Fawkes, Johanna (2018) Seyla Benhabib: Communicating with the Concrete Other. In: An Encyclopedia of Communication Ethics: Goods in Contention. Peter Lang, pp. 50-54. ISBN 9781433152436

Benhabib reframes the question of whether civil society can accommodate the conflicting demands of cultural, ethnic, and gendered identities. While these are often presented as incommensurable, she argues that discourse theory provides a foundation for negotiating paths through and beyond such conflicts. Her oeuvre forensically maps the territories of individual and collective self-knowing and self-organisation, finding fissures and harmonies between these tectonic plates of human experience. Communication is the agent for creating possible futures. She has described her central concern as “how to reconcile universalistic principles of human rights, autonomy, and freedom with our concrete identity as members of certain human communities divided by language, by ethnicity, by religion.” This constitutes one of the most ‘wicked ’problems facing contemporary society, using the term wicked to indicate intractability. Engaging with such foundational concepts requires a moral clarity—even bravery—that is evident throughout her work. While earlier texts look to social justice to reconcile demands for individual self-expression with those for social stability, later works explore cosmopolitanism under increasing duress.

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