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For more details on this topic, see "public sphere.

In "The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere Habermas argues that prior to the 18th century, European culture had been dominated by a "representational" culture, where one party sought to "represent" itself on its audience by overwhelming its subjects.[14] As an example of "representational" culture, Habermas argued that "Louis XIV's "Palace of Versailles was meant to show the greatness of the French state and its King by overpowering the senses of visitors to the Palace.[14] Habermas identifies "representational" culture as corresponding to the feudal stage of development according to Marxist theory, arguing that the coming of the capitalist stage of development marked the appearance of Öffentlichkeit (the public sphere).[15] In the culture characterized by Öffentlichkeit, there occurred a public space outside of the control by the state, where individuals exchanged views and knowledge.[16]

In Habermas's view, the growth in "newspapers, "journals, reading clubs, "Masonic lodges, and "coffeehouses in 18th-century Europe, all in different ways, marked the gradual replacement of "representational" culture with Öffentlichkeit culture.[16] Habermas argued that the essential characteristic of the Öffentlichkeit culture was its "critical" nature.[16] Unlike "representational" culture where only one party was active and the other passive, the Öffentlichkeit culture was characterized by a dialogue as individuals either met in conversation, or exchanged views via the print media.[16] Habermas maintains that as Britain was the most liberal country in Europe, the culture of the public sphere emerged there first around 1700, and the growth of Öffentlichkeit culture took place over most of the 18th century in Continental Europe.[16] In his view, the "French Revolution was in large part caused by the collapse of "representational" culture, and its replacement by Öffentlichkeit culture.[16] Though Habermas' main concern in The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere was to expose what he regarded as the deceptive nature of free institutions in the West, his book had a major effect on the historiography of the French Revolution.[15]

According to Habermas, a variety of factors resulted in the eventual decay of the public sphere, including the growth of a "commercial "mass media, which turned the critical public into a passive consumer public; and the welfare state, which merged the state with society so thoroughly that the public sphere was squeezed out. It also turned the "public sphere" into a site of self-interested contestation for the resources of the state rather than a space for the development of a public-minded "rational consensus.

His most known work to date, the "Theory of Communicative Action (1981), is based on an adaptation of Talcott Parsons "AGIL Paradigm. In this work, Habermas voiced criticism of the process of modernization, which he saw as inflexible direction forced through by economic and administrative rationalization.[17] Habermas outlined how our everyday lives are penetrated by formal systems as parallel to development of the "welfare state, "corporate capitalism and "mass consumption.[17] These reinforcing trends rationalize public life.[17] Disfranchisement of citizens occurs as political parties and interest groups become rationalized and "representative democracy replaces "participatory one.[17] In consequence, boundaries between public and private, the individual and society, the system and the lifeworld are deteriorating.[17] Democratic public life cannot develop where matters of public importance are not discussed by citizens.[18] An ""ideal speech situation"[19] requires participants to have the same capacities of discourse, social equality and their words are not confused by ideology or other errors.[18] In this version of the "consensus theory of truth Habermas maintains that truth is what would be agreed upon in an ideal speech situation.

Habermas has expressed optimism about the possibility of the revival of the public sphere.[20] He discerns a hope for the future where the representative democracy-reliant "nation-state is replaced by a "deliberative democracy-reliant political organism based on the equal rights and obligations of citizens.[20] In such direct democracy-driven system, the activist public sphere is needed for debates on matters of public importance and as well as the mechanism for that discussion to affect the "decision-making process.

Several noted academics have provided various criticisms of Habermas's notions regarding the public sphere. "John B. Thompson, a Professor of Sociology at the "University of Cambridge and a fellow of Jesus College,[21] has pointed out that Habermas's notion of the public sphere is antiquated due to the proliferation of mass-media communications. "Michael Schudson from the "University of California, San Diego argues more generally that a public sphere as a place of purely rational independent "debate never existed.["citation needed] "Nancy Fraser, the Henry A. and Louise Loeb Professor of Political and Social Science and professor of philosophy at "The New School in "New York City,[22] is a noted feminist critic of Habermas' work on the public sphere, arguing for the existence of multiple spheres and counterpublics.

Habermas versus postmodernists[edit]

Habermas offered some early criticisms in an essay, "Modernity versus Postmodernity" (1981), which has achieved wide recognition. In that essay, Habermas raises the issue of whether, in light of the failures of the twentieth century, we "should try to hold on to the intentions of the Enlightenment, feeble as they may be, or should we declare the entire project of modernity a lost cause?"[23] Habermas refuses to give up on the possibility of a rational, "scientific" understanding of the life-world.

Habermas has several main criticisms of "postmodernism:

  1. The postmodernists are equivocal about whether they are producing serious theory or literature;
  2. Habermas feels that the postmodernists are animated by normative sentiments but the nature of those sentiments remains concealed from the reader;
  3. Habermas accuses postmodernism of a totalizing perspective that fails "to differentiate phenomena and practices that occur within modern society";[23]
  4. Habermas asserts that postmodernists ignore that which Habermas finds absolutely central – namely, everyday life and its practices.

Key dialogues[edit]

Historikerstreit (Historians' Quarrel)[edit]


Habermas is famous as a "public intellectual as well as a scholar; most notably, in the 1980s he used the "popular press to attack the German historians "Ernst Nolte, "Michael Stürmer, "Klaus Hildebrand and "Andreas Hillgruber. Habermas first expressed his views on the above-mentioned historians in the "Die Zeit on 11 July 1986 in a "feuilleton (culture and arts section in German newspapers) entitled "A Kind of Settlement of Damages". Habermas criticized Nolte, Hildebrand, Stürmer and Hillgruber for "apologistic" history writing in regard to the Nazi era, and for seeking to "close Germany's opening to the West" that in Habermas's view had existed since 1945.[24]

Habermas argued that they had tried to detach Nazi rule and the "Holocaust from the mainstream of "German history, explain away Nazism as a reaction to "Bolshevism, and partially rehabilitate the reputation of the "Wehrmacht (German Army) during "World War II. Habermas wrote that Stürmer was trying to create a "vicarious religion" in German history which, together with the work of Hillgruber, glorifying the last days of the German Army on the Eastern Front, was intended to serve as a "kind of NATO philosophy colored with German nationalism"[25] The so-called Historikerstreit ("Historians' Quarrel") was not at all one-sided, because Habermas was himself attacked by scholars like "Joachim Fest,[26] "Hagen Schulze,[27] Horst Möller,[28] "Imanuel Geiss[29] and Klaus Hildebrand.[30] In turn, Habermas was supported by historians such as "Martin Broszat,[31] "Eberhard Jäckel,[32] "Hans Mommsen[33] and "Hans-Ulrich Wehler.[34]

Habermas and Derrida[edit]

Habermas and "Jacques Derrida engaged in a series of disputes beginning in the 1980s and culminating in a mutual understanding and friendship in the late 1990s that lasted until Derrida died in 2004.[35] They originally came in contact when Habermas invited Derrida to speak at The University of Frankfurt in 1984. The next year Habermas published "Beyond a Temporalized Philosophy of Origins: Derrida" in "The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity in which he described Derrida's method as being unable to provide a foundation for social critique.[36] Derrida, citing Habermas as an example, remarked that, "those who have accused me of reducing philosophy to literature or logic to rhetoric [...] have visibly and carefully avoided reading me".[37] After Derrida's final rebuttal in 1989 the two philosophers did not continue, but, as Derrida described it, groups in the academy "conducted a kind of 'war', in which we ourselves never took part, either personally or directly".[35]

At the end of the 1990s, Habermas approached Derrida at a party held at an American university where both were lecturing. They then met at Paris over dinner, and participated afterwards in many joint projects. In 2000 they held a joint seminar on problems of philosophy, right, ethics, and politics at the University of Frankfurt.[35] In December 2000, in Paris, Habermas gave a lecture entitled "How to answer the ethical question?" at the Judeities. Questions for Jacques Derrida conference organized by Joseph Cohen and Raphael Zagury-Orly. Following the lecture by Habermas, both thinkers engaged in a very heated debate on Heidegger and the possibility of Ethics. The conference volume was published at the Editions Galilée (Paris) in 2002, and subsequently in English at Fordham University Press (2007).

In the aftermath of "the September 11 attacks, Derrida and Habermas laid out their individual opinions on 9/11 and the "War on Terror in "Giovanna Borradori's Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida. In early 2003, both Habermas and Derrida were very active in opposing the coming "Iraq War; in a manifesto that later became the book "Old Europe, New Europe, Core Europe, the two called for a tighter unification of the states of the "European Union in order to create a power capable of opposing American foreign policy. Derrida wrote a foreword expressing his unqualified subscription to Habermas's declaration of February 2003 ("February 15, or, What Binds Europeans Together: Plea for a Common Foreign Policy, Beginning in Core Europe") in the book, which was a reaction to the "Bush administration's demands upon European nations for support in the coming Iraq War.[38] Habermas has offered further context for this declaration in an interview.

Religious dialogue[edit]

Habermas' attitudes toward religion have changed throughout the years. Analyst Phillippe Portier identifies three phases in Habermas' attitude towards this social sphere: the first, in the decade of 1980, when the younger Jürgen, in the spirit of Marx, argued against religion seeing it as an "alienating reality" and "control tool"; the second phase, from the mid-1980s to the beginning of the 21st Century, when he stopped discussing it and, as a secular commentator, relegated it to matters of private life; and the third, from then until now, when Habermas has recognized the positive social role of religion.[39]

In an interview in 1999 Habermas had stated:

For the normative self-understanding of modernity, "Christianity has functioned as more than just a precursor or catalyst. Universalistic "egalitarianism, from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life in solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of a continual critical reappropriation and reinterpretation. Up to this very day there is no alternative to it. And in light of the current challenges of a post-national constellation, we must draw sustenance now, as in the past, from this substance. Everything else is idle postmodern talk.[40][41][42][43]

The original German (from the Habermas Forum website) of the disputed quotation is, "Das Christentum ist für das normative Selbstverständnis der Moderne nicht nur eine Vorläufergestalt oder ein Katalysator gewesen. Der egalitäre Universalismus, aus dem die Ideen von Freiheit und solidarischem Zusammenleben, von autonomer Lebensführung und Emanzipation, von individueller Gewissensmoral, Menschenrechten und Demokratie entsprungen sind, ist unmittelbar ein Erbe der jüdischen Gerechtigkeits- und der christlichen Liebesethik. In der Substanz unverändert, ist dieses Erbe immer wieder kritisch angeeignet und neu interpretiert worden. Dazu gibt es bis heute keine Alternative. Auch angesichts der aktuellen Herausforderungen einer postnationalen Konstellation zehren wir nach wie vor von dieser Substanz. Alles andere ist postmodernes Gerede". From Jürgen Habermas - "Zeit der Übergänge" (Suhrkamp Verlag, 2001) p. 174f.

This statement has been misquoted in a number of articles and books, where Habermas instead is quoted for saying: "Christianity, and nothing else, is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilization. To this day, we have no other options. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter."[44]

In his book Zwischen Naturalismus und Religion (Between Naturalism and Religion, 2005), Habermas stated that the forces of religious strength, as a result of multiculturalism and immigration, are stronger than in previous decades, and, therefore, there is a need of tolerance which must be understood as a two-way street: "secular people need to "tolerate the role of religious people in the public square and vice versa;[45][46]

In early 2007, "Ignatius Press published a dialogue between Habermas and the then "Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the "Holy Office "Joseph Ratzinger (elected as "Pope Benedict XVI in 2005), entitled The Dialectics of Secularization. The dialogue took place on January 14, 2004 after an invitation to both thinkers by the Catholic Academy of Bavaria in Munich.[47] It addressed contemporary questions such as:

In this debate a shift of Habermas became evident—in particular, his rethinking of the public role of religion. Habermas stated that he wrote as a "methodological atheist," which means that when doing philosophy or social science, he presumed nothing about particular religious beliefs. Yet while writing from this perspective his evolving position towards the role of religion in society led him to some challenging questions, and as a result conceding some ground in his dialogue with the Pope, that would seem to have consequences which further complicated the positions he holds about a communicative rational solution to the problems of modernity. Habermas believes that even for self-identified "liberal thinkers, "to exclude religious voices from the public square is highly "illiberal."[48]

Though, in the first period of his career, he began as a skeptic of any social usefulness of religion, he now believes there is a social role and utilitarian "moral strength in religion, and notably, that there is a necessity of "Judeochristian ethics in culture.[49]

In addition, Habermas has popularized the concept of ""post-secular" society, to refer to current times in which the idea of modernity is perceived as unsuccessful and at times, morally failed, so that, rather than a stratification or separation, a new peaceful dialogue and coexistence between faith and reason must be sought in order to learn mutually.[50]

Socialist dialogue[edit]

Habermas has sided with other 20th commentators on Marx such as "Hannah Arendt who have indicated concerns with the limits of totalitarian perspectives often associated with Marx's apparent over-estimation of the emancipatory potential of the forces of production. Arendt had presented this in her book "The Origins of Totalitarianism and Habermas extends this critique in his writings on functional reductionism in the life-world in his "Lifeworld and System: A Critique of Functionalist Reason. As Habermas states:

"... traditional Marxist analysis ... today, when we use the means of the critique of political economy ... can no longer make clear predictions: for that, one would still have to assume the autonomy of a self-reproducing economic system. I do not believe in such an autonomy. Precisely for this reason, the laws governing the economic system are no longer identical to the ones Marx analyzed. Of course, this does not mean that it would be wrong to analyze the mechanism which drives the economic system; but in order for the orthodox version of such an analysis to be valid, the influence of the political system would have to be ignored.[10]


Major works[edit]

Jürgen Habermas bibliography

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Habermas". "Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  2. ^ Max Mangold and Dudenredaktion: Duden Aussprachewörterbuch. In: Der Duden in zwölf Bänden. Volume 6, 6th edition, Dudenverlag, Mannheim/Leipzig/Wien/Zürich 2005 "ISBN 978-3-411-04066-7, "Jürgen" p. 446 and "Habermas" p. 383.
  3. ^ Serena Kutchinsky (23 April 2014). "World thinkers 2014: The results". Prospect Magazine. 12. Jürgen Habermas, philosopher 
  4. ^ Clifford, Stacy, Disabling Democracy: How Disability Reconfigures Deliberative Democratic Norms (2009). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper.
  5. ^ Habermas, Jurgen. 2008. Between Naturalism and Religion: Philosophical Essays.
  6. ^ Craig J. Calhoun, Contemporary Sociological Theory, Wiley-Blackwell, 2002, p. 352. "ISBN 0-631-21350-3.
  7. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter H" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  8. ^ Public space and political public sphere (pp. 2–4).
  9. ^ "The most cited authors of books in the humanities". timeshighereducation.co.uk. 2009-03-26. Retrieved 2009-11-16. 
  10. ^ a b c Habermas, Jurgen (1981), Kleine Politische Schrifen I-IV, pp. 500f.
  11. ^ Müller-Doohm, Stefan. Jürgen Habermas. Frankfurt, Suhrkamp, 2008 (Suhrkamp BasisBiographie, 38).
  12. ^ a b Calhoun (2002), p. 351.
  13. ^ Corchia, Luca (1 September 2008), "Explicative models of complexity. The reconstructions of social evolution for Jürgen Habermas", in Balbi, S; Scepi, G; Russolillo, G; et al., Book of Short Abstracts, 7th International Conference on Social Science Methodology – RC33 – Logic and Methodology in Sociology, Napoli, IT: Jovene Editore .
  14. ^ a b Blanning, T. C. W. The French Revolution Class War or Culture Clash?, New York: St. Martin's Press (1987), 2nd edition 1998, p. 26.
  15. ^ a b Blanning (1998), pp. 26–27.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Blanning (1998), p. 27.
  17. ^ a b c d e Calhoun (2002), p. 353.
  18. ^ a b Calhoun (2002), p. 354.
  19. ^ Payrow Shabani, Omid A. (2003). Democracy, Power and Legitimacy: The Critical Theory of Jürgen Habermas. University of Toronto Press. p. 49. "ISBN "0-8020-8761-2. 
  20. ^ a b Calhoun (2002), p. 355.
  21. ^ Jesus College website
  22. ^ The New School faculty page
  23. ^ a b Ritzer, George, Sociological Theory, From Modern to Postmodern Social Theory (and Beyond), McGraw-Hill Higher Education, New York, New York, 2008, pp. 567–568.
  24. ^ Habermas, Jürgen, "A Kind of Settlement of Damages On Apologetic Tendencies In German History Writing", pp. 34–44 from Forever In the Shadow of Hitler? ed. Ernst Piper, Humanities Press, Atlantic Highlands, 1993, p. 43.
  25. ^ Habermas,Jürgen "A Kind of Settlement of Damages" pp. 34–44 from Forever In The Shadow of Hitler? ed. Piper (1993), pp. 42–43.
  26. ^ Fest, Joachim, "Encumbered Remembrance: The Controversy about the Incomparability of National-Socialist Mass Crimes", pp. 63–71 & "Postscript, April 21, 1987", pp. 264–265 from Forever In The Shadow of Hitler? ed. Piper (1993), pp. 64–65.
  27. ^ Schulze, Hagen, "Questions We Have To Face: No Historical Stance without National Identity" pp. 93–97 from Forever In The Shadow of Hitler? ed. Piper (1993), p. 94.
  28. ^ Möller, Horst, "What May Not Be, Cannot Be: A Plea for Rendering Factual the Controversy about Recent History", pp. 216–221, Forever In The Shadow of Hitler? ed. Piper (1993), pp. 216–218.
  29. ^ Geiss, Imanuel, "On the Historikerstreit", pp. 254–258 from Forever In The Shadow Of Hitler? ed. Piper (1993), p. 256.
  30. ^ Hildebrand, Klaus, "The Age of Tyrants: History and Politics The Administrators of the Enlightenment, the Risk of Scholarship and the Preservation of a Worldview A Reply to Jürgen Habermas", pp. 50–55, & "He Who Wants To Escape the Abyss Will Have Sound It Very Precisely: Is the New German History Writing Revisionist?" pp. 188–195 from Forever In The Shadow of Hitler? ed. Piper (1993).
  31. ^ Broszat, Martin, "Where the Roads Part: History Is Not A Suitable Substitute for a Religion of Nationalism", pp. 123–129, Forever In The Shadow of Hitler? ed. Piper (1993), p. 127.
  32. ^ Jäckel, Eberhard, "The Impoverished Practice of Insinuation: The Singular Aspect of National Socialist Crimes Cannot Be Denied", pp. 74–78 from Forever In The Shadow of Hitler? ed. Piper (1993), pp. 74–75.
  33. ^ Mommsen, Hans, "The New Historical Consciousness and the Relativizing of National Socialism", pp. 114–124 from Forever In The Shadow of Hitler? ed. Piper (1993), pp. 114–115.
  34. ^ Evans, Richard, In Hitler's Shadow, New York: Pantheon Books, 1989, pp. 159–160.
  35. ^ a b c "Derrida, J (2006), Lasse Thomassen, ed., "Honesty of Thought", The Derrida-Habermas Reader, Chicago Ill: "The University of Chicago Press, p. 302, "ISBN "9780226796833 
  36. ^ Thomassen, L. "Introduction: Between Deconstruction and Rational Reconstruction" in The Derrida-Habermas Reader, ed. Thomassen (2006), pp. 1–7. P.2.
  37. ^ Derrida, J., "Is There a Philosophical Language?" in The Derrida-Habermas Reader, ed. Thomassen (2006), pp. 35–45. P.37.
  38. ^ Habermas, J. and Derrida, J. "February 15, Or What Binds Europeans Together: A Plea for a Common Foreign Policy, beginning in the Core of Europe" in The Derrida-Habermas Reader, ed. Thomassen (2006), pp. 270–277. P. 302.
  39. ^ Sánchez, Rosalía. 2011. 'San' Jürgen Habermas. "El Mundo. Access date: January 10, 2015
  40. ^ Habermas, Jurgen, Religion and Rationality: Essays on Reason, God, and Modernity, ed. Eduardo Mendieta, MIT Press, 2002, p. 149. And Habermas, Jurgen, Time of Transitions, Polity Press, 2006, pp. 150–151.
  41. ^ First Principles Journal– Recovering the Western Soul, Wilfred M. McClay (from IR 42:1, Spring 2007) – 01/01/09. Accessed: 2 December 2012.
  42. ^ Secularization and Cultural Criticism: Religion, Nation, and Modernity, Vincent P. Pecora..
  43. ^ "Political Theory – Habermas and Rawls".
  44. ^ Ambrose Ih-Ren Mong. Dialogue Derailed: Joseph Ratzinger's War against Pluralist Theology. Wipf and Stock Publishers. p. 279
  45. ^ A “post-secular” society – what does that mean? by Jurgen Habermas, June 2008.
  46. ^ Espinosa., Javier. "The religion in the public sphere. Habermas, Toland and Spinoza" (PDF). Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-01-08. 
  47. ^ The Dialectics of Secularization
  48. ^ Pearson, Rodney. 2014. Tis the Season to Reveal What Atheists Really Want. AmericanThinker. Acces date: January 10th, 2015
  49. ^ ForumLibertas.com. 2006. Jürgen Habermas, pensador icono de la izquierda, reivindica el valor de la religión.
  50. ^ Buston, Fernando del. 2014. El Estado debe proteger a la religión. El Comercio. Date access: January 10, 2015: "Jürgen Habermas ha acuñado el término de postsecularidad. Se da por fallida la idea central de la modernidad de que la religión iba a desaparecer y se establece una nueva relación entre razón y religión. Habermas plantea que es necesario emprender un aprendizaje mutuo entre las sociedades modernas y las creencias, o entre razón secular y fe. Se inicia una nueva época de mutuas tolerancias. La razón no puede echar por la borda el potencial de sentido de las religiones y éstas deben traducir sus contenidos racionalmente."
  51. ^ "The future of democracy, with Jürgen Habermas". KNAW. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

A recent analysis which underscores the aesthetic power of intersubjective communication in Habermas's theory of communicative action.
A highly regarded interpretation in English of Habermas's earlier work, written just as Habermas was developing his full-fledged communication theory.
A clear account of Habermas' early philosophical views.
A recent, brief introduction to Habermas, focusing on his communication theory of society.
A recent and comprehensive introduction to Habermas' mature theory and its political implications both national and global.

External links[edit]

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