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The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society Paperback – 16 Jul 1992
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′Why is this such a vital study? Its significance rests in its analysis of one of the central notions on which both our political life and our political theories rest: ′public opinion′. Presidential candidates worry about it, the press talks about it, political scientists try to measure it, but Habermas is one of the few people to have actually sat down and tried to think about it, to ask what it means to have an ′opinion′ that is not private, not idiosyncratic, but rather ′public′.′
James Schmidt, Boston University
From the Back Cover
This major work retraces the emergence and development of the Bourgeois public sphere – that is, a sphere which was distinct from the state and in which citizens could discuss issues of general interest. In analysing the historical transformations of this sphere, Habermas recovers a concept which is of crucial significance for current debates in social and political theory.
Habermas focuses on the liberal notion of the bourgeois public sphere as it emerged in Europe in the early modern period. He examines both the writings of political theorists, including Marx, Mill and de Tocqueville, and the specific institutions and social forms in which the public sphere was realized.
This brilliant and influential work has been widely recognized for many years as a classic of contemporary social and political thought, of interest to students and scholars throughout the social sciences and humanities.See all Product description
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So, I love Habermas. This books is the English translation of his habilitatzionschrift, which made him a full professor in the German system. Now, Germans appear to have the idea that to write clearly betrays a small mind, so Habermas says as far away from clarity as possible. As a result this book is quite unreadable. Or rather, it mostly makes no sense, and when it does make sense, it is mostly wrong or highly contentious, and Habermas sticks to the traditional German philosophical disdain for the facts. While this is a purported historical argument, I have absolutely no faith in its accuracy, mostly because Habermas' arguments are generally interpretive and very difficult to pin down.
Habermas' major thesis is surely wrong. He argues that in the Enlightenment there was a real sphere of public discourse between civil society and the state, and in modern times, this discourse is captured by special interests and turned to the advantage of special interest groups. Where there once was discourse, there is now just spinning the news, with no attempt to seek truth. I think the facts are exactly the opposite. We live in an information age where the fraction of the population that is educated and aware of social issues larger then ever before. We may see in the future a return to totalitarianism, but it will never win out in the arena of popular political opinion.
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