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Meeting Principles and Lifeworlds Halfway: Jürgen Habermas on the Future of Europe



Although Jürgen Habermas is widely recognized as a philosopher and social theorist, his political philosophy is often accused of excessive formalism. Habermas has not only responded to these critiques in his theoretical writings, but also by showing how his critical theory can be applied to concrete situations in his Short Political Writings (Kleine politische Schriften). Using his political commentaries on the future of Europe and the European Union (EU), I explore Habermas' melding of abstract principles with concrete political developments. The case of Europe reveals an ongoing process of adjustment, where Habermas' theoretical insights and the place of the EU in his political thought have to respond to political developments. I argue that this process of ‘meeting halfway’ (Entgegenkommen), a concept I borrow from Habermas' social theory, demonstrates how the formalism of his theoretical commitments may be applied to politics. This approach also allows me to critique Habermas when he does not go far enough in adjusting his theory to account for concrete developments in European politics.