Juan J. Molina

Juan J. Molina
Juan J. Molina

lunes, 29 de noviembre de 2010


Chantal Mouffe

Wittgenstein, Political Theory and Democracy

                                                                  Jügen Habermas

There is a second area in political theory in which an approach inspired by Wittgenstein's conception of practices and languages games could also be very fruitful. It concerns their set of issues related to the nature of procedures and their role in the modern conception of democracy.
The crucial idea provided by Wittgenstein in this domain is when he asserts that to have agreements in opinions, there must first be agreement on the language used. And the importance of alerting us to the fact that those agreements in opinions where agreements in forms of life. As he says: »So you are saying that human agreement decides what is true and what is false. It is what human beings say that is true and false; and they agree in the language they use. That is not agreement in opinions but in forms of life«.
With respect to the question of "procedures" which is the one that I want to highlight here, this points out to the factnecessity for a considerable number of "agreements in judgements" to already exist in a society before a given set of procedures can work. Indeed, according to Wittgenstein, to agree on the definition of a term is not enough and we need agreement in the way we use it. He puts it in the following way: »if language is to be a means of communication there must be agreement not only in definitions but also (queer as this may sound) in judgements«.
This reveals that procedures only exists as a complex ensembles of practices. Those practices constitute specific forms of individuality and identity that makes possible the allegiance to the procedures. It is because they are inscribed in shared forms of life and agreements in judgements that procedures can be accepted and followed. They cannot be seen as rules that are created on the basis of principles and then applied to specific cases. Rules, for Wittgenstein, are always abridgements of practices, they are inseparable of specific forms of life. The distinction between procedural and substantial cannot therefore be as clear as most liberal theorists would have it. In the case of justice, for instance, I do not think that one can oppose, as so many liberals do, procedural and substantial justice without recognizing that procedural justice already presupposes acceptance of certain values.
It is the liberal conception of justice which posits the priority of the right over the good but this is also the expression of a specific good. Democracy is not only a matter of establishing the right procedures independently of the practices that makes possible democratic forms of individuality. The question of the conditions of existence of democratic forms of individuality and of the practices and languages games in which they are constituted is a central one, even in a liberal democratic society where procedures play a central role. Procedures always involve substantial ethical commitments. For that reason they cannot work properly if they are not supported by a democratic ethos.
This last point is very important since it leads us to acknowledge something that the dominant liberal model is unable to recognize, i.e, that a liberal democratic conception of justice and liberal democratic institutions require a democratic ethos in order to function properly and maintain themselves. This is, for instance, precisely what Habermas' discourse theory of procedural democracy is unable to grasp because of the sharp distinction that Habermas wants to draw between moral-practical discourses and ethical-practical discourses. It is not enough to state as Habermas does, criticizing Apel, that a discourse theory of democracy cannot be based only on the formal pragmatic conditions of communication and that it must take account of legal, moral, ethical and pragmatic argumentation. What is missing in such an approach is the crucial importance of a democratic Sittlichkeit.

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