Jacques Derrida and Jürgen Habermas have long represented opposite camps in contemporary thought. Derrida, who pioneered the intellectual style of inquiry known as deconstruction, ushered in the postmodern age with his dramatic critique of reason; Habermas, on the other hand, has consistently argued in defense of reason, modernity, and the legacy of the Enlightenment. Their many differences led to a long-standing, if scattered, dialogue, evidence of which has been available in only bits and pieces. But now, for the first time, TheDerrida-Habermas Reader brings these pieces together, along with a collection of essays documenting the intellectual relationship between two of the twentieth century’s preeminent thinkers.
Taken together, Derrida and Habermas’s writings—combined here with contributions by other prominent philosophers and social theorists—tell the story of the two thinkers’ provocative engagement with each other’s ideas. Beyond exploring the conflict between Derrida’s deconstruction and Habermas’s communicative rationality, they show how the Derrida-Habermas encounter changed over the years, becoming more theoretically productive without ever collapsing into mutual rejection or simple compromise.
Lasse Thomassen has divided the essays—including works on philosophy and literature, ethics, politics, and international law—into four parts that cover the full range of thought in which Derrida and Habermas engaged. The last of these sections fittingly includes the thinkers’ jointly signed work on European solidarity and the Iraq War, highlighting the hopes they held in common despite their differences. The wide breadth of this book, along with Thomassen’s lucid introductions to each section, makes The Derrida-Habermas Reader an ideal starting point for anyone interested in one of the most dynamic intellectual debates of our time.