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Legitimation Crisis (Habermas)


Utopian Hermit Monk

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Legitimation Crisis in Ireland

I strongly recommend a read of this enlightening little book (approx. 170 pages, depending on the edition) by Jürgen Habermas.

There is more than whiff of legitimation crisis wafting around the Irish State at present.

Dermot Ahern acnowledges, for example, that the threatened withdrawal of services by members of An Garda Síochána amounts to "a challenge to the authority of the State".

Others might say that it is Mr. Ahern's own Government (together with its predecessors) that has been instrumental in inflicting catastrophic damage on the State and its authority.



A small sample:

A legitimation crisis can be predicted only if expectations that cannot be fulfilled either with the available quantity of value or, generally, with rewards conforming to the system are systematically produced. A legitimation crisis then, must be based on a motivation crisis—that is, a discrepancy between the need for motives declared by the state, the educational system and the occupational system on the one hand, and the motivation supplied by the socio-cultural system on the other. (LC, Part II, Ch. 6)


Our present social/cultural/political/economic 'system' continues to systematically produce expectations (e.g. wealth, wellbeing, equality, fairness, happiness ...) which, increasingly, cannot be fulfilled either with the available quantity of value (e.g., appeals to 'patriotism' ring hollow; appeals to 'sacrifice' lack credibility when they come from those who do not experience most of the pain; appeals to 'decency', 'honesty'. truthfulness', etc., similarly lack effective systemic force) or with rewards conforming to the system (the illusion that the party would continue indefinitely has been shattered; everyone will not have the big house, car, holiday villa, etc., to which they were systematically encouraged to aspire).

The result is a severe underlying systemic crisis.
If this crisis is merely cyclical and temporary, like a curable illness, the party may eventually resume and the system itself will survive the crisis.
If the crisis is more long term, it will begin to undermine the types of motivation whose absence would inevitably result in a crisis of legitimation. This, in turn, would lead to a search for an alternative system, a new social/cultural/political/economic paradigm (which will eventually produce a new set of expectations).

Those who wish to preserve the present 'system' will feel obliged to do all in their power to stave off a terminal legitimation crisis.

Those who desire an alternative 'system' may welcome an impending legitimation crisis. Their problem is that they have no way of knowing for sure what kind of alternative may emerge.

Interesting times!


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TommyO'Brien

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I strongly recommend a read of this enlightening little book (approx. 170 pages, depending on the edition) by Jürgen Habermas.

There is more than whiff of legitimation crisis wafting around the Irish State at present.

Dermot Ahern acnowledges, for example, that the threatened withdrawal of services by members of An Garda Síochána amounts to "a challenge to the authority of the State".

Others might say that it is Mr. Ahern's own Government (together with its predecessors) that has been instrumental in inflicting catastrophic damage on the State and its authority.



A small sample:

A legitimation crisis can be predicted only if expectations that cannot be fulfilled either with the available quantity of value or, generally, with rewards conforming to the system are systematically produced. A legitimation crisis then, must be based on a motivation crisis—that is, a discrepancy between the need for motives declared by the state, the educational system and the occupational system on the one hand, and the motivation supplied by the socio-cultural system on the other. (LC, Part II, Ch. 6)


Our present social/cultural/political/economic 'system' continues to systematically produce expectations (e.g. wealth, wellbeing, equality, fairness, happiness ...) which, increasingly, cannot be fulfilled either with the available quantity of value (e.g., appeals to 'patriotism' ring hollow; appeals to 'sacrifice' lack credibility when they come from those who do not experience most of the pain; appeals to 'decency', 'honesty'. truthfulness', etc., similarly lack effective systemic force) or with rewards conforming to the system (the illusion that the party would continue indefinitely has been shattered; everyone will not have the big house, car, holiday villa, etc., to which they were systematically encouraged to aspire).

The result is a severe underlying systemic crisis.
If this crisis is merely cyclical and temporary, like a curable illness, the party may eventually resume and the system itself will survive the crisis.
If the crisis is more long term, it will begin to undermine the types of motivation whose absence would inevitably result in a crisis of legitimation. This, in turn, would lead to a search for an alternative system, a new social/cultural/political/economic paradigm (which will eventually produce a new set of expectations).

Those who wish to preserve the present 'system' will feel obliged to do all in their power to stave off a terminal legitimation crisis.

Those who desire an alternative 'system' may welcome an impending legitimation crisis. Their problem is that they have no way of knowing for sure what kind of alternative may emerge.

Interesting times!


.
+1
 

Utopian Hermit Monk

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Habermas:

Prior to its employment as a social-scientific term, the concept of
crisis was familiar to us from its medical usage. In that context it
refers to the phase of an illness in which it is decided whether or
not the organism's self-healing powers are sufficient for recovery.
The critical process, the illness, appears as something objective. A
contagious disease, for example, is contracted through external
influences on the organism; and the deviations of the affected
organism from its goal state — the normal, healthy
state — can be observed and measured with the aid of empirical
parameters.

We therefore associate with crises the idea of an objective force
that deprives a subject of some part of his normal sovereignty. To
conceive of a process as a crisis is tacitly to give it a normative
meaning — the resolution of the crisis effects a liberation of the
subject caught up in it.
(LC, Part 1, Ch.1)


It could be argued that the Irish State has never really functioned in a fully healthy manner. We could cite the ongoing 'Home Rule/Rome Rule' debate as one indication that something was never quite right, or we might discuss the fears of anti-Lisbon voters in relation to national sovereignty.

However, even if we accept that sovereignty is threatened or limited by external forces (Rome, Brussels, or whatever), it is theoretically within the power of the members of the State to counter and correct such external threats by, for example, deciding to abandon a particular religion or renegotiate the terms of membership of the EU.

Given the nature of today's global economy and culture, it is inconceivable that any State could, or would wish to, totally isolate itself from all external forces. It is usually a matter of deciding what is or is not an acceptable limitation on national sovereignty.

The type of threat involved in a crisis of legitimation is different. Rather than threatening the system from without, it threatens it from within. As with many fatal medical conditions, the organism begins to attack itself.

An example:
Dermot Ahern asserts that the lawkeepers (Gardaí) cannot be seen to break the law, and that doing so amounts to an affront to democracy and a challenge to the authority of the State.

Many may wish to ask him whether the same applies to the lawmakers. Even if their behaviour amounts to no more than a bending of the laws (e.g., by manipulating the rules governing travel expenses, by affording themselves all manner of financial and other privileges, by using their influence to protect friends or associates from the consequences of criminal activity, etc.), surely that too amounts to an affront to democracy and a challenge to the State's authority?

If the people begin to lose confidence in the central organs of the State (especially the National Parliament), we are faced with a potentially very dangerous internal threat that may lead to the State organism beginning to attack itself from within and, ultimately, to terminal decline. The State simply cannot survive if a significant number of its members decide that, as presently conformed, it is no longer legitimate.

It is one thing for the body politic to suffer a temporary head cold. It is something entirely different if it is suffering from life-threatening cancer!



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Utopian Hermit Monk

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Compared to the growing crisis in the political system, the economic crisis is a distracting sideshow.

The economic crisis leads to a reduced standard of living for many, and even hardship for some.

The political crisis, if unresolved, could lead to a massive withdrawal of loyalty to the State itself.

Habermas (LC, Part II, Ch.3) represents the main types of crisis as follows:




He comments:

A rationality deficit in public administration means that the state
apparatus cannot, under given boundary conditions, adequately
steer the economic system. A legitimation deficit means that it is
not possible by administrative means to maintain or establish
effective normative structures to the extent required.




The gravity of the growing rationality crisis in our political system is self-evident.

Much more serious is the fact that there appears to be a growing legitimation crisis (e.g., strike threat by An Garda Síochana (and, very probably following the Budget, other key components of the public sector), symptomatic of a profound disaffection; widespread 'grumbling' throughout all sectors of the population about the untrustworthiness of politicians, lack of fairness, impunity of corrupt bankers, developers, etc.).

This crisis is aggravated by the lack of a credible alternative to the present Government. People may end up voting for Fine Gael and Labour in order to remove Fianna Fáil, but without any great conviction that similar patterns of unacceptable behaviour will not continue. Listening (reluctantly!) to debates in Leinster House, there is no evidence that any political grouping recognises the extent and gravity of the growing legitimation crisis.

At best, the Opposition parties prescribe mild doses of aspirin, while what is needed is radical surgery.


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Utopian Hermit Monk

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Leading Irish Politics discussion board:

Thread on:

Jürgen Habermas - Legitimation Crisis ( 4 replies {3 by the thread author}; 156 views )

Paul Gogarty - 'F*** You' ( 237 replies; 13, 843 views )



"You have disgraced yourselves AGAIN!"

:lol:




.
 

Christel

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Very interesting contributions here.

"It could be argued that the Irish State has never really functioned in a fully healthy manner."

Why? Is it sick, or has it not fully matured (yet)?
 

Utopian Hermit Monk

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Very interesting contributions here.

"It could be argued that the Irish State has never really functioned in a fully healthy manner."

Why? Is it sick, or has it not fully matured (yet)?

I suggest that the Irish State is both sick and immature.

Habermas' notion of legitimation is inseparable from the thesis that modern States are founded on the rule of reason (as opposed to inherited privilege, fear, superstition, or whatever).

The rule of reason is an Enlightenment proposal, and is possible only in States which are populated by a sufficient number of individuals whose rational faculty is fairly well developed, i.e., individuals who are 'enlightened', or at least in the process of becoming rational(ised).

Rational individuals will deem their State legitimate to the extent that its laws and procedures are perceived to satisfy the demands of reason. If the State is perceived to function on some other basis (e.g., favouring the interests of elites, or grievously offending against rules of 'fair play'), then rational individuals will withdraw their support, thereby provoking a crisis of legitimation.

I believe the Irish State is sick, because some individuals and groups are consciously manipulating the organs of State power to further narrow sectional interests, against the common good.

The absence of articulate public opposition to this abuse of State power indicates that the Irish State is also immature. A lot of people may feel a vague sense of outrage, but this is not based on any clear grasp of the fact that the rule of reason (and, hence, the legitimacy of the State) is being undermined by an unacceptable use of State power.



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an Toimíneach

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Leading Irish Politics discussion board:

Thread on:

Jürgen Habermas - Legitimation Crisis ( 4 replies {3 by the thread author}; 156 views )

Paul Gogarty - 'F*** You' ( 237 replies; 13, 843 views )



"You have disgraced yourselves AGAIN!"

:lol:




.
Still though, you'd have to admit, the "Paul Gogarty - 'F*** You'" thread has far more substance to it than the pseudo-Intellectual posing on this one.

*Joke...I just couldn't help it :(*
 

Lightning Rod

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Good OP thank you v. much.
I've been reading good ol' squashy-face since my college days; guy's awesome.
 

Lightning Rod

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The type of threat involved in a crisis of legitimation is different. Rather than threatening the system from without, it threatens it from within. As with many fatal medical conditions, the organism begins to attack itself.
To continue the analogy. If the body politic is suffering from a fatal crisis of legitimacy, how does an advocate of root and branch systemic change go about changing the system?

Is it legitimate to follow Thoreau's advice and clog up the system with tax compliance protests?

What is a legitimate means of bringing about systemic change?
 

McDave

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Thanks for the tip UHM. Habermas writes some interesting stuff. In the past I've read:

- The Divided West
- The Dialectics of Secularization: On Reason and Religion (with Ratzinger)
- Europe: The Faltering Project

All worthwhile stuff.

As to legitimation, when governments are seen to fail conspicuously especially over a long time, the whole concept of democracy can be called into question. Of course, democracy is only a system. It's people that use it wrong. Our own (IMO) failed economy and society is down to our own actions. We have not set standards as an electorate, and now we are paying the price. So before we go beating up on FF as we are voting them out in the next election, those who voted FF since the Haughey era need also to acknowledge that it was in part their indiscriminate support that has brought us to our current impasse.
 

Utopian Hermit Monk

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To continue the analogy. If the body politic is suffering from a fatal crisis of legitimacy, how does an advocate of root and branch systemic change go about changing the system?

Is it legitimate to follow Thoreau's advice and clog up the system with tax compliance protests?

What is a legitimate means of bringing about systemic change?

I suppose the most obvious way would be to join an opposition party or movement with a clear, coherent and credible platform for root and branch systemic reform.

Right now, unfortunately, I do not see such a party or movement in Ireland. The independents and groupings currently occupying seats in the Oireachtas are all too comfortable with the status quo.

Organised opposition from outside the Oireachtas is often compromised (e.g. union fat cats defending merely sectional interests within the status quo), or so hung up on doctrinaire minutiae that they have no hope of significant electoral support (e.g. most of the small far-left or far-right parties).

Another possible force for radical systemic change - the Catholic Church - has all but forfeited any right to issue pronouncements on moral or political issues. In spite of those who would write off the Church, per se, as an agent of change, one could look to Latin America and Liberation Theology for an alternative model of Catholicism. Last year, in Paraguay, a Catholic Bishop, Fernando Lugo, decided to hang up the crozier in order to take on a corrupt political establishment. Against all the odds, he won the Presidential election and, by all accounts, is beginning to make a real difference. I do not see anyone even vaguely resembling a Fernando Lugo in the ranks of the Irish Bishops, and the prevailing theology is conservative/reactionary rather than liberationist.

For various reasons, I don't think the revolutionary option is viable in Ireland at present. Bad as things are, I do not detect an appetite or a capacity for all-out insurrection.

So, the most feasible option right now is probably a combination of low-key civil disobedience (which might include some form of tax revolt) and consistent pressure on elected representatives, forcing them to change/adopt policies which they would not accept without duress (the same backbench TDs who gave a standing ovation to the Budget that withdrew Medical Cards were soon scrambling to have the measure reversed when the OAPs organised a modest display of grey power).

By the way, I think the Amhrán Nua initiative by some fellow p.ie posters is to be lauded. It is still in its infancy and seems to focus mainly on an anti-corruption message. To date, I don't think AN offers proposals for radical systemic change, but it is a step in the right direction.


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Utopian Hermit Monk

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The theme of 'legitimation crisis' was at the heart of Michael D. Higgins' address to the European Parliament yesterday.

[video=youtube;-PFu1Vj2_GY]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PFu1Vj2_GY[/video]​
 

Shpake

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Somehow the echoes of Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations come to mind, where there was this convict character describing his childhood in Dickensian London. The preachers told him not to steal as that was evil. His reply was that you might as well tell him not to breathe. How is he supposed to eat? If he didn't steal, then he'd starve.

We are a long way from that that in Ireland of 2013. But when I hear of some of the unemployed negative equity ghost estate people on about the property tax and how they were already squeezed for stamp duty. And now face the water charge, property tax....? I suppose when you are in survival mode you gotta survive. For the 1001st time, the cutbacks have to occur at the top. Phil whatshisname coortin wimmin in the Persian gulf on a government freebie kind of chips away at the legitimation. But that is neither not the start of it or the end of it.
 

Utopian Hermit Monk

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Request to Mods: Please move this thread to the Political Philosophy forum

Thanks.
 

Utopian Hermit Monk

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... Under the pressure of the financial markets, the awareness has spread that an essential economic precondition for the constitutional project was neglected when the euro was introduced. Analysts are in agreement that the European Union can withstand the financial speculation only if it acquires the necessary political steering capacities to work towards a convergence of the member states' economic and social development in the medium term at least in core Europe, ie among the members of the European monetary zone.

All of those involved are aware that this level of "enhanced co-operation" is impossible within the frame of the existing treaties. The conclusion, that a joint "economic government" is necessary, would mean that European policies for promoting the competitiveness of all economies in the eurozone would extend far beyond the financial sector and affect national budgets as a whole, thus intervening deeply in the budgetary privilege of national parliaments. This long overdue reform is only possible by further transferring competences from the member states to the union, as long as existing law is not to be flagrantly violated. Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy appear to have settled some sort of compromise between German economic liberalism and French statism with a completely different intent. If I am not mistaken, they want to extend the executive federalism of the Lisbon treaty into an outright intergovernmental rule by the European Council.

Such a regime would make it possible to transfer the imperatives of the markets to the national budgets without proper democratic legitimation. This would involve using threats of sanctions and pressure on disempowered national parliaments to enforce nontransparent and informal agreements. In this way, the heads of government would transform the European project into its opposite. The first transnational democracy would become an especially effective, because disguised, arrangement for exercising a kind of post-democratic rule.
...
 

Utopian Hermit Monk

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Why Angela Merkel Is Wrong On Greece
by Jürgen Habermas
25 June 2015

... The Greek election result is the vote of a nation that, with a significant majority, is standing up against the humiliating as well as oppressive misery of an austerity policy imposed upon their country. There can be no argument about the vote itself: The population rejects the continuation of a policy whose drastic failure is something they have experienced at first hand. Equipped with this democratic legitimacy, the Greek government is trying to bring about a change of policy in the Eurozone.

This brings them in Brussels right up against the representatives of 18 other governments which justify their rejection by coolly pointing to their own democratic mandate. You’ll recall those first meetings when the arrogantly swaggering novices basking in the upbeat mood of their triumph joined in grotesque battle with the incumbent rulers acting partly like paternalistic uncles and partly like sneering old hands: Both sides insisted parrot-like that they enjoyed the authority given by their respective “people.”

The unintentionally comic nature of their uniformly nation-state way of thinking brought what is lacking unmistakably to the attention of European public opinion: a focus for a common decision-making process among citizens across national borders about weighty courses of political action in the core of Europe.

But the veil cast over this institutional deficit of an empowered European Parliament based on a European-wide system of political parties has not yet been really shredded. The Greek election has thrown a spanner in the works of Brussels because here the citizens have themselves chosen a European political alternative for which they are geared up. Elsewhere, government representatives make such decisions as technocrats among themselves and spare public opinion in their countries from upsetting issues. ...
 

McDave

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Habermas favours a USE/fully federalised EU. He's approaching the issue from a broad, philosophical perspective. The problem is that member state governments have to justify any further deepening of the EU to their domestic audiences. The evidence to date suggests voters are reluctant to cede anything more than the most necessary powers and functions. Politicians can't go beyond this. For this reason alone, Habermas is in no position to lecture politicians on what they do.

On Greece, the objection of a domestic electorate to efforts to build its state is not an exercise in empowering democracy. It does not empower either the countries which fund Greece, nor ultimately the Greeks themselves.
 
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