1st Edition

Husserlian Phenomenology and Contemporary Political Realism The Legitimacy of the Life-World

By Michael F. Hickman Copyright 2023

    Drawing on Husserl’s concepts of communalization and intersubjectivity, this book aspires to an orientation in which human beings are understood in the context of their full-blooded, concrete existence – the life-world.

    Michael F. Hickman offers a fresh return to the raw experience of politics through the contemporary realist idea of radical disagreement as the "circumstances of politics." He surpasses realist limitations through the acknowledgment of the constitution of the world as an achievement of the intersubjective community, while crucially asserting that the political horizon is distinguishable from, but coterminous with, the life-world itself. Through the use of hypotheticals, an unprecedented phenomenological account of political experience is offered, in which three major themes of political subjectivity are explored: belonging and possession, authority, and foreignness and political others. Finally, a multi-phase analysis of legitimacy is conducted which, taking into account universal human rights and concretely identifiable expressions of acceptance, is nonetheless rooted in a source – the life-world – that reaches beyond any mere collectivity of ego-acts.

    Utilizing an expanded philosophical universe, Husserlian Phenomenology and Contemporary Political Realism offers a path forward from the ideological stalemates in which liberal theory seems hopelessly locked. It will appeal to scholars involved in the study of political theory and philosophy, international relations, intercultural studies, human rights and phenomenology.

    1. Introduction

    2. Two Guideposts: Innate Political Orientation v. Endemic Disagreement

    3. Locating the Political

    4. Ideal and Realist Legitimacy

    5. The Phenomenological Contribution

    6. The Life-World is Political

    7. Eidetic and Transcendental Reductions (Transition to Political Subjectivity)

    8. Major Themes of Political Subjectivity I: Belonging and Possession

    9. Major Themes of Political Subjectivity II: Authority

    10. Major Themes of Political Subjectivity III: Political Others and Foreignness

    11. Political Intentionality: The Essence of Political Experience

    12. The Legitimacy of the Life-World

    13. Conclusion


    Michael F. Hickman teaches political philosophy and law. He is a lawyer and member of the Bar of South Carolina

    "The centrality of Husserl within contemporary philosophy has long been recognized.  What we have lacked is a sustained reflection on the way it intersects with political theory.  By thinking through the meaning of Husserl’s notion of a 'life-world' Michael Hickman has illuminated the connection with the lived experience of political community.  This is a brilliant and original contribution that offers a fresh perspective on the deepest conflicts that politics confronts, as well as its prospects for bridging them.  Hickman returns Husserl to the crisis from which his own reflection set forth." 

    David Walsh, Professor of Politics, The Catholic University of America

    "Michael Hickman makes a compelling argument for the primacy of what Aristotle calls ethos for contemporary questions of political legitimacy – a fascinating application of the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl to the most hotly debated issues of moral diversity or pluralism being discussed within contemporary political theory."

    Ryan R. Holston, Professor and Jonathan M. Daniels ’61 Chair, Virginia Military Institute

    "Through a careful study of Edmund Husserl’s philosophy, Michael F. Hickman offers an original argument that the life world for Husserl is coterminous with the political community. Engaging with figures such as Kant, Rawls, Aristotle and Aquinas along the way, Hickman gives a careful and creative analysis of the mode of givenness of political phenomena, overcomes the overly abstract understanding of politics in liberal political theory, and gives a penetrating account of the nature of political reflection with the idea of the ‘political quasi-epochē.’ A landmark work in the phenomenology of the political.”

    Philip J. Harold, Dean of Constantin College and Professor of Politics, University of Dallas

    "Searching for resources to address the crisis of liberalism, Michael Hickman looks back to Edmund Husserl's phenomenology as a way to recover a humane polity. According to Hickman, we have lost a common world akin to Aristotle's complete and self-sufficient political community and where we can perceive one another as people rather than objects. Finding faults with both ideal liberal theory and political realism, Hickman offers a new way to account for political identity and legitimacy that can bolster and steady liberal democracies. Innovative and thoughtful, Husserlian Phenomenology and Contemporary Political Realism provides a fresh theoretical approach to the problems of liberalism and how they could be resolved."

    Lee Trepanier, Chair and Professor of Political Science, Samford University