Tagged: Habermas

Debates and Approaches Reading Log Week 4

Week 4 Reading Log


Anna Curtis



Boeder, P. 2005, Habermas’ heritage: The future of the public sphere in the networked society, First Monday, Vol 10, Number 9, Sept 5


Boeder’s article explores the evolution of Habermas’ Public Sphere through the advancement of technology and the increasing access to information and to generate information within the Public Sphere by private individuals.  Boeder examines the theories of several different intellectuals in relation to news vs narrative, commoditisation and commercialism and our very notion of democracy when entering into the unchartered territory of the technological network age.


Boeder explores news media’s tendency toward public relations where managing consensus rather than providing an avenue to establish it has become priority.


Arguably the event of the internet should advance Habermas’ notion of the Public Sphere by providing a vehicle for private individuals to engage in public discourse, however in the early days of internet those with access where largely white, wealthy males and they were able to shape the discourse carried out. It would be interesting to follow up on the theorists Boeder has drawn on now to see what their evolving opinions are given the much greater accessibility to internet than in the mid 1990s.


Boeder argues that mass media requires the public to be active participants in the generation and distribution of information, decentralised ownership of the internet and access, and a discerning public. The public does have more ability to contribute than they did with traditional media, as we can see by the prominence of private individuals, via blogs who have catered to niche markets on a global scale and become social commentators.


Boeder addresses the global nature of communication in the modern day. He explores Hjarvard’s contention that global access does not result in a public sphere on a global level, but that rather the public sphere will no longer be a unitary concept but rather an amalgamation of sub-spheres.


Finally Boeder talks about our tendency to abstract technology from cultural meaning when it is a vital component in our capacity to generate cultural meaning.

Readings: The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article

Habermas, J 2009 ‘The Public Sphere: An Ancyclopedia Article’, in Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks, Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken, pp. 73-78

Habermas’ conception of the Public Sphere requires the following: (Normative claim. “Should” does not equal actual conditions or what “is”)

– Access to citizens

– Freedom of association

– Freedom of assembly

-Reasoning public — — — (the bourgeois public sphere)

-Media of communication

-The general interest.


“Only when the exercise of political control is effectively subordinated to the democratic demand that information be accessible to the public, does the political public sphere win an institutionalised influence over the government through the instrument of law-making bodies.” pp. 73

“Through mere opinions (cultural assumptions, normative attitudes, collective prejudices and values) seem to persist unchanged in their natural form as a kind of sediment of history, public opinion can by definition come into existence only when a reasoning public is presupposed.” – pp74


The historical context of Habermas’ public sphere was the emergence of the concept in society. And the distinction between society and state where society represents the private individuals and state the governing bodies.


“… the link to devine authority which the Church represented, that is, religion, became a private matter. So-called religious freedom came to insure what was historically the first area of private autonomy.” pp74

“Continuous activity now corresponded to the permanence of the relationships, which with the stock exchange and the press had developed within the exchange of commodities and information.” pp75

The Liberal Model of the Public Sphere

The liberal model was the institution of the concept into public life. Driven by the bourgeois class.


“Newspapers changed from mere institutions for the publication of news into bearers and leaders of public opinion…” pp76

“the press remained an institution of the public itself, effective in the manner of a mediator and intensifier of public discussion, no longer a mere organ for the spreading of news but not yet the medium of a consumer culture.” pp76

Public Sphere in the Social Welfare State Madd Democracy

Where the Public Sphere sort of works and sort of doesn’t. It has worked in that there is a “normative claim that information be accessible to the public” however the state still plays a role in determining the conditions of society without respect to the public sphere model of collective decision making.


Laws which obviously have come about under the “pressure of the street” can scarecly still be understood as arising from the consensus of private individuals engaged in public discussion.” pp77

“The very words “public relations work” betray the fact that a public sphere must first be arduously constructed case by case, a public sphere which earlier grew out of the social structure.” pp77

“The demand that information be accessible to the public is extended from organs of the state to all organisations dealing with the state/ To the degree that this is realised, a public body of organised private individuals would take the place of the now-defunct public body of private individuals who relate individually to each other.” pp78


Debates and Approaches Reading Log Week 2

Anna Curtis


Wednesday 4:30 Tutorial


Week 2


According to Habermas, what role did newspapers play in the emergence of the public sphere?


Habermas speaks about the public sphere and public opinion. For public opinion to come into being, a reasoning public is presupposed Public opinion is a vital component of the public sphere as it is the representation within the public sphere of citizens positioning within the public environment they live.


Because reasoned opinion is the key to public opinion it follows that the press and circulation of information plays a huge role in the formulation of public opinion and the public sphere. Habermas states that “the bourgeois public sphere could be understood as the sphere of private individuals assembled into a public body, which almost immediately laid claim to the officially regulated “intellectual newspapers” for use against the public authority itself.” Habermas indicates that newspapers and therefore the circulation of information allow for the public sphere (collection of private individuals) to promote debate and criticism of public authorities and rules of social intercourse.


Bucher stated that “Newspapers changed from mere institutions for the publication of news into bearers and leaders of public opinion… that [the editor] changed from a vendor of recent news to a dealer in public opinion.” The press acted as a representation of the public both mediating and driving public discussion.


Basically reasoned opinion relies on information to be formed and for a public to form opinions collectively access to information is vital. Newspapers allowed for this and by enabling public opinion, a public sphere was able to present itself.