Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Spaces of freedom: Political theory and interpersonal psychology
by Hoechst, Emily Howard, Ph.D., Georgetown University, 2008, 310; 3339928
Abstract (Summary)

Politics is hard because it is intersubjective; it requires us to work with others who are not subject to our control. Liberal democratic politics can be especially difficult, since democracy demands legitimate agreement among different views, and liberalism requires that the agreement not be manipulated or coerced. Rawls recognizes the paradox of intersubjectivity by urging us to practice the very great virtues of tolerance and mutual respect. Habermas recognizes this predicament when he acknowledges the fundamental vulnerability of socialized human beings and the moral need for considerateness between persons. Based on the moral psychology of Kohlberg and Piaget, both Rawls and Habermas argue that the best way to deal with intersubjectivity is to create a moral point of view from which multiple conflicting claims may be assessed. I argue that their reliance on cognitive moral psychology limits Rawls and Habermas to a problematic and incomplete understanding of both intersubjectivity and politics.

Interpersonal psychoanalytic theory, in the work of D.W. Winnicott and Jessica Benjamin, can be used to critique the exclusively cognitive framework relied upon by Rawls and Habermas. Using Benjamin and Winnicott, I argue that the developmental psychology underlying Rawlsian and Habermasian theory is not truly intersubjective, and that it will not in the end support the mutual respect, equality, and democratic practice that Rawls and Habermas desire. Because its focus remains intrapsychic rather than intersubjective, cognitive psychology limits its conception of freedom to only one of its many dimensions, that of the internal realm of mental control. I draw on Hannah Arendt's conception of politics as an alternative example (though not an unproblematic one) of the spaces of freedom that Rawls and Habermas overlook. In the final chapters I investigate whether Rawls' political liberalism and/or Habermas' communicative action can accommodate a more robust intersubjectivity and create additional spaces of freedom.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Warren, Mark E.
Commitee:
School: Georgetown University
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 69/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Political science
Keywords: Arendt, Hannah, Deconstruction, Freedom, Habermas, Juergen, Interpersonal psychology, Intrapsychic, Political, Rawls, John, Survival, Winnicott, D. W.
Publication Number: 3339928
ISBN: 9780549939764
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