of Power," p. 223. Lorenzo

    Simpson has argued that because Habermas leaves these decisions to democratic discourse,his ideal speech situation does not necessarily discriminate against particular interests.What Simpson neglects is Habermas's failure to specify the institutional transformations

  • 8/8/2019 Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy


    NancyS. Love 289

    formationswill furtherdevelopthe principlesof bourgeoisright, pre-sumably o protect ndividualsromoppressivenormsas well as particu-lar interests. Otherwisea false consensuswhich excludesand/or sup-pressesparticularnterests s not only possiblebut also likely.But what transformations n political institutionsare necessary?Habermasonly hints that a differentpartysystemandanotherkind ofseparationof powersare required.Whattransformationsn economicrelationsare also needed? Habermassuggeststhat capitalismmust beabolished and a capacity for economic self-organizationdeveloped.Again, how? And how are these transformedpoliticaland economicsystemsanchoredin our communicatively-achievednderstandings?85Until Habermasaddresseshesequestions,histheoryof democraticwill-formationremainsdangerously ague.Thesequestionsrevealthe tentativenatureof Habermas'sdistinctionbetweenpowerand validityclaims. Habermasalso acknowledgeshis.He admits that participantsn discoursemust

    assume that in the inescapablepragmatic presuppositionsofrational discourseonly the non-coercivecoercion of the betterargument etsa chance.Buttheyknow ... that even thepresuppo-sitionof an idealspeechsituation s only necessarybecauseconvic-tions are formedand contested n a mediumwhichis not "pure"nor removed romthe world of appearancesn the mannerof theplatonic deals.86

    Withthis,Habermas dmits he "everlastingmpurity"of discourse,butmaintains hat idealspeech s an appropriatedeal. Pursuitof thatidealmust, however,include clarificationof the institutionalpreconditionsfor consensus.Appropriatedistinctionsamong interests,appropriatelimitson consensus,dependon thosepreconditions.Without hem,par-ticular nterestsremainvulnerable.Awareof this danger,FoucaultquestionsHabermas'sdistinctionbe-tweenpowerandvalidityclaims.But, ironicallyFoucaultalso reveals tsimportance.Foucaultargues hat poweris a relation,a modeof actionupon other actions. This makes power relations, despite Foucault'swhich are necessary to make inclusiveness a realistic possibility ("On Habermas and Par-ticularity: Is There Room for Race and Gender on the Glassy Plains of Ideal Discourse,"Praxis International 6 (October 1986): 328-40).85. On this issue, see Anthony Giddens "Reason without Revolution in Habermas andModernity, ed. Richard Bernstein (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984), pp. 95-121 and"Labor and Interaction" in Critical Debates, pp. 149-61.86. Habermas, "Entwinement," p. 30.

  • 8/8/2019 Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy


    290 Foucault& Habermason Discourse& Democracy

    denials,virtuallysynonymouswith socialrelations.AlthoughFoucaultarguesthat a societywithoutpowerrelations s an abstraction,he con-cludesthat this makes theiranalysismore, not less, necessary:"For tosay that there cannot be a societywithoutpowerrelations s not to sayeither hat those whichareestablished renecessary,or, in anycase,thatpowerconstitutesa fatalityat theheartof societysuch that it cannot beundermined."87ut whatpowerrelationsareunnecessary?And how canthey be undermined?Again, Foucaultcannot answer these questionswithoutdistinguishing mongkindsof powerbasedon a normative tan-dard.Foucaultconcedes hat a notionof consensualpowerprovides ucha standard."The idealof aconsensualpoliticsmayindeedat a givenmo-mentserveeven as a regulatoryprincipleor betteryetas a criticalprinci-ple with respectto other political forms."88But power persists.ForFoucault,one canonlyask"whatproportionof nonconsensualitys im-pliedin such a powerrelationandwhether hatdegreeof nonconsensual-ity is necessary r not and then onemay questioneverypowerrelation othat extent."89What Habermascalls consensualpower, remains,to agreateror less extent,consensualdiscipline.Latein life, Foucaultbegan o describe onsensusdifferently,n termscloserto Habermas's.He made the followingremarkson the logic ofdialogue:

    The person askingthe questions s merelyexercisinghe rightthathas beengivenhim:to remainunconvinced, o perceivea contra-diction,to requiremoreinformation, o emphasizedifferentpostu-lates, to pointout faulty reasoning,etc. As for thepersonanswer-ing the questions,he too exercisesa rightthatdoesnot go beyondthe discussion tself;by the logic of his own discoursehe is tiedtowhat he saidearlier,andby theacceptance f dialoguehe is tiedtothe questioningof the other.90

    Here, the violationof rights,not the pursuitof truth,constitutescoer-cion. Elsewhere,Foucaultelaborateson this "newright":"Oneshouldturn ... in the directionof a newright,one whichmust indeedbe anti-disciplinary,but at the same time liberated from the principle ofsovereignty."91 his is a rightto intervene n politicswhichis neither87. Foucault, "Subject and Power," p. 223.88. Foucault, "Politics and Ethics," p. 378.89. Ibid., p. 379; emphasis added.90. Foucault, "Polemics, Politics, and Problematizations" in The Foucault Reader, p.381.91. Foucault, "Two Lectures" in Power/Knowledge, p. 108.

  • 8/8/2019 Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy


    NancyS. Love 291

    delegatednor commissionedbygovernment.92utdespite hesegesturestoward anti-sovereignright and anti-disciplinaryonsensus,Foucaultcontinues o definepoweras domination.He rethinksnegativepoweraspositive power, but he lacks a theoreticalfoundation for affirmativepower.One-sidednesspersists,then, in each philosopher'sviews on democ-racyand againit posesproblems.Afterneglecting he constraints romwhich consensusoriginates, .e., rationalityandsubjectivity,Habermasnow neglectsthose it imposes.He fails to establishadequate imitsondemocratic discourse. Foucault, who focuses upon how democracydominates, ailsto distinguishkindsof power,a distinctionnecessaryodefend his anti-sovereignightand anti-disciplinary ower.IV. ConclusionHow then does the Habermas-Foucault ebateconclude?Whatdoes itrevealabout the problemsof democracyand modernity? havearguedelsewhere hat the philosophiesof Habermasand Foucault cannot becombined n a harmoniouswhole.93Eachprecludes he other'sposition.For thisreason, t is not surprisinghattheytalkedpastoneanother.In-deed,WilliamConnollyargues hattheyconfrontscholarswith a choice:democracy r nihilism.94till,if HabermasandFoucaulthad heardeachother(andif othershearthem), perhaps he choiceneednot be so stark.Could theirpositionscoexistin a creative ension?Othershavereachedthis conclusionand haveproposedbalancing heirpositions.Connollyhimselfproposes he firstseeminglybalancedalternative.Hesays,"it maybepossible o articulate vision of democraticife that con-sciouslymaintains he tensionbetweenthese two tendencies,affirmingthe legitimacyof limitsandconventionsessential o democraticpolitics,whileotherwiseexposingandopposingthe moderndrift towardration-alization, normalization, and dependency."95With this, ConnollymoderatesFoucault'snihilism. He admits the necessityof social con-straintsand distinguishes ssentialfromnon-essentialones.A secondbalance is offeredby RichardRorty.According o Rorty,

    92. For a more sympathetic interpretation of Foucault's "new right," see: Tom Keenan,"The 'Paradox' of Knowledge and Power: Reading Foucault on a Bias," Political Theory15 (February 1987): 5-37.93. Nancy S. Love, "Dialectics and Politics," Polity 19 (Summer 1987): 693-705. For adiscussion of the Marxian and Nietzschean roots of this incompatibility see my Marx,Nietzsche, and Modernity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986).94. Connolly, "Discipline, Politics, and Ambiguity," p. 333.95. Ibid.

  • 8/8/2019 Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy


    292 Foucault& Habermason Discourse&Democracy

    Habermascriticizespost-structuralistsecausethey do not developatheory o directsocialchange.Rortyaccepts hischaracterizationut notthe criticism.He suggests"splitting he difference"betweenHabermasand post-structuralists y developinga "de-theoreticized enseof com-munity." Rorty says that "if one had such a de-theoreticizedenseofcommunity,one could acceptthe claimthat valuing'undistorted om-munication'was of the essence of liberalpolitics without needingatheoryof communicative ompetenceas backup."96From this perspec-tive, philosophybecomesanunimportant xcursusn thequestforcom-munity. "Those who want beautiful social harmonies," Rorty con-cludes, "wanta postmodernistorm of sociallife, in whichsocietyas awholeasserts tself withoutbothering o ground tself."97My concern s that these "balances"beginwith an unacknowledgedand problematic hoice. Connollyand Rortyside with Foucault.Con-nollyrevealshis choiceby distinguishing nly amongconstraints-someessential and some non-essential.Habermas,who suggeststhat thoseessential"limitsandconventions"arereallycapacities,s banished romthe debate. Connollyclaims that his theory of communicativeactionfosters confessionandnormalization.Rorty'schoice is equallyclear.Hearguesthat Foucault'shistoricalnarratives houldsupplantphilosophi-cal metanarratives."Such narrativeswould not unmask somethingcreatedby powercalled'ideology' n the name of somethingnot createdby power called 'validity'or 'emancipation.'They wouldjust explainwho wascurrently ettingandusingpowerfor whatpurposes,andthen(unlikeFoucault)suggesthow someotherpeople might get it anduse itfor otherpurposes."98Rorty's"unlikeFoucault,"reveals he problemtheirchoiceposes. It is not enoughto say that "some" limits andcon-ventions are essentialor to suggestthat "some" other people obtainpowerfor "other"purposes.What limits and conventions?Whatpeo-ple? What purposes?How will these decisionsbe made?Thesecrucialquestionsremain.An initialchoicemust,I agree,be made.ButI wouldchoose different-ly. We need a theoreticalrameworkwhichprovidesa normativeounda-tion. Otherwise,oursis a different,moredangerous,balancing ct.Con-nolly and Rortyare, I suspect, suspendeduponZarathustra'sightropeover the abyss.Habermasprovidessuch a frameworkby distinguishingamong kinds of rationality, subjectivity,and democracy.Rationality

    96. Richard Rorty, "Habermas and Lyotard on Postmodernity" in Habermas andModernity, ed. Richard Bernstein (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1985), p. 173.97. Ibid., p. 175.98. Ibid., p. 173; emphasis added.

  • 8/8/2019 Foucault & Habermas on Discourse & Democracy


    NancyS. Love 293

    allows criticismand conformity;subjectivity ncludesautonomyandidentity;democracy nvolvesparticipationand cooptation.The formerareourcapacitiesand thelatterarethe constraintsuponus. According oHabermas,we can use our capacities o limitthoseconstraints.He alsosuggestshow to do this, i.e., throughdemocraticdiscourseundercondi-tionsapproximatingdealspeech.This s a procedural,nota substantive,normas befits a modernworld.It providesa foundationfor answeringthe questions Connollyand Rortyraise. By defendingtheir positions,they implyits legitimacy.TheyenterHabermas's phereof communica-tive rationality.

    Foucault often gesturestoward such distinctionsbetweencapacitiesand constraints,but he fails to ground them. As Habermasrecentlyargued, Foucault's total critiqueself-destructs.9We are alwayscon-strainedby whatwe criticizesinceit is partof what we are. Ironically,this Foucauldian nsightrevealsa problemFoucault fails to overcome.He remainsnegatively-boundo the discourseof modernity.Habermasmaintains hat a paradigmonly loses its force when it is determinatelynegated by anotherparadigm.By showingthat we are morethan con-straints, that we also have capacities,Habermas recoversthat otherparadigm rom our past.But the debate does not end here. Habermasdoes not incorporateFoucault'sposition. AlthoughHabermasprovidesa theoretical rame-work,he does not achievea balance.Foucaultreveals hat Habermas'sdistinctionsare less clearthanthey seem. Communicativeationalitysnot necessarily"anotherparadigm."Habermas s also constrainedbythe discourseof modernity.His "capacities"are often implicated ndisciplinary ower.Thissuggests hatHabermas'sparadigm houldalsobe debated;communicativeationality houlditselfbe communicativelyachieved.A morereflective,a morecritical-a Foucauldian-considera-tion of communicativeationalitywouldaddress he limits of consensusand the ambiguityof truth.TheFoucault-Habermasebate,then, focuses the tasks of democratictheory.It raises he questionsa balanced heoryof democraticdiscoursemust consider:Whendoes subjectivitybecomesubjection?When doescommunication become confession? When does democracybecomedomination?By askingthesequestions,democratic heoristscan avoidtipping he scales.Theycanacknowledgeheachievements ndavoid theliabilitiesof modernity.

    99. Habermas, Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, chapter XI.