On June 16th, 17th, and 18th, 2021, Axel Honneth held the Benjamin Lectures on “The Working Sovereign: A Democratic Theory of the Division of Labor”.
One of the greatest shortcomings of almost all theories of democracy is the tendency to repeatedly forget, with a certain stubbornness, that most members of the loudly invoked sovereign are also always working subjects. As much as one might like to imagine that citizens are primarily engaged in actively participating in political debate, this is wrong in social reality; almost all of those we are talking about do paid or unpaid work on a daily basis for many hours at a time, which, due to the effort and duration, makes it impossible for them to even put themselves in the role of a participant in democratic decision-making.
This blind spot of democratic theory precedes its object and yet penetrates it down to its finest capillaries: a social division of labor that arose on the basis of modern capitalism and assigns each member of society a place in the structure of social reproduction, determining his or her scope of influence and options for participation in the process of democratic decision-making. The task of the Benjamin Lectures is to investigate the connection between democracy and the social division of labor. We will examine (I) which normative connection exists between the goal of civic participation in democratic decision-making and social labor, (II) what is the actual distribution of social labor today, and finally, (III) what possibilities seem feasible today for eliminating existing disadvantages.
The lectures took place in Berlin at the open-air cinema Hasenheide.
Friday, June 18th, 2021
Lecture 3: Der Kampf um die gesellschaftliche Arbeit
Commentary: Andrea Komlosy (Universität Wien)