Jurgen Habermas is well known for his scholarly writings on the theoretical foundations of the human sciences. The New Conservatism brings to light another side of Habermas's work, showing him to be an incisive commentator on a wide range of contemporary themes. The 1980s have been a crucial decade in the political life of Western democracies in general, and of the Federal Republic of Germany in particular. The transformations that accompanied a shift from 13 years of Social democratic rule in Germany to government by the conservative Christian Democrats are captured in this series of insightful, often passionate political and cultural commentaries. The central theme uniting the essays is the German problem of 'coming to terms within the past,' a problem that has important implications outside Germany as well. Of particular note are the essays on what has come to be known as the Historian's Debate: Habermas's attack on the revisionist German historians who have been trying to trivialize and "normalize" the history of the Nazi period, and his defence of the need for a realistic and discriminating approach to the Nazi period and its legacy.
Habermas also takes up the recent debate concerning Martin Heidegger's involvement with Nazism and the rise of the neoconservative movement in Europe and America. In particular, the essay on The New Obscurity combines Habermas's analysis of the problems of the welfare state with his suggestions for avenues open to utopian impulses today.