Jürgen Habermas

Jürgen Habermas
Era20th century
RegionWestern Philosophy
SchoolCritical theory
Main interests
Social Theory · Epistemology
Political theory · Pragmatics
Notable ideas
Communicative rationality
Discourse ethics
Deliberative democracy
Universal pragmatics
Communicative action
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Jürgen Habermas (born June 18, 1929) is a German philosopher and sociologist, or someone who studies different societies. He uses a type of theory called critical theory, where he studies how people use power. He also uses the theory of American pragmatism, which studies if something is true or not by the effects of actions. He is known for his work on the theory of the public sphere. He studies power in democracy, and politics. He also studies how people develop a society through language, and tries to understand how that society and the government work together.


Habermas was born in Düsseldorf, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.

Habermas lived in Gummersbach, near the city of Cologne until his graduation from gymnasium. Ernst Habermas was his father and worked for the Cologne Chamber of Industry and Commerce, and he was a supporter of the Nazi's. Jürgen was raised in a Protestant religious family because his grandfather was in charge of the seminary, or religious school, in Gummersbach Germany. Jürgen Habermas went to the universities of Göttingen (1949/50), Zürich (1950/51), and Bonn (1951–54) and earned a doctorate, or an expert degree in philosophy[1] from Bonn in 1954 with his work called, Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:Language/data/iana scripts' not found. ("The absolute and history: on the contradiction in Schelling's thought"). The group who graded his work included Erich Rothacker and Oskar Becker.

From 1956 on, he studied philosophy and sociology under the critical theorists Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt am Main Institute for Social Research, but because Horkheimer had asked Habermas to make some changes to his dissertation, or final project which Habermas did not want to do, and Habermas’s thought that the Frankfurt School was not correct in its views of modern culture, Habermas left the Frankfurt School and he finished his habilitation, or highest academic degree, in political science at the University of Marburg under the Marxist Wolfgang Abendroth. His habilitation work was entitled, Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:Language/data/iana scripts' not found. (published in English in 1989 titled The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: an Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society). In 1961, he became a privatdozent in Marburg, and he began working as a "extraordinary professor" (professor without chair) of philosophy at the University of Heidelberg (at the instigation of Hans-Georg Gadamer and Karl Löwith) in 1962. In 1964 Habermas returned to Frankfurt to take over Horkheimer's job in philosophy and sociology.

He was in charge of the Max Planck Institute in Starnberg (near Munich) in 1971, and worked there until 1983, two years after the publication of his magnum opus, or great work, The Theory of Communicative Action Habermas then returned to his chair at Frankfurt and became in charge of the Institute for Social Research. Since retiring from Frankfurt in 1993, Habermas has written many books and articles. In 1986, he received the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize of the Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:Language/data/iana scripts' not found., which is the highest honour awarded in German research. He is a "Permanent Visiting" Professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and "Theodor Heuss Professor" at The New School, New York.

Habermas was awarded The Prince of Asturias Award in Social Sciences of 2003. Habermas was also the 2004 Kyoto Laureate in the Arts and Philosophy section. He traveled to San Diego and on March 5, 2005, as part of the University of San Diego's Kyoto Symposium, gave a speech entitled The Public Role of Religion in Secular Context, regarding the history of separation of Church and State. He received the 2005 Holberg International Memorial Prize (about € 520,000).