HomeLiceo Journal of Higher Education Researchvol. 6 no. 2 (2010)

Global Justice and the Public Sphere: The Dynamics of Fraser’s Critical Theory

Rafael D. Pangilinan

Discipline: Social Science, Political Science



In this paper, I locate Fraser’s theory in relation to Rawls’ concept of justice as fairness, but particularly to Habermas’ shift of focus to the social institutions and practices where deliberation takes place, in a decentered idea of justice. I identify Fraser’s key intervention through her feminist-inspired critique of Habermas in relation to power and its effects upon the structural exclusions from the public sphere. At the same time, I note that Fraser drew attention to power struggles within that sphere; it is contested internally thanks to the deliberations of a plurality of competing publics drawn from among the dominated. I also trace the development of Fraser’s theory of justice through the various stages of her familiar double-headed account in terms of recognition and redistribution, to its current form in which, in the post-Westphalian context, the third dimension of the political site of the injustice of misrepresentation has been integrated. I argue that this new prominence given to the political is in part the result of the exchange with Honneth. Finally, I turn to the concept of a nascent global public sphere, developed along the lines of Habermas’ decentered notion of authority, using the example of the challenges to the legitimacy of the US and UK decision to declare war against Iraq.