The Past as Future: Vergangenheit als Zukunft

The Past as Future: Vergangenheit als Zukunft

The Past as Future: Vergangenheit als Zukunft

The Past as Future: Vergangenheit als Zukunft

Synopsis

Jürgen Habermas is one of the best-known and most influential philosophers in Europe today. Heir to the Frankfurt school, his reputation rests on more than thirty years of groundbreaking works on society knowledge, history, technology; ethics, and many other subjects. He is also a familiar figure in his native Germany where he has often played a prominent role in public de-bates. In recent years, he has spoken out ever more directly on the extraordinary changes taking place in Germany, Europe, and the world.

This volume of interviews reveals Habermas's passionate engagement with contemporary issues. Wide-ranging and informal, the interviews focus on matters of decisive importance to Germany and the rest of the world in the 1990s: German unification; recent explosive debates about interpretations of German history, Germany's asylum policies, and the Nazi era; efforts to create a cooperative, peaceful Europe; and the significance of the Persian Gulf War. A final interview focuses on the relation between theory and practice-between philosophy and the so-called real world. In an afterword to the volume, Habermas addresses a broad spectrum of issues facing Germany and other nations in this final decade of the century.

Ably translated and annotated by Max Pensky, professor of philosophy at the State University of New York-Binghamton, The Past as Future provides a striking portrait of an intellectual who is equally at home in the world of academic philosophy and in mainstream debate-and who can make valuable connections between the two.

Excerpt

A mong the numerous interviews Juürgen Habermas has given during the last decade or so, The Past as Future stands out for more than one reason. It is not only his most extensive dialogue to date but also his most carefully prepared exchange of questions and answers. Michael Haller, the interviewer, submitted his questions in writing, thereby giving Habermas time to go beyond an immediate response and to reflect on the broader ramifications of the subject. The interview presents itself as a tour d'horizon of the German intellectual scene of the early 1990s, ranging from the heated debate about the Gulf War and its meaning for German politics to a discussion about changing theoretical paradigms during the 1980s. Among the issues that Habermas treats extensively we also find the question of the collapse of state socialism in East Germany and the new German identity after the unification of 1990. Here Habermas picks up and continues arguments that he developed in a number of important essays published during the 1980s. for At that time he intervened in the German Historians' Debate as well as the acrimonious dispute about German unification. That Habermas spoke out about the use of German history especially objecting to the so-called normalization of the German past, angered his conservative opponents. One of their rhetorical devices to undermine his position was the charge that he, as a mere philosopher, was not qualified to discuss historical topics. In the best German Mandarin tradition they set up a sharp . . .

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