Conference — May 26 and 27, 2023

Critical Encounters with Habermas' Legal Theory

Critical Encounters with Habermas' Legal Theory in Between Facts and Norms.

May 26 and 27,  2023: Join us for the conference, Critical Encounters with Habermas' Legal Theory in Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy. The event is dedicated to re-examining the principal work on legal theory by the eminent German philosopher, Jürgen Habermas.

Conference participants will examine Habermas' conceptualization of the relationship between liberal-democratic legal theory and critical social theory, to ask whether Habermas had moved so far away, in Between Facts and Norms, from the early Frankfurt School and his own early work, that he was no longer able to grasp the contradictory dynamics and forms of domination specific to contemporary capitalist societies.

Participants will also seek to historicize Between Facts and Norms, and ask whether the legal and political solutions Habermas proposed in that work —written in period leading up to the Soviet Union's collapse, German reunification, and the rise of neoliberalism — are adequate to the very different challenges the world faces today.


Location, Days, Times

509 O’Brian Hall,  UB North Campus
Friday and Saturday
This hybrid event is held in-person and via Zoom.
Event registration and program schedule forthcoming.


Matthew Dimick (UB School of Law)
618 O'Brian Hall, North Campus
Buffalo, NY 14260-1100


  • John Abromeit (Buffalo State College)
  • Matthew Dimick (UB School of Law)
  • Paul Linden-Retek  (UB School of Law)


  • School of Law, University at Buffalo 
  • The Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy


Seyla Benhabib.

Seyla Benhabib

Seyla Benhabib is a distinguished international scholar who is known for her research and teaching on social and political thought, particularly 20th century German thought and Hannah Arendt. Over the past two decades, she has become recognized for her contributions to migration and citizenship studies as well as her work on gender and multiculturalism.

Benhabib was the Eugene Meyer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Yale University from 2001 to 2020. She previously taught at the New School for Social Research and Harvard University, where she was a professor of government from 1993 to 2000 and chair of Harvard’s Program on Social Studies from 1996 to 2000.

She was the president of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association from 2006 to 2007 and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1995. A 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, she has been a research affiliate and senior scholar in many research institutions in the United States and in Europe, such as the Russell Sage Foundation (2000–2001), Berlin’s distinguished Wissenschaftskolleg (2009), NYU’s Straus Institute for the Advanced Study of Law and Justice (2012), the Transatlantic Academy in Washington D.C. (2013), and Center for the Humanities and Social Change at Humboldt University of Berlin (2018).


John D. Abromeit (Organizer, Buffalo State College)

John D. Abromeit.

John D. Abromeit

John D. Abromeit is professor of History and Social Studies Education, SUNY/Buffalo State College, and, author of Max Horkheimer and the Foundations of the Frankfurt School. The book is the first comprehensive intellectual biography of Max Horkheimer during the early and middle phases of his life (1895–1941). Drawing on unexamined sources, Abromeit describes the critical details of Horkheimer's intellectual development. This study recovers and reconstructs the model of early Critical Theory that guided the work of the Institute for Social Research in the 1930s. Horkheimer is remembered primarily as the co-author of Dialectic of Enlightenment, which he wrote with Theodor W. Adorno in the early 1940s. But few realize that Horkheimer and Adorno did not begin working together until the late 1930s, or, that the model of Critical Theory developed by Horkheimer and Erich Fromm differs in crucial ways from Dialectic of Enlightenment. Abromeit highlights the ways in which Horkheimer's early Critical Theory remains relevant to contemporary theoretical discussions in a wide variety of fields.  Faculty profile page.

Isabelle Aubert (University of Paris 1, Panthéon-Sorbonne)

Isabelle Aubert.

Isabelle Aubert

Isabelle Aubert ia an associate professor in Philosophy, and, in the Institute of Legal and Philosophical Sciences, at the University of Paris 1, Panthéon-Sorbonne.  Aubert's research interests include: Philosophy of law; Contemporary social and political philosophy; critical theory of society; and, critical theories of law. Faculty profile page.

Brian Caterino (Independent Researcher)


Brian Caterino is an independent researcher who lives in Rochester, USA. He taught at SUNY Brockport, USA, and the University of Rochester, USA, and worked in public access for a number of years. Caterino is the co-author of Critical Theory Democracy and the Challenge of Neo-Liberalism (2019). ResearchGate.

Matthew Dimick (Conference Organizer, UB School of Law)

Matthew Dimick.

Matthew Dimick

Matthew Dimick is professor of law at the University at Buffalo School of Law. His scholarship explores the relationship between the law and economic inequality. Recent projects include a theoretical and empirical study of the relationship between altruism, income inequality, and preferences for redistribution in the United States; a theoretical and case-study analysis of the politics of regulating low-wage work in wealthy democracies; and the role of minimum wage legislation in an optimal redistribution policy. Currently, he is working on a book manuscript about the law and economics of redistribution and income inequality. Dimick's research has appeared in generalist law reviews and peer-reviewed economics, political science, and sociology journals, and has been featured in The AtlanticVox, and the On Labor blog. He has taught courses in federal income taxation, tax policy, labor law, employment law, comparative corporate governance, and comparative and international labor and employment law. Profile page.

Phillip Hansen (Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, University of Regina)


Phillip Hansen

Phillip Hansen's primary interest is in social and political philosophy, including but not restricted to the work of Hegel, Marx, and the Frankfurt School. Hansen has written books on Hannah Arendt and C.B. Macpherson, as well as a short study on the political theory of taxation. PhilPeople.

David Ingram (Professor of Philosophy, Loyola University, Chicago)


David Ingram is Professor of Philosophy at Loyola University Chicago. He has authored eight books and edited three anthologies, and has published almost seventy journal articles and book chapters. His primary research interests range over social and political philosophy and philosophy of law, with a special focus on the Frankfurt School (Juergen Habermas and Critical Theory). He has also written extensively on French, German, and Anglo-American social philosophy, with application to race, disability, immigration, and human rights. Faculty profile page

Cristina Lafont (Professor and Chair of Philosophy, Northwestern University)

Cristina Lafont.

Cristina Lafont 

Cristina Lafont's current research focuses on normative questions in political philosophy concerning democracy and citizen participation, global governance, human rights, religion and politics. She is the author of Democracy without Shortcuts (Oxford University Press, 2020), Global Governance and Human Rights (Spinoza Lecture Series, van Gorcum, 2012), The Linguistic Turn in Hermeneutic Philosophy (MIT Press, 1999), Heidegger, Language, and World-disclosure (Cambridge University Press, 2000), and co-editor of Critical Theory in Critical Times: Transforming the Global Political and Economic Order (Columbia University Press, 2017) and The Habermas Handbook (Columbia University Press, 2017). Faculty profile page. 


Paul Linden-Retek (Conference Organizer, UB School of Law)

Paul Linden-Retek (UB School of Law).

Paul Linden-Retek 

Paul Linden-Retek writes and teaches in the areas of comparative constitutional law and international law, with an emphasis on European Union law, international human rights law, constitutional theory, and refugee and asylum law. His academic work in these fields has been published or is forthcoming in the International Journal of Constitutional LawJurisprudence; the Columbia Journal of European Law; the German Law JournalLaw, Culture, and the Humanities; Global Constitutionalism; and the Yale Journal of International Law; and his public writing has appeared in the Boston ReviewopenDemocracy, and Social Europe. His book, A Critical Theory of Postnational Constitutionalism: Europe and the Time of Law, is under contract with Oxford University Press.  Faculty profile page

Rúrion Melo (Professor of Political Science, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil)

Rurion Melo (Professor of Political Science, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil).

Rúrion Melo 

Rúrion Melo is a professor at DCP-USP, and, researcher at the Brazilian Center for Analysis and Planning (CEBRAP). He holds a degree (2003), a master's degree (2005) and a doctorate (2009) in Philosophy from the University of São Paulo (USP), and a postdoctoral degree from CEBRAP (2011). He was a visiting researcher at J. W. Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main and Freie Universität Berlin between 2007 and 2009. He is a member of the Núcleo Direito e Democracia at CEBRAP and coordinates the Group of Studies on Politics and Critical Theory at USP. He develops research in the areas of political theory and social theory. In addition, he has works on the philosophy and sociology of music. He is one of the coordinators of the Habermas Collection by Editora da UNESP. Melo focuses mainly on the following topics: critical theory, Marxism and political theory, theories of democracy, the public sphere and struggles for recognition. ResearchGate.

Erin Pineda (Professor of Government, Smith College)

Erin Pineda.

Erin Pineda

Erin Pineda is the Phyllis Cohen Rappaport ’68 New Century Term Professor of Government at Smith College. She teaches courses in the history of political thought, democratic theory, race and politics, social movements and American political thought. Her research interests include the politics of protest and social movements, Black political thought, race and politics, radical democracy and 20th-century American political development. Her book Seeing Like an Activist: Civil Disobedience and the Civil Rights Movement (Oxford University Press 2021) shows how civil rights activists, in concert with anticolonial movements across the globe, turned to civil disobedience as a practice of decolonization in order to emancipate themselves and others, and in the process transform the racial order. Profile page.

William E. Scheuerman (James H. Rudy Professor, Political Science, University of Indiana)

Bill Scheuerman.

Bill Scheuerman

Bill Scheuerman's primary research and teaching interests are in modern political thought, German political thought, democratic theory, legal theory, and international political theory. After teaching at Pittsburgh and Minnesota, he joined the Indiana faculty in 2006. Bill’s most recent book is Civil Disobedience (Polity Press, 2018). He is also the author of Between the Norm and the Exception: The Frankfurt School and the Rule of Law (MIT, 1994), which won two prestigious awards, as well as Carl Schmitt: The End of Law (Rowman & Littlefield, 1999), Liberal Democracy and the Social Acceleration of Time (Johns Hopkins, 2004), Frankfurt School Perspectives on Globalization, Democracy, and the Law (Routledge 2008), Hans J. Morgenthau: Realism and Beyond (Polity, 2009), and The Realist Case for Global Reform (Polity, 2011). Profile page.

Matthew Specter (Lecturer, Dept. of History, UC Berkeley)


Matthew Specter

Matthew Specter is a historian of modern European intellectual history and 20th century global and international history. Trained in German intellectual history at Brown and Duke Universities, his first book Habermas: An Intellectual Biography (Cambridge, 2010) examined the career of Germany’s leading post-1945 philosopher and public intellectual from historical and legal-philosophical perspectives. It was translated into multiple European languages and reviewed in The New Republic. One of the first biographies of Habermas in English, the book argued for an intimate connection between postwar German politics, constitutional law, and political philosophy. His recent book, The Atlantic Realists: Empire and International Political Thought Between Germany and the United States will appear from Stanford University Press in February 2022. Faculty profile.

Michael J. Thompson (Professor of Political Theory, William Paterson University)

Michael J. Thompson.

Michael J. Thompson

Michael J. Thompson is Prof. of Political Theory in the Dept. Political Science at William Paterson University. He offers courses in the history of political thought, Greek, Roman, Medieval and Modern political philosophy as well as courses in democratic theory, Marxism, critical theory and psychology and politics. He is the author of numerous books including The Politics of Inequality: A Political History of the Idea of Economic Inequality in American Political Thought (Columbia, 2007); The Domestication of Critical Theory (Rowman and Littlefield, 2016); The Specter of Babel: A Reconstruction of Political Judgment (SUNY, 2020); Twilight of the Self: The Decline of the Individual in Late Capitalism (Stanford, 2022); and Decline of the Dialectic: Patterns of Disfigurement in Modern Reason (Routledge, 2023). Profile page.


Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy by Jürgen Habermas

About the book from MIT Press:   Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy, by Jürgen Habermas, works out the legal and political implications of his Theory of Communicative Action (1981), bringing to fruition the project announced with his publication of The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere in 1962. This new work is a major contribution to recent debates on the rule of law and the possibilities of democracy in postindustrial societies, but it is much more. The introduction by William Rehg succinctly captures the special nature of the work, noting that it offers a sweeping, sociologically informed conceptualization of law and basic rights, a normative account of the rule of law and the constitutional state, an attempt to bridge normative and empirical approaches to democracy, and an account of the social context required for democracy. Finally, the work frames and caps these arguments with a bold proposal for a new paradigm of law that goes beyond the dichotomies that have afflicted modern political theory from its inception and that still underlie current controversies between so-called liberals and civic republicans. The book includes a postscript written in 1994, which restates the argument in light of its initial reception, and two appendixes, which cover key developments that preceded the book. Habermas himself was actively involved in the translation, adapting the text as necessary to make it more accessible to English-speaking readers.