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Jürgen Habermas’ The Structural Transformation Of The Public Sphere

2229 words - 9 pages

In this essay I will discuss Jürgen Habermas’ “The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: Inquiry into a category of bourgeois society” (1962), and the ideas presented surrounding the public sphere. What I will investigate is whether or not the post-modern phenomenon of new media (e.g. the internet) could in fact present a new-wave of public sphere, or is just another platform for mass-media. I will also explore the public sphere model, and discuss its decline (due to either political or economic reasons). I will look in particular at the 21st Century, and the evidence of a possible public sphere in the modern day, as well as the factors which could have extinguished the public sphere in the early part of the 20th Century, not just looking to Habermas’ philosophy but also other social commentators like Noam Chomsky & Del Sola Poole.

The “Public Sphere” (Habermas 1962) is a term coined by German sociologist and philosopher Jürgen Habermas, as he believes, the public sphere social structure directly proceeded feudalism in European society. It comes from the two separate factors of the “public” ( referring to public authority – the state) and the “private”(referring to the idea of economy, society and the family) coming together for rational critical debate about the world around them. Habermas believes that this was initially started with the “literary public sphere” which allowed people of all social standing to discuss art and literature, usually in public places like coffee houses and salons. From this branched the political public sphere, where private people (not working for the government, or influenced by it) came together to use reason critically and analysed (and often opposed) ideas present in government. What it is believed the public sphere did for society is managed to curb the dominance of government and monitored the liberties taken with power. The public sphere, by definition, was inclusive...however much of the participation in debate depended on an individual’s education or qualification as property owner, who could therefore be seen as someone invested in the society in which they are critiquing. It was a way for “civil society” to articulate its interests, and in order to protect it the Bourgeois constitutional state formed to link the sphere to law, guaranteeing citizens rights, which established the public sphere as a public institution and paving the way for radical press (Atton 2002). The state did this in order to abolish the idea of them being a dominating force, therefore linking law to rational debate. Habermas believed that despite 18th and 19th Century writers did not acknowledge the public sphere happening around them, they still used it in order to pass a social commentary, his main example being Karl Marx, who despite not believing any public platform for expressing ideas existed in his work- he used the platform itself to critique the society he lived in. Important to remember is that Habermas used...

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