Foucault–Habermas debate  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Foucault/Habermas Debate is a dispute concerning whether Michel Foucault's ideas of "power analytics" and "genealogy" or Jürgen Habermas's ideas of "communicative rationality" and "discourse ethics" provide a better critique of the nature of power within society. The debate compares and evaluates the central ideas of Habermas and Foucault as they pertain to questions of power, reason, ethics, modernity, democracy, civil society, and social action.

The debate was a dialogue between texts and followers, Foucault and Habermas did not actually debate in person though they were considering a formal one in the US before Foucault's death. Habermas' essay, Taking Aim at the Heart of the Present (1984) was respectfully altered before release in order to account for Foucault's inability to reply.

"Foucault discovers in Kant, as the first philosopher, an archer who aims his arrow at the heart of the most actual features of the present and so opens the discourse of modernity ... but Kant's philosophy of history, the speculation about a state of freedom, about world-citizenship and eternal peace, the interpretation of revolutionary enthusiasm as a sign of historical 'progress toward betterment' - must not each line provoke the scorn of Foucault, the theoretician of power? Has not history, under the stoic gaze of the archaeologist Foucault, frozen into an iceberg covered with the crystals of arbitrary formulations of discourse?" --Habermas Taking Aim at the Heart of the Present 1984

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