Public Sphere - Habermas
The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article (1964)
Jürgen Habermas; Sara Lennox; Frank Lennox
New German Critique, No. 3. (Autumn, 1974), pp. 49-55.
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Wed Oct 31 04:13:52 2007
The Public Sbhere: *
An Encyclopedia Article 1964)
by Jurgen Habermas
1 . The Concept. By "the public sphere" we mean first of all a realm of our
social life in which something approaching public opinion can be formed.
Access is guaranteed to all citizens. A portion of the public sphere comes
into being in every conversation in which private individuals assemble to
form a public body.' They then behave neither like business or professional
people transacting private affairs, nor like members of a constitutional order
subject to the legal constraints of a state bureaucracy. Citizens behave as a
public body when they confer in an unrestricted fashion-that is, with the
guarantee of freedom of assembly and association and the freedom to
express and publish their opinions-about matters of general interest. In a
large public body this kind of communication requires specific means for
transmitting information and influencing those who receive it. Today
newspapers and magazines, radio and television are the media of the public
sphere. We speak of the political public sphere in contrast, for instance, to
the literary one, when public discussion deals with objects connected to the
activity of the state. Although state authority is so to speak the executor of
the political public sphere, it is not a part of it.2 T o be sure, state authority
is usually considered "public" authority, but it derives its task of caring for
the well-being of all citizens primarily from this aspect of the public sphere.
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 institutionalized influence over the
government through the instrument of law-making bodies. The expression
"public opinion" refers to the tasks of criticism and control which a public
body of citizens informally-and, in periodic elections, formally as well-
the ruling structure organized in the form of a state.
practices &-d-vis (Publizittitsvor-
Regulations demanding that certain proceedings be public
* Staat Politik,
Originally appeared in Fischer Lexicon, new edition (Frankfurt am
Habermas' concept of the public sphere is not to be equated with that of "the public,"
i.e. of the individuals who assemble. His concept is directed instead at the institution, which to
be sure only assumes concrete form through the participation of people. It cannot, however, be
characterized simply as a crowd. (This and the following notes by Peter Hohendahl.)
The state and the public sphere do not overlap, as one might suppose from casual
language use. Rather they confront one another as opponents. Habermas designates that sphere
as public which antiquity understood to be private, i.e. the sphere of non-governmental opinion
schrgten), for example those providing for open court hearings, are also
related to this function of public opinion. The public sphere as a sphere
which mediates between society and state, in which the public organizes
itself as the bearer or public opinion, accords with the principle of the
-that principle of public information which once had to be
fought for against the arcane policies of monarchies and which since that
time has made possible the democratic control of state activities.
It is no coincidence that these concepts of the public sphere and public
opinion arose for the first time only in the eighteenth century. They acquire
their specific meaning from a concrete historical situation. It was at that
publique" and "public
time that the distinction of "opinion" from "opinion
opinion" came about. Though mere opinions (cultural assumptions,
normative attitudes, collective prejudices and values) seem persist
unchanged in their natural form as a kind of sediment of history, public
opinion can by definition only come into existence when a reasoning public
is presupposed. Public discussions about the exercise of political power
which are both critical in intent and institutionally guaranteed have not
existed- they grew out of a specific phase of bourgeois society and
could enter into the order of the bourgeois constitutional state only as a
result of a particular constellation of interests.
2. There is no indication European society of the high middle ages
possessed a public sphere as a unique realm distinct from the private sphere.
Nevertheless, it was not coincidental that during that period symbols of
sovereignty, for instance the princely seal, were deemed "public." At that
time there existed a public representation of power. The status of the feudal
lord, at whatever level of the feudal pyramid, was oblivious to the categories
"public" and "private," but the holder of the position represented it
publicly: he showed himself, presented himself as the embodiment of an
ever present "higher" power. The concept of this representation has been
maintained up to the most recent constitutional history. Regardless of the
degree to which it has loosed itself from the old base, the authority of
political power today still demands a representation at the highest level by a
head of state. Such elements, however, derive from a pre-bourgeois social
The principle of the public sphere could still be distinguished from an institution which
is demonstrable in social history. Habermas thus would mean a model of norms and modes of
of which the very functioning of public opinion can be guaranteed for the
behavior by means
first time. These norms and modes of behavior include: a) general accessibility, b) elimination
of all privileges and c) discovery of general norms and rational legitimations.
+1 anno fa
I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher Atreyu di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Analisi dell'opinione pubblica e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Milano - Unimi o del prof Barisone Mauro.
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