Discourse Theory and International Law: An Interview with Jürgen Habermas

AvB: Dear Professor Habermas, we have had four days of intense discussions on international order based on your landmark book Between Facts and Norms. On that basis, I want to ask you some questions that might be of interest to the members of the European Society of International Law. Your writings on international order usually contain two main parts. One part consists of reconstructions of such important concepts as sovereignty, human rights or constitutionalism. The other part consists of policy proposals, for example a certain reform of the Security Council or the General Assembly. Some readers might be puzzled to find them in the same text. Could you explain the relationship between these two parts?

JH: This question touches on a peculiar difficulty of a more or less personal nature. Since the early eighties, I have been publishing, alongside my professional books and articles, Kleine Politische Schriften [Small Political Writings]. These assemble essays, speeches and occasional writings on current issues, and they are meant to contribute to a – somewhat nationally colored – diagnosis of the time. In following this publication policy I wanted to make my readers aware of the role which I take in each case – either that of an academic who tries to meet the usual scholarly standards, or the role of a public intellectual who, as a citizen, makes use of his academic competences for the purpose of a specific political intervention. Your question points to the embarrassing fact that this division of labor does not quite work with regards to international law.

This is not an academic discipline which I first studied and then made use of in specific policy contexts. I did not regularly study law at all and never got a degree in law ...

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