Conference — June 3, 2023

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

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

JUNE 3, 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 Society. 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.


  • Seyla Benhabib (Yale University)
  • Isabelle Aubert (University of Paris 1, Panthéon-Sorbonne)
  • Philipp Hansen (University of Regina)
  • John McCormick (University of Chicago)
  • Rurion Melo (University of Sao Paulo, Brazil)
  • Erin Pineda (Smith College)
  • William Scheuermann (University of Indiana)
  • Matthew Specter (UC Berkeley)
  • John Abromeit (Buffalo State College)
  • Matthew Dimick (UB School of Law)
  • Paul Linden-Retek (UB School of Law)


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


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


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


Conference details forthcoming.

About the book from MIT Press:   In Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Society, 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.