Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Habermas on the structural transformation of the public sphere


The public sphere:

* where public will and opinion can be formed
* acting neither as commercial parties, nor as state instruments
* political public sphere forms when public discussions concern practices of state
* coercive power of state is its counterpart; state publicness is due to its function of providing for the common good of all legal consociates, in principle unconnected with the public sphere (cf. Hobbes)

The public sphere emerges as a concept in the 18th Century. Cf. Scottish enlightenment, civil society.

Here is an institutionally protected public (civil rights, bourgeois revolutions against absolutism). The thematization of political power develops by virtue of a specific constellation of interests.


High middle ages --> status of feudal lord is "a-public"; but the person possessing it represents it publicly. Represents himself as an embodiment of a higher power.

Representative publicness different from "representing interests" or constituents or even the common good.

Cf. Leviathan??

The feudal powers (church, prince, nobility) "are" the land; they represent authority before the people rather than for them.

Cf. Parker, Hobbes, Skinner. Schmitt. Cf. Austin's performative: two pope = infelicity.

Polarized by the end of the 18th Century into public and private aspects.

With the Reformation the tie to divine authority became a private matter.

Bourgeois society developed from occupational groups.

Permanent administration, standing army, permanence of relations, settled in stock market and press. Public power tangibly confronts those originally defined negatively by it, the "private" (cf. privative) persons.

Private persons subsumed publicness under the state form --> highes legally underived power, identtical with legitimate use of force.

Society a matter of public interest inasmuch as the rise of market economy transfers material and living reproduction from the exclusive domain of private domestic power.

Discussion of privatised but publicly relevan action (esp. exchange).

French revolution --> 3rd estate breaks with monarchical mediatization of power. Bourgeois are private; they do not rule. Their opposition to public power is not against de facto concentration in which they deserve shares, but against the principle of public power. Publicness as a principle of control is oriented to a qualitative [emancipatory?] shift, not a glorified cabinet reshuffle.

First modern constitutions: society -> sphere of private autonomy. Public sphere of citizens, convert political authority to rational authority. Then the state level. Cf. Montesqieu.

Second half the 18th century: literary journalism, not yet the medium of consumer culture. In Paris in 1848, 200 political papers were founded between February and May. Cf. blog.

1830s -- press of viewpoints begins to transform into a commercial press.

Public sphere in mass welfare state democracies:

(Cf. Horkheimer) --> liberal model of public sphere still normatively instructive.

Public lost exclusivity, "convivial social intercourse" and relatively high standard of education (and perhaps increasingly its Other, women?).

Public spheres now mediate unmarketizable group needs in strategic confrontation.

Laws correspond to compromises between interests, not consensus.

Refeudalization --> large-scale organisations compete. Corporatism only pauses to secure plebiscitarian approval. Publicity is the systems colonised face of publicness.

Publicness thus is sabotaged by non-linguistic steering media, and how it acquires public prestige for things and persons is determined in a climate of nonpublic opinion.

Public sphere does not emerge from society but is constructed and amended case-by-case.

However, welfare state transforms operations of rights. Requirement of publicness extended to all organisations acting in relation to the state. Extent realised --> public of private persons (broken) replaced by pubic of organised persons.

Public sphere once rationalised authority in the medium of exclusive public discussion is disintegrating.

Could only be realised today as rationalization of the exercise of social and political power under control of rival organisations committed to publicness in their internal structure and dealings with state and one-another.