Seyla Benhabib Interview


Seyla Benhabib interviewed by Karin Wahl-Jorgensen:

Seyla Benhabib: Political philosophy has been my first orientation in philosophy for a very long time. What motivated this was primarily the fact that I’m the generation of the student movement. And the kinds of questions that we seemed to be asking in ’68 led to a certain intellectual orientation. Thirty years ago (1977) I wrote my dissertation on Hegel’s political philosophy, on a comparison of his concept of right with the natural rights tradition. Before that, my senior thesis was on Hobbes. So this is a long standing concern and interest. Of course, over the years one evolves and changes. The most important recent shift came around mid-90s after I started working more empirically on questions of multiculturalism, citizenship and immigration within the European Union. I took a more institutionalist and empirical turn by beginning to look at some concrete discussions. Immersing myself in the new literature about European Union, immigration and women’s rights, I had a feeling that to be able to do the political philosophy of the present as opposed to studying the history of political thought. One had to come to grips with the society around one and with the transformations that were taking place in the current moment. 

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