Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award (SZBA) at the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre has announced that German philosopher and sociologist Jürgen Habermas has been named ‘Cultural Personality of the Year’ for 2021, in recognition of a long career that extends for more than half a century.
Habermas has made invaluable and profound contributions to the study and development of philosophy which have enriched numerous disciplines, including communication and cultural studies, moral theory, linguistics, literary theory, political sciences, religious studies, theology, sociology, and democratic theory.
The Award acknowledges Habermas as “one of the most influential philosophers of the world” and as a pioneer of critical theory, as well as recognising the reputation Habermas enjoys as a mentor for many theorists in political sociology, social theory, and social philosophy.
‘Cultural Personality of the Year’ is one of the most important categories at SZBA, as it honours a prominent Arab or international figure, or organisation, for their contribution to the advancement of Arabic culture while embodying tolerance and promoting peaceful coexistence through their work. The award has so far been presented to 14 personalities and organisations from 11 countries around the world.
HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi, said: “Since its inception, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award at the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre has sought to honour the pioneers of thought, literature and culture from around the globe, and today it celebrates the career of one of the most influential philosophers and sociologists in the modern world. Jürgen Habermas is a notable figure in contemporary German philosophy and his work has influenced the humanities field, helping to establish dialogue and understanding between civilisations, strengthening the values of tolerance and coexistence, all of which is consistent with the long-term vision of the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi.”
Jürgen Habermas is a notable figure in contemporary German philosophy and his work has influenced the humanities field, helping to establish dialogue and understanding between civilisations, strengthening the values of tolerance and coexistence, all of which is consistent with the long-term vision of the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu DhabiMohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi
HE Dr. Ali bin Tamim, Secretary General of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, congratulated the winner and said: “Rarely do we find prominent figures in the philosophical, cultural and intellectual field like Jürgen Habermas. His career has been full of accomplishments and distinguished works, which have made him the most present and influential voice in German cultural life for more than 50 years. Him being named Cultural Personality of the Year is a fitting affirmation of the excellence of his career and significant philosophical works, which have influenced international culture, including Arabic.
“This award also acknowledges the strength of the cultural ties between the Arab world and Germany, which will be Guest of Honour at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair for two consecutive editions, with Abu Dhabi hosting many cultural events that will celebrate these ties whilst showcasing the cultural exchange between the Arabic and German cultures.”
Born in 1929, Jürgen Habermas is a pioneer of critical theory, both political and philosophical, and was described by the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy as “one of the most influential philosophers in the world”. He also emerged as a general thinker discussing important and fundamental issues in German newspapers.
Habermas is ideologically classified as a scholar of the Frankfurt School of social philosophy and critical theory, which rose to prominence in the period between World Wars I and II. The School has claim to the intellectual output and theory of various Marxist, Hegelian and Freudian intellectuals. Haberman is a second-generation scholar of the Frankfurt School, following the first generation of its founders, which includes names such as Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse.
Bridging Continental and Anglo-American traditions of thought, Habermas influenced philosophy, political-legal thought, sociology, communication studies, argumentation theory and rhetoric, developmental psychology and theology. His work is distinguished by two broad lines of enduring interest, one having to do with the political domain, the other with issues of rationality, communication, and knowledge.
Habermas is renowned for his theory on communicative rationality, arguing that communication is the way to a modern, rational society built on dialogue and mutual understanding. Therefore, his philosophy was focussed in more than one way on issues of importance to humans in the modern age, such as individuality, control mechanisms, the delusions of freedom in postmodernism, and how man can break free from institutions that, as a matter of course, crush the human spirit. His dissertation ‘Critical Theory without Dominance’ remains his most notable and influential work, in which the German philosopher asserts that communicative action cannot be genuinely and rationally legitimised except through critical theory that is devoid of prejudices, barriers and constraints. Habermas also considers that institutional frameworks are necessary to facilitate meaningful, intercultural dialogue and understanding.
Habermas has written many books and studies, some of which were translated into Arabic, which reflects his presence and deep influence, including:
1- Al Qawl Al Falsafy Lel Hadatah (Philosophical Discourse of Modernity), translated by Fatema Al Jayouchi, Ministry of Culture, Damascus, 1995.
2- Al Falsafah Al Almanyah wa Al Tasawof Al Yahoudy (German philosophy of Jewish Sufism), translated by Natheer Nahel, Arab cultural Club 1995.
3- Al Maarefah wa Al Maslaha (Knowledge and Human Interests), translated by Hassan Saqr, Manshorat Al Jamal 2001.
4- Al Hadatah wa Khetaboha Al Siyasi (Modernity and Political Discourse), translated by George Tamer, Dar An-Nahar 2002.
5- Al Elem wa Al Taqnyah Kaydologia (Science and Technology as Ideology) translated by Hassan Saqr, Manshorat Al Jamal 2003.
6- Mostaqbal Al Tabe’ah Al Insanyah Nahwa Nesalah Libraryah (The future of human nature towards a liberal phylogeny), translated by George Katourah, Bibliothèque Orientale 2006.
7- Baad Marx (Post-Marxism), translated by Mohammad Milad, Damascus, Dar Al Hiwar, 2002.
8- Al Elem wa Al Taqnyah Kaydologia (Science and Technology as Ideology) translated by Ali Mawla, Beirut, Manshorat Al Jamal 2011.
9- Al khlaq wa Al Tawsol (Ethics and Communication), supervision: Ahmad Abdel Halim Attyah, Al Maktaba Al Falsafyah, Dar Al Tanweer Publishung and Distribution, Beirut – Lebanon, 2012.
10- Itikya Al Monaqashah wa Masa’alt Al haqeqa (Attica of discussion the question of truth), translated by Omar Mohabel, Beirut, Arab Scientific Publishers, 2010.
In addition to the numerous translations that reveal an aspect of receptivity, many researchers and scholars have discussed his philosophy. There is also extensive Arab scholarly research on him that discusses aspects of his philosophy in this context, in addition to several studies that dealt with Habermas in the context of the Frankfurt School – for example, but not limited to:
1- Abdel Ghaffar Mekkawi, The Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School, Introduction and Critical Commentary, Cairo, Hendawy Foundation 2017
2- Phil Slater, The Frankfurt School, its origins and objectives, a Marxist viewpoint, translated by Khalil Kalfat, the National Centre for Translation
3- Kamal Bomener, Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School, Arab Science House, 2010
Winners of the 15th edition of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award will be honoured in a virtual awards ceremony to be held alongside the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair in May, when the recipient of the ‘Cultural Personality of the Year’ will be presented with a gold medal and a certificate of merit, as well as a prize of AED 1 million. Winners of other categories will each receive a gold medal, a certificate of merit and a prize of AED 750,000.
For more details about the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, please visit: https://www.zayedaward.ae/en