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Do you consider that your work belongs to the field of "political theory", and why (not)? If so, what has drawn you to do political theory and to describe your work as belonging to the field?
I am a professor of "Political Theory and Philosophy", as my chair at Goethe-University Frankfurt is named, and I hope that I fit the bill. My training has been in philosophy, but I was always interested in its intersection with the social sciences and other areas such as law or history. Simply put, my main interest ever since I set a foot in a university has been in thinking through the normative as well as institutional questions of a (more) just society. I was lucky enough to have teachers such as my main advisor Jürgen Habermas, as well as Axel Honneth and Karl-Otto Apel, and, when I worked on my PhD wandering between the worlds of Frankfurt and Harvard, John Rawls and Tim Scanlon, who taught me to aim for a kind of political philosophy that rests on philosophically firm foundations but at the same time takes the methods and insights of other disciplines seriously. I learned this especially as part of Habermas's famous research group on legal and political theory, during my first jobs at the Otto-Suhr-Institute at Free University Berlin, in Frankfurt, at the New School for Social Research, and later when, together with great colleagues, I constructed a huge, interdisciplinary research centre in Frankfurt called "Normative Orders". That centre has taught me a lot—and still does.
To anticipate some of your other questions, political theory is a huge house with many rooms, and I tend to regard that as an asset rather than a liability…



  • Critical theory
  • noumenal power
  • justification
  • critical normativity
  • emancipation
Rainer Forst
Rainer Forst is Professor of Political Theory and Philosophy at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt and director of the Research Centre Normative Orders. In 2012, he received the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize of the German Research Foundation. He is a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the British Academy. He is the author of, among others, Contexts of Justice (University of California Press, 2002), Toleration in Conflict (Cambridge University Press, 2013), The Right to Justification (Columbia University Press, 2014), Justification and Critique (Polity Press, 2014), Normativity and Power (Oxford University Press, 2017) and Die noumenale Republik (Suhrkamp, 2021).
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