This article constructs Habermas’s response to the debate in political theory on the problem of the boundaries of a democratic community. A newly constituted democratic community cannot legitimately account for its own boundaries of inclusion without resorting to an arbitrary source of constitutive power. Using a deliberative model for interpreting the founding act of communities, Habermas argues that the source of legitimacy is not an external arbitrary power, but the internal counterfactual ideal of mutal recognition in communicative processes. I argue, however, that Habermas’s model stands on a too robust sense of autonomy of democratic actors, one that cannot fully account for the needed external push for converting the moral intuitions of democratic actors into political actions for solidarity.


Jürgen Habermas, democracy, political community, intersubjectivity, power

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