HomeSynergeiavol. 5 no. 1 (2014)

Jürgen Habermas’ Between Facts and Norms

Ma. Asuncion Magsino



Modern societies are characterized by groups of people sharing a common space but upholding a plurality of “lifeworlds.” On this account Habermas claims that modern law should assume the role of being the primary medium of social integration in modern society. Although both traditional and modern law possess instrumental power of enforcement on their subjects the normative source differs greatly. The secular modern society generally looks for normative sources in the realm of rationality. This search yields to uncovering the two internal dimensions of law: facts and norms. The stipulation of the law is the fact of law and what makes it acquire a binding or a coercive force is the norm of law. Habermas claims that it is rational discourse which takes place in the communicative process that bridges the gap. The legitimacy is bestowed on the fact of law by its being justified by reason through a normative claim. Moreover, Habermas attributes the foundation of real democracy, which he calls “substantive democracy” to the exercise of the discursive process or what he calls communicative democracy. In the light of Habermas’ theory of law and democracy emerging from the communicative process, the article makes a critique of how democracy is expressed in the Philippine scenario, from the popular exercise of voting to the political exercise through our institutions. In doing so, it hopes to raise awareness of our present state of “formal” democracy and what it takes to achieve a genuine “substantive” democracy.