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Speaking and hearing' Habermasian discourse ethics, feminism and IR

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 January 2005


It is impossible not to encounter Habermas as an important interlocutor in the fields of critical theory, feminist theory and international relations theory across which I work. He is the outstanding critical theorist of his generation, in the tradition of critique which was carried through the Frankfurt School and traces itself back to Kant, Hegel and Marx. And for feminists and international relations theorists, he represents one of the directions in which feminist theory or post-positivist IR could develop, deepening its epistemological and sociological understanding without sacrificing the possibility of the rationally grounded critique of contemporary world politics. This article is the beginning of an attempt to trace through layers of difficulty encountered in using Habermas as a normative resource for a particular version of feminist international theory, which understands feminism to be a transnational, cosmopolitan (but not univocal) project, neither authorised nor legitimised by any foundational ground or teleological end. I will argue that although Habermas's notion of discourse ethics seems initially promising as a way forward for non-foundational feminist theory, in the end any ‘dialogue’ on Habermasian terms turns out to be one-sided and exclusive.

Research Article
© 2005 British International Studies Association

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