Habermas and the Public Sphere

The German philosopher Jürgen Habermas is maybe the most acknowledged philosopher living today. He is considered to be the heir of the Frankfurt Institute of Social Research where he worked early in his academic career. His first book, which was also his habilitationsschrift (A post-doctoral work done to be recognized as a professor in Germany): The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere is widely discussed. In this paper he, in a Marxist tradition, discusses the rise and decay of the bourgeois public sphere, which arouse in the 17th Century and lasted until the end of the 19th century. Between the society of the feudal lords in the high Middle Ages and the mass society of Modern Times. The Bourgeois Public Sphere can be conceptualized as an abstract space between the realm of the private conjugal families and the realm of the state. Here men from the upper bourgeois strata would participate in a rational-critical debate where the best argument would be accepted as consensus in any matter concerning the state. In the 20th century this rational-debate has been replaced by public management, advertising and compromises made between groups outside the parliamentary arenas. The former citizens who constituted the state have become clients of the state and its bureaucracy and jungle of agencies, these clients are no longer a part of the political process, they are merely presented with the alternatives and have to choose between them. In the name of democracy. Another change is the professionalization of the press, beginning as a platform for meaning exchange as a continuation of the debates in the coffee houses it turned into an apparatus where news were produced as a commodity and sold. It also changed from being a myriad of many small newspapers to be a few gigantic conglomerates. There is much to be said to the public sphere, it has been widely discussed from many perspectives including linguistic, social scientific, juridical, historical, but the perspective I wanted to focus on in my paper was how this is altered by the emergence of digital media. Especially how politicians, parties and bloggers are using this platform to participate in the public debate.

Here are the slides for a short presentation I held at the Unraveling Narratives student conference held at the University of Edinburgh last year.

The public sphere 2.0

View more presentations from Ola Løvholm.
The picture is borrowed by Nic*Rad on Flickr. The picture is licensed under Creative Commons. Please refer to link for IP info.

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