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The Problem of Difference in Jrgen Habermas Offentlichkeit: Towards a Politics of Public Credibility

A Thesis Submitted to Faculty of Arts and Letters University of Santo Tomas

In Partial Fulfillment Of the requirements for the degree, Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy



This research is a critical analysis of Habermas Theory of the Public and its associated legitimation problems at the backdrop of communicative reason and deliberative models. It examines Habermas notion of the public with a view to proposing an alternative conception that is able to encompass the structural, institutional, and cultural levels of analysis in a more consistent and coherent way. More specifically, in going beyond the simple state-non-state distinction as the defining basis of the public, it has attempted to establish the claim that the category of citizenship is central to the definition as well as operation of the public sphere; conceptualized the public sphere as a sphere of the public in terms of the distinctive institutional and cultural property of publicness; and introduced a theory of politics of public credibility to capture the cultural and political dynamics of the public sphere. It concludes that the banal problem of difference in Strukturwandel der ffentlichkeit could be solved by expanding the traditional notion of the public as a sphere that must straddle the domains of openness and secrecy.

Keywords: Habermas, inclusion, public sphere, discursive theory, civil society

for my mother, Eden Cata Dayoan Pangilinan

Table of Contents
Title Page Abstract Dedication Table of Contents List of Abbreviations 1 2 3 4 7

Chapter I: The Problem

A. Introductory Statement B. Statement of the Problem C. Significance of the Study D. Scope and Limitations E. Definition of Terms F. Review of Related Literatures G. Research Methodology

Chapter II: The Development of the Notion of the Public Sphere


A. Historical Sketch of the Public and Private Spheres 1. The Function of History in Habermas ffentlichkeit 2. Eighteenth-Century Bourgeois Public Sphere 3. The Development of Communication Systems in Early Modern Europe and the Rise of the Press 4. Wars and the Rise of a Political Public Sphere

5. Different Circles of Public Political Communication

B. Habermas Concept of the Public Sphere 1. Media as a Public Debate Forum a. Public Service Broadcasting b. Television Debate c. Internet

C. Discursive Theory as a Model of Habermas Public Sphere

D. Private/Public Distinction

Chapter III: The Problem of Difference in Habermas Notion of the Public Sphere 97

A. The Private-Public Distinction: A Double Layered Conceptualization B. The Hidden Public-Mass Distinction C. Under-theorizing the Notion of Openness D. The State-Civil Society Nexus

Chapter IV: Reconstruction of Habermas Public-Private Distinction: Towards a Politics of Public Credibility 125

A. Boundary Politics in the Public Sphere: Openness, Secrecy, and Leak B. The Public as a Site of Convergence/Divergence between Democratic

and Communal Discourses C. Inclusion and Abstraction: Towards Public Credibility 1. The Plurality of Forms of Publicity: The Variety of Forms of Realizations of an Ideal Public

Chapter V: Summary, Conclusion, and Recommendation





Primary Works of Jrgen Habermas


Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy. Translated by William Rehg. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1996. Communication and the Evolution of Society. Translated by Thomas McCarthy. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1984. The Inclusion of the Other: Studies in Political Theory. Edited by Ciaran Cronin and Pablo De Greiff. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998. Justification and Application: Remarks on Discourse Ethics. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1993. Legitimation Crisis. Translated by Thomas McCarthy. Boston: Beacon Press, 1975.





MCCA Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action. Translated by Christian Lenhardt and Shierry Weber Nicholsen. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990. SPA OPA PDM STPS On Society and Politics: A Reader. Edited by Steven Seidman. Boston, 1989. On the Pragmatics of Communication. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998. The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1987. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Translated by Thomas Burger. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991. The Theory of Communicative Action. Translated by Thomas McCarthy. 2 vols. Boston: Beacon Press, 1984.


CHAPTER I The Problem

A. Introductory Statement

Perhaps one of the most significant historiographical developments of the last two decades has been the revival of an early work by Jrgen Habermas, his Strukturwandel der ffentlichkeit, translated into English as The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. First written as his Habilitationsschrift and published in German in 1962, the book did not initially arouse the same international attention as his subsequent more theoretical and less historical work, which was readily studied by social and political theorists and some intellectual historians.1 As Anthony La Vopa has observed, Structural Transformation was largely ignored in the burgeoning literature on Habermas critical theory in the 1970s and 1980s, and in mainstream social and political philosophy there was little interest in any of Habermas writing.2 But by the mid-1980s, Habermas first and most historical work was brought back to academic attention, displacing or reorienting
Jrgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Enquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, trans. Thomas Burger (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992). Henceforth STPS. 2 Anthony La Vopa, Conceiving a Public: Ideas and Society in Eighteenth-Century Europe, Journal of Modern History 64 (1992): p. 81, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO, Miguel de Benevides Library, Manila, PH, 18 Jul 2007 <http://search.ebscohost.com>. On the German reception of Strukturwandel, see Peter Hohendahl, Critical Theory, Public Sphere, and Culture: Jrgen Habermas and His Critics, in his The Institution of Criticism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982), pp. 242-80.

much of the previous interest in his critical theory, and this revival of Structural Transformation was largely led by mainstream social theorists, especially by those working on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century France and America. In the numerous essays of the late 1980s and early 1990s recommending Habermas theory to historian, philosophers and political analysts,3 in the translation of the work into English in 1989, and in the accumulating case studies in diverse fields written under the aegis of the theory, one can chart the ascent of Habermas idea of the public sphere to its present status as a prescriptive disciplinary categorya category to be invoked in studies that aspire to disciplinary significance.
Historiographical considerations on Habermas has been and should be appropriated by social theorists are found in Craig Calhoun, ed., Habermas and the Public Sphere (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992); La Vopa, op. cit.; Dena Goodman, Public Sphere and Private Life: Toward a Synthesis of Current Historiographical Approaches to the Old Regime, History and Theory (1992): pp. 1-20, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO, Miguel de Benevides Library, Manila, PH, 18 Jul 2007 <http://search.ebscohost.com>; Roger Chartier, The Public Sphere and the Public Opinion, in his The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991), pp. 20-37; Keith Michael Baker, Public Opinion as Political Invention, in Inventing the French Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 167-99; Margaret C. Jacob, The Mental Landscape of the Public Sphere: A European Perspective, Eighteenth-Century Studies 28 (1994): pp. 95-113, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO, Miguel de Benevides Library, Manila, PH, 18 Jul 2007 <http://search.ebscohost.com>; and William Reddy, Postmodernism and the Public Sphere: Implications for an Historical Ethnography, Cultural Anthropology 7 (1992): pp. 135-69, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO, Miguel de Benevides Library, Manila, PH, 18 Jul 2007 <http://search.ebscohost.com>. French Historical Studies 17 (1992), contains a forum on the public sphere consisting of essays by Daniel Gordon, Philosophy, Sociology, and Gender in the Enlightenment Conception of Public Opinion, pp. 833-911, JSTOR, 15 Jun. 2007 <http://www.jstor.org> and David Bell, The Public Sphere, the State, and the World of the Law in Eighteenth-Century France, pp. 912-33; and a cogent critical response by Sarah Maza, Women, the Bourgeoisie, and the Public Sphere: Response to Daniel Gordon and David Bell, French Historical Studies 17, no. 4 (Autumn, 1992): pp. 934-950, JSTOR, 15 Jun. 2007 <http://www.jstor.org>. More recent essays are John L. Brooke, Reason and Passion in the Public Sphere: Habermas and the Cultural Historians, Journal of Interdisciplinary History 29 (1998): pp. 43-57, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO, Miguel de Benevides Library, Manila, PH, 18 Jul 2007 <http://search.ebscohost.com>; and Anna Clark, Contested Space: The Public and Private Spheres in Nineteenth-Century Britain, Journal of British Studies 35 (1996): pp. 269-76, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO, Miguel de Benevides Library, Manila, PH, 18 Jul 2007 <http://search.ebscohost.com>.

Given the arrival of this category and a substantial set of studies based on it, a moment of reconsideration may be in order, particularly if, as I believe, many of these studies are based on a misunderstanding of what exactly is entailed in the theory of the public sphere and what scholars can and should derive from it. I will not present a conventional historiographical survey of historical works that invoke Habermas theory. Useful contributions have been and continue to be made that assess how well such studies address their particular cases. I hope to offer rather a more general rethinking of the use of the theorya rhetorical and conceptual unpacking that might illuminate not just current historical practices and aspirations but also neglected aspects of the theory itself. My intention is to show that the public sphere is a much more perplexing phenomenon than philosophers generally recognize, one that challenges rather than subserves conventional forms of historical and political understanding.

I will also examine how recent social theorists have amended and applied Habermas theory. Following influential reformulations of the theory by Geoff Eley and Mary Ryan, theorists have rhetorically spatialized the public sphere, conceiving of it as a space or domain of free expression and argument that is accessible to any social group. While this construal of the public sphere serves certain disciplinary aspirations and an implicit and explicit identity politics, it fails to do justice to the full complexity of the phenomenon. The theorists spatialization

of the public sphere neglects, in fact, precisely that aspect of the public sphere that has most troubled its observers: namely, how the public sphere constructs itself as a unitary entity and in doing so mysteriously changes form. No longer an imagined rational space of disagreeing social groups, it comes to be represented as a single, unified being, a mass subject. What many theorists currently see as the purpose of the public sphereto provide a space for the free expression of disagreeing social identities and intereststurns out to be only a preliminary condition, which, according to the logic of the public sphere, is to be surmounted in a series of transformations that fuse persons into a unitary, collective subject, no longer a public sphere but now the public.

The transformation of social groups into persons who fuse into unity is, of course, a fantasy, and one that is always at odds with an empirical reality of conflicting social identities and interests. From that discrepancy between a fantasy of a unified political subject and a reality of particular social groups, there can be drawn two implications for how theorists might approach the public sphere. First, that discrepancy reorients the approach of those who seek to study how a particular social group is efficacious in the public sphere. They now have to study not just how that group expresses its social identity and interests but also how that expression relates to the overall dynamic of the public sphere, which aims to overcome particular social expression.

The second implication of the discrepancy between a unified and personified public and a social reality of conflicting social groups is that any projection of the public as a mass subject is necessarily unstable. The appearance of unity in the image of a collective subject is always belied by the reality of disagreeing social groups. The inherent tendency of the public sphere when transformed into an apparent mass subject is to collapse back into a spatialized image of conflicting social groups. This disintegrative tendency of the public is one that is more difficult to assess historically; with one exception, it is not a consideration of theorists who currently work on social groups in the public sphere. To begin to think through what might be at stake conceptually and historically in the inescapable instability of the public as a mass subject, perhaps it is also best to examine the only recent major group of thinkers who have sought to study the public in this manner, though they do not generally identify their work in these terms. This group is the school of political-cultural theorists of the French Revolution identified with Franois Furet, Mona Ozouf, and Keith Baker. For them, the central problem of the French Revolution is the transformation of a spatialized public sphere into the unstable form of the public as a mass subject, a process that they find extremely disquieting, as it seems necessarily to issue in the Terror.


B. Statement of the Problem

This research shall study Habermas theory of the public through the philosophers socio-legal theory, and shall attempt to expose the problems in his own theoretical construction. Subsequently, a reconstruction of the interpenetration and ambiguation of the boundaries between private and public sphere shall be posited. This research shall answer this major query: How can a politics of public credibility, founded on civil society as an agent of public politics, be achieved given the conflicting public-private framework in Habermas Strukturwandel der ffentlichkeit?

The following sub-questions shall be considered in solving the foregoing:

1) How has the structure of publicness in political and social groups in Europe developed through the years? a. What is Habermas notion of the public sphere and structural transformation? b. What is the distinction between private and public sphere? 2) What is the problem of difference in Habermas notion of the public sphere? a. How is openness important in the organizational infrastructure of private-public dichotomy? b. What is the state versus civil society nexus?

3) How can a politics of public credibility be achieved from disambiguated structures of publicness and privateness?

a. What is public credibility? b. What is the role of civil society in bringing forth public credibility?

C. Significance of the Study

The significance of this research above other works dwells specifically on its critical evaluation of the concept of the public posited by Habermas and the necessity of considering a politics of public credibility (at the backdrop of discourse ethics) in order to avoid his distortions of the public itself, and by extension, the nature of society.

The significance of this study also lies in its attempt to examine Habermas notion of the public with a view to proposing an alternative conception that is able to encompass the structural, institutional, and cultural levels of analysis in a more consistent and coherent way. More specifically, in going beyond the simple statenon-state distinction as the defining basis of the public, it attempts to:

a) to establish the claim that the category of citizenship is central to the definition as well as operation of the public sphere;


b) to conceptualize the public sphere as a sphere of the public in terms of the distinctive institutional and cultural property of publicness; and c) to introduce a theory of politics of public credibility to capture the cultural and political dynamics of the public sphere;

The research is philosophical in nature because it touches the field of social philosophy. The philosophical nature of this research lies in the fact that it invokes Habermas concepts of public sphere and discourse ethics, communicative action, deliberative democracy, justification and legitimation, among others, in order to criticize his conception of the public, specifically, the incongruities that beset it when applied to certain communicative situations, and thereafter, to offer openness as a key to transforming the public into that which involves credibility as the most acceptable form.

D. Scope and Limitations

The research is going to deal on two dimensions:

1) Habermas theory of the public as expounded in The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere; and


2) the necessity of adopting an openness dimension in the public sphere, so as to constitute a civil society-based public politics

To argue the thesis, Habermas political and social theories shall be employed, viz. communicative rationality and action, strategic action, discourse ethics, legitimation of law, public-private distinction, civil society nexus, political process model, rational politics and communicative design.

Authoritative sources for the research include journals, anthologies, and commentaries which are specifically listed in the bibliography. The researcher primarily read and used the following books written by Habermas in order to gain a thorough understanding of the development of his philosophical thought particularly his debate on rationality and modernity, and most importantly to form an underpinning that would prove that the philosophers theory of the public must be reconstructed to formulate a politics of public credibility: Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy4, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, The Inclusion of the Other: Studies in Political Theory5, Legitimation Crisis6, On Society and

Jrgen Habermas, Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy, trans. William Rehg (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1996). Henceforth BFN. 5 Jrgen Habermas, The Inclusion of the Other: Studies in Political Theory, eds. Ciaron Cronin and Pablo de Geiff (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001). Henceforth IO. 6 Jrgen Habermas, Legitimation Crisis, trans. Thomas McCarthy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1975). Henceforth LC.


Politics: A Reader7, The Theory of Communicative Action8, and On The Pragmatics of Communication9.

English translations of Habermas works were used throughout the research because of the authors ineptitude on the German language. In addition, library visits for the collation of needed literatures were confined to UST Central Library and Ecclesiastical Faculties Library; book sources from ADMUs Rizal Library were also borrowed by the same author via UST librarys interlibrary loan program. Research articles from JSTOR Archive and Academic Search Premier of EBSCO germane to public sphere and civil society, which are listed in the bibliography section, had provided the author with the most useful insights for a reconstruction of Habermas Offentlichkeit.

E. Definition of Terms

Bourgeois constitutional state. It is a nineteenth century invention, formed as an attempt to link the public sphere to an idea of law. It guarantees its citizens certain basic rights, which amount to establishing the public sphere as a public
Jrgen Habermas, On Society and Politics: A Reader, ed. Steven Seidman (Boston: MIT Press, 1989). Henceforth SPA. 8 Jrgen Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action, trans. Thomas McCarthy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1984). Henceforth TCA. 9 Jrgen Habermas, On The Pragmatics of Communication, ed. Maeve Cooke (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998). Henceforth TPC.


institution. The state does this in order to abolish the idea of the state as a dominating force by linking law to rational debate. The bourgeois state is not longlived, however, as it depends on particular social and economic factors that are unique to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.10

Civil society. Habermas borrows the term civil society from Hegel.11 Civil society is the sphere of production and exchange, which forms part of the private realm and is distinct from the state. Civil society is essentially what most people call the economy, but includes other social institutions. It operates according to its own laws, but is able to represent its interests to the state through the public sphere.12

Communicative Action. It organizes social interaction through the notion of mutual understanding. It is an agency in the form of communication, which under Habermas understanding is restricted to deliberation, i.e., the free exchange of beliefs and intentions under the absence of domination.13

Habermas, STPS, pp. 79-88. For Habermas, Hegel views public opinion in a similar way to Kant, but his view of civil society emphasizes its discontinuity and confusion. Civil society for Hegel cannot provide the rational basis for private people to turn political authority (domination) into rational authority. 12 Habermas, op. cit., pp. 73-78. 13 William Outwaite, Habermas: A Critical Introduction (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994), p. 100.
10 11


Communicative Rationality.

It tries to explain human rationality as

necessary outcomes of successful communication. According to this theory, the potential for rationality is inherent in communication itself. Habermas has formulated this such that it takes up implicit potential and formalizes it into explicit knowledge. The goal is to transform implicit know-how into explicit know-that. In this case, the phenomena that needs to be explicated are the intuitively mastered rules for reaching an understanding and conducting argumentation possessed by subjects capable of speech and action. The result is a complex conception of reason that Habermas sees as doing justice to the most important trends in twentieth century philosophy, while escaping the relativism which characterizes

postmodernism, and providing standards for critical evaluation.

Deliberative Rationality. This refers to the collective will-formation, which can take place in two different contexts: either to resolve conflicts between conflicting individual choices, or to determine what the collective coordination goals are. Both cases involve a mutual and reflexive attempt to solve collective coordination problems. It is also a participation in a discourse where validity claims are raised; thus, a person, specifically a deliberative person, takes a critical stand to


his own as well as others statements and actions, and substantiates his standpoints with arguments.14 The person is also amenable to competent self-correction.

Legitimation. It is a special kind of justificatory process, and is likewise to be closely tied to communicationa legitimacy claim, like any other claim intended to justify a belief, must satisfy the presuppositions of rational discourse; according to Habermas, a legitimacy claim is justified when these are met. Like any other utterance, utterances of this kind imply a further claim as to their truth: in this case, that such-and-such a political institution does, can, or will realize generalizable interest. Legitimacy is contingent upon the generalization of interests, but this can only be reached through the fulfillment of the conditions of discourse.15

Liberal Model. By liberalism, Habermas means a political philosophy that conceives the freedom of the individual as the highest good.16 It sees the individual as a bearer of rights. This is a model of democracy which looks at democracy as a decision-making method.17 The basic features of this model originate in the philosophy of Hobbes18 and Locke19 and are based on the idea that people have


Luke Goode, Jrgen Habermas: Democracy and the Public Sphere (London: Pluto Press, 2005), p.

95. Habermas, LC, p. 157. Habermas, BFN, p. 146. 17 Cf. Joseph A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (New York: Harper & Row, 1942); and Anthony Downs, An Economic Theory of Democracy (New York: Harper & Row, 1957). 18 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986). 19 John Locke, An Essay Concerning Toleration, Concerning Civil Government (Chicago: William Benton, 1952).
15 16


rights and freedoms that exist prior to, and hence, independently, of any political order. Human beings possess certain rights that exist prior to the establishment of political institutions, i.e. in the state of nature. These pre-political rights not only limit the power of the state, they also entitle individuals to use them at their own discretion. In this paradigm there is no basis for discriminating between different interests on a normative basis. Such model is conceived to rest on a contract into which equal and free individuals have voluntarily entered in order to protect their respective interests.

Literary public sphere.

It developed in the eighteenth century; its key

institutions are literary journals, periodicals, and the coffee houses and salons where these publications were discussed. The literary public sphere represented the first time that the public could critically discuss art and literature, drawing on the emotional resources they developed within the family. It developed into the political public sphere.20

Political public sphere.

This represents private people who have come

together as a public to use their reason critically. It is not so much a place as a series of actions. It developed out of the literary public sphere, and depended on private peoples status as both property owners and human beings; its roots were in the


Habermas, STPS, pp. 51-53. 21

family and in the world of property ownership. In the past, the political public sphere represented a critical voice that analyzed and often opposed government action, and prevented domination by the powerful state. In its modern form, however, the public sphere is no more than a manipulative form of publicity, as politicians, advertising agents and public relations experts try to create and manipulate a false public.

Principle of Universalization.21 It is the only principle which can make it possible to create agreement about normative questions, and which can be said to be implicit in peoples moral practice, and is some version of the idea which lies behind the categorical imperative. It is also called the bridging principle which makes consensus possible and endures that only those norms are accepted as valid that expresses a general will. According to Habermas, what distinguishes (U) from most other formulations of the idea of universalizability, is that here each and everyone is required to view a matter from the perspectives of each of the other people involved.22 To Habermas, the point is that such goal can in practice only be reached through an open discourse, where each and everyone can present their own
The formulation of the principle which Habermas has found most adequate is built into the so-called principle of universalization, which states that nay form must meet the following conditions in order to be valid: (U) All affected can accept the consequences and the side effects its general observance can be anticipated to have fir the satisfaction of everyones interest (and these consequences are preferred to those of known alternative possibilities for regulation. See Jrgen Habermas, Discourse Ethics: Notes on a Program of Philosophical Justification, in Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990), p. 65. Henceforth MCCA. 22 Ibid.


version.23 In such a discourse, the arguments will show whether the norm in question damages some peoples interests more than others, or if it deserves intersubjective recognition because it expresses a genuinely common and impartial interest.24

Rational-critical debate. It is the lifeblood of the public sphere. Rationalcritical debate occurred in the eighteenth century public sphere between members of a property-owning, educated reading public using their reason. It centered first on literary questions, then on political issues.25

Refeudalization. This is a process that Habermas identifies in modern socialdemocratic states. Refeudalization involves a merging of the state and society, public and private that approximates to conditions in the feudal state, and a return of elements of representative publicity.26 Habermas does not believe that modern states are returning to the Middle Ages, merely that certain feudal elements are returning.

Ibid., p. 66. We may ask: What if a participant who in reality wants special treatment for strategic reasons refuses to accept that a norm treats everyone equally and is thus just, although he in his own mind realizes that this is actually the case? The simplest answer in our context would be that this participant does not take a moral attitude, but a strategic action. The case in question therefore falls outside the scope of what would be discussed by researcher, viz. which principles determine explicitly moral actions. However, in reality we have to take into account that such participants may appear, and ideally a discourse situation should be sufficient to reveal these actors, because they are not capable of presenting a convincing rational justification for their standpoints. 25 One of Habermas criticisms of the modern state is the decline of rational, meaningful argument. 26 Habermas, op. cit., pp. 222ff.
23 24


Representative publicity. This is a form of public sphere that preceded the literary public sphere. It operated in the feudal states of medieval and early modern Europe. Essentially, it consisted of the King or the nobility representing their political power before the people. They merely displayed their power; there was no political discussion, because there was no public in the modern sense. In order for political power to exist at all, an audience was required. Habermas sees elements of this style of publicity returning in the behavior of modern political parties and public relations experts.27

Republican model. Here the political process is not regarded simply as a procedure for electing and getting rid of leaders by adding up the citizens preferences. Society does not consist of self-interested actors asserting their preferences, but of virtuous citizens who are actively engaged in collective affairs, on the basis of some shared views of the common good. There are at least two points on which republicans distance themselves from modern liberalism. 28 The first point concerns the relation between the right and the good. Here liberals give preference to rights and justice, while the republicans build on the idea of common good. They emphasize the use of constitution, human rights and neutral policies to settle controversies. The inviolability of the individual is protected by justice and cannot

Habermas, loc. cit., pp. 196ff. Eric Oddvar Ericksen and Jarle Weard, Understanding Habermas: Communicative Action and Deliberative Democracy (New York: Continuum, 2003), p. 145.
27 28


be disposed with through political compromises. By contrast, republicans believe the rights are political by nature, and that democracy is the ultimate good. The second point concerns the relation to democracy. According to the liberals, individuals have a right to freedom that precedes the claim to political freedom. Democracy is thus bound and limited by basic individual rights that are constitutionally protected. By contrast, the republicans see freedom as dependent on political participation. When the citizens are given the opportunity to participate in the self-governing republic, they are given freedom as well.

F. Review of Related Literatures

Books and Anthologies

Arato, Andrew and Michel Rosenfeld, eds. Habermas on Law and Democracy: Critical Exchanges. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. The nineteen essays in this book written by philosophers, legal scholars, sociologists, and political theorists identify and discuss fundamental aspects of Habermas founding idea: law is interdefined with democracy via the concept of a system of rights instituting citizens as both authors and addressees of the legal order. Moreover, Habermas inaugurating essay, Paradigms of Law, presents his proceduralist paradigm of law as a critical rejection of liberal-bourgeois (formal)


and social-welfare (material) models of law; and his seventy-two-page Reply to Symposium Participants identifies misunderstandings, clarifies problematic distinctions, offers needed elaborations and amendments, and yet ultimately defends Between Facts and Norms against formidable criticism.

Calhoun, Craig, ed. Habermas and the Public Sphere. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992. This book is arranged in four sections, covering philosophical models, historical publics, public communication, and a conclusion by Habermas in which he reflects on the contemporary relevance of his theory of the public sphere. The excellent introduction by Craig Calhoun places the public sphere in the context of Habermas overall theoretical project. As Calhoun states, Habermas theory of the public sphere foreshadows many of his themes concerning rationality, capitalism, and modernity.

Thomas McCarthys essay questions the validity of Habermas distinction between pragmatic rationality and rhetoric. He argues that it is difficult to dissociate one from the other in actual practice. Seyla Benhabib also criticizes Habermas dualistic assumptions. She claims that his approach to the public sphere rests on problematic divisions between public and private spheres, between justice and the good life. Nancy Fraser and Mary Ryan also used feminist perspectives to criticize the bourgeois public sphere. They argue that thus public realm was intimately tied


to the exclusion of women. Fraser in particular argued for a pluralizing of public spheres to give voice to the distinctive groups compromising modern societies.

Chambers, Simone. Reasonable Democracy: Jrgen Habermas and the Politics of Discourse. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996. This book is a defense of Jrgen Habermas theory of communicative rationality as a basis for conceptualizing deliberative democracy. Chambers begins by making the seemingly trivial assertion that the more we employ non-coercive public debate to resolve our deepest collective moral, political, and social disputes, the better.29 By the works conclusion, Chambers has made a plausible case that the everyday intuition that open dialogue provides the best means for grappling with the political and moral conflict is most richly articulated by Habermas model of communicative rationality, and a derivative conception of democracy according to which decision making is legitimate only when it rests on a process of unhindered, free-willing deliberative exchange. Chambers states that her main concern is with situating non-coercive debate within the existing institutional framework of liberal democracies.30 Consistent with this, she has little to say about the massive problems posed to reasonable deliberation by contemporary capitalism, and her minimal

Simone Chambers, Reasonable Democracy: Jrgen Habermas and the Politics of Discourse (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996), p. 1 30 Ibid., p. 10 [emphasis added].


suggestions for political reform could easily have come from those for whom critical theory is anathema.31

Deflem, Mathieu, ed. Habermas, Modernity and Law. London: Sage, 1996. This book discusses Habermas project of reformulating Critical Theory through a pragmatic philosophy of communication, while defending postmetaphysical reason and commitment to grounded critique. Habermas use of pragmatics is contrasted with Rorty, who argues for a non-foundational pragmatism that eschews the idea of science as the only site of reason and social progress.32 The argument moves through three stages. First, it outlines Habermas project of recovering critical activity with particular attention to his debt to pragmatic philosophy and the departures from earlier Critical Theory that this entailed. Second, it examines his theory of communicative action and identifies some key areas of contestation with skeptical approaches. Finally, it identifies some of the problems and limitations in Habermas pragmatic turn, suggesting that his quasitranscendental critique is developed at the expense of a pragmatic commitment to grounding in embodied agency-in-the-world. It concludes that the spirit of pragmatism, rather than its detail, might help Critical Theory focus on political analysis and resistances to domination.

31 32

Ibid., p. 196. Mathieu Deflem, ed., Habermas, Modernity and Law (London: Sage, 1996), p. 4. 28

Goode, Luke. Jrgen Habermas: Democracy and the Public Sphere. London: Pluto Press, 2005. This critical introduction offers readers clear way into Habermas concept of the public sphere and its relevance to contemporary society. Luke Goodes lively account also sheds new light on the public sphere debate that will interest readers already familiar with Habermas work. For Habermas, the public sphere was a social forum that allowed people to debatewhether it was the town or hall or the coffee house, maintaining a space for public debate was an essential part of democracy.33 Habermas controversial work examines the erosion of these spaces within consumer society and calls for new thinking about democracy today. Drawing on Habermas early and more recent writings, this book examines the public sphere in its full complexity, outlining its relevance to todays media and culture.

McCarthy, Thomas. The Critical Theory of Jrgen Habermas. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989. McCarthys book brings out very clearly the advantages and disadvantages of Habermasian science. He provides a vast and detailed account of Habermas rewriting of critical theory by focusing on the latters methodological ambitions and on the changing relation between theory and practice in his work. In the first two chapters the quasi-transcendental links between different kinds of social action (e.g.

Luke, op. cit., p. 213. 29

purpose-rational, communicative, emancipator) and different kinds of cognitive interests (e.g. empirical-analytic, hermeneutic, critical) are presented as a response to the lack of substantive concerns in modern positivist political science. In the third chapter, the central chapter of the book, three theoretical elements in Habermas thought are introduced as an alternative to the radical relativism inherent in hermeneutic methodology. These elements are psychoanalytic theory, systems theory and a general theory of the evolution of societies and individuals. The fourth chapter discusses Habermas development of universal pragmatics which involves another quasi-transcendental argument for the possibility inherent in speech of constraint-free communication. The book concludes with a critique of Habermas theory of legitimation crisis in advanced capitalist society.

Negt, Oskar and Alexander Kruge. Public Sphere and Experience: Toward an Analysis of the Bourgeois and Proletarian Public Sphere. Translated by P. Labanyi, J.O. Daniel and A. Oksiloff. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993. Arguing that the contemporary bourgeois public sphere is more ruled by class interests and exclusivity than Habermas admits, Negt and Kluge see the need for a radically different collective communication, a proletarian public sphere. They conceptualize this as an oppositional public sphere that ignores the dichotomy between public and private, which is grounded in material relations of production and, they insist, in human experience. Negt and Kluge pay much attention to the


development of new mass media with elaborate technologies and globalization, and to a novel kind of cultural socialization. Though government-regulated television appeals to public interest, it results only in generalized programs and in an abstract receptivity by viewers. They say that media concentration in international cartels, by combining education, entertainment, and information with new technologies, confronts the individual with a totally packaged system.

White, Stephen K., ed. The Recent Work of Jrgen Habermas: Reason, Justice, and Morality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. As the title suggests, White focuses on the relatively recent work of Habermas, works written since Knowledge and Human Interests appeared in English in 1971. White pays particular attention to The Theory of Communicative Action, which appeared in Germany in 1981.

White first explains Habermas concepts of communicative action and communicative rationality, showing how these concepts support Habermas communicative ethic and a concept of justice derived from his ethic. Perhaps the most useful part of the book comes next, in which White shows how Habermas empirical analysis of modernity (i.e. the social-scientific aspect of his project) draws upon this communicative ethic, which is concerned with how modernity must create its normativity out of itself, as Habermas puts it. Toward the conclusion of the book, White compares the approaches of Foucault and Habermas. White also

suggests that Foucault gives content to the criticism that Habermas view of the subject remains excessively rational and abstract. At the same time, White shows how it is almost impossible for Foucault to transform this insight into any form of social of political practice. White concludes in the last section by suggesting that the approaches of Habermas and Foucault might build on each other.

Zaret, David. Origins of Democratic Culture: Printing, Petitions, and the Public Sphere in Early-Modern England. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000. The argument in this book is presented on two levels. On the more concrete and particular level, Zaret begins by surveying the domain of what he calls traditional communicative practice in early modern England, summarizing and synthesizing recent work on oral and manuscript communication. The author goes on to argue that restrictive norms of secrecy and privilege that precluded a public sphere in politics were disrupted by the rise of the culture of print in the course of the 17th century, emphasizing the publication of pamphlets, petitions, reports of speeches in parliament, and not least, the proliferation of rival news sheets in the course of the Civil War. At the more general and theoretical level, Zaret presents his work as a mediation between sociological studies of the rise of modernity and democracy, which are insufficiently nourished by history and are based on crude assumptions of progress, the rise of the bourgeoisie, and so on, and on the other hand, the revisionism of the professional historians of 17 th-century

England, who have no taste for theory, deny progress, and present the society in which the English Revolution occurred as essentially traditional, based on local bonds between patrons and clients. To resolve the conflict, Zaret emphasizes what he calls the paradox of innovation; in other words, the importance of unintended consequences in history, in this case the reshaping of communicative practices following the spread of printing.


Chambers, Simone and Jeffrey Kopstein. Bad Civil Society. Political Theory 29, no. 6 (Dec., 2001): 837-865. JSTOR. 15 Jun. 2007 <http://www.jstor.org>. In this article, the authors have argued that rights, civic education, promotion of good associations, and an expanded public sphere will not be enough to build liberal democracies (or maintain the quality of established liberal democracies) if failure in social justice leads to disillusionment with the promise of liberalism. The rights approach to bad civil society is important but insufficient because it only works as long as bad civic groups remain marginal. In general, rights arguments have a laissez faire view of the problem, and interest only kicks in once the problem is threatening to the order as a whole. Not only may this be too late to save democracy in extreme cases, but it may be insufficient to prevent the quality of democracy from being under mined in not so extreme cases. The civic education

argument is also laudable, they say, but insufficient because there is very little evidence that it can work in situations of scarcity. Even under conditions of relative abundance, the power to shape associational life from the outside is tenuous at best. Finally, the expanded public sphere argument lies closest to our own normative preferences. But even here it is, like the rights and civic education solutions, essentially an institutional fix, the efficacy of which presupposes a level of social justice that may not exist.

Dean, Jodi. Publicictys Secret. Political Theory 29, no. 5 (Oct., 2001): 624-650. JSTOR. 15 Jun. 2007 <http://www.jstor.org>. Dean offers three aspects of publicity as ideology in this article: our distance from it, our enjoyment in it, and our sacrificial guilt before it. He pushes the role of the secret in securing the public sphere as an ideological construction. The secret marks the constitutive limit of the public sphere, a limit that that the public sphere cannot acknowledge. That this limit cannot be acknowledged, that in fact stimulates not simply the continued imposition of the public but the explosion of the networked media, points to the ideological function of the ideal of publicity in the information age. The public sphere rests on a constitutive impossibility of a politics without, outside of, and beyond power, a politics where decision is postponed in favor of a consensus that has already been achieved. He concludes that when based on the notion of the public, democratic political theory is likely to focus mistakenly


on revealing, outing, and uncovering what has been concealed or withheld from the public. Practically, these restrictions narrow the range of thinking about politics, distracting us from fundamental social and economic antagonisms and deflecting attention from questions of biopolitics, transnational alliance, and a place of fantasy, to mention just a few. Theoretically, such restrictive focus, according to him, renders democracy as a failure in advance: because the public can never live up its promise (a failure marked by the secret), a dynamic of suspicion and surveillance (now materialized in technoculture) is installed as the next best thing. In this respect, what passes as democratic politics seems to depend on not telling the biggest secret of all: that despite the rhetoric of publicity, there is no public.

Ferree, Myra Marx, et al. Four Models of the Public Sphere in Modern Democracies. Theory and Society 31, no. 3 (Jun., 2002): 289-324. JSTOR. 15 Jun. 2007 <http://www.jstor.org>. The above reviews four traditions of democratic theory, mining them for the answers they suggest for the public sphere and, more particularly, for mass media discourse in actually existing democracies. The four traditions are labeled as representative liberal, participatory liberal, discursive, and constructionist. In each of the traditions sketched, the authors attempt to highlight the ideas they see as being sharedthus defining a traditionand to highlight the specific normative criteria that each perspective would endorse and emphasize. At the end, they summarize these criteria in terms of who should speak, the content of the process

(what), style of speech preferred (how), and the relationship between discourse and decision-making (outcomes) that is sought (or feared). Finally, they compare the hierarchy of values expressed by each tradition, and briefly report some findings of the empirical study they have undertaken that suggest that Germany and the United States each conforms more closely to the standards of different traditions.

Fine, Gary Alan and Brooke Harrington. Tiny Publics: Small Groups and Civil Society. Sociological Theory 22, no. 3 (Sep., 2004): 341-356. JSTOR. 15 Jun. 2007 <http://www.jstor.org>. In this article, the authors argue that small groups work on several levels to create civil society. They serve as the creative nexus, the context, and the consequence of civic engagement. First, group dynamics create the desire and the means for public action, shaping the sense of institutional identity on the part of participants, as well as mobilizing resources. The outcome of group interaction is a culture in which civic participation, citizenship, and nationalism are created. Second, small groups provide arenas in which the action of civic engagement is played out. It is a discursive space where ideas of patriotism, nationalism, civic religion, and the public sphere can be explored and enacted. Finally, a healthy civil society produces a proliferation of small-group affiliation opportunities, counter-balancing the balkanizing tendencies of large associations. Given that, he states that individuals belong to multiple small groups, each presents individuals with an alternative model from which they can choose.

Ingram, David. The Limits and Possibilities of Communicative Ethics for Democratic Theory. Political Theory 21, no. 2 (May, 1993): 294-321. JSTOR. 15 Jun. 2007 <http://www.jstor.org>. This article contends that a political system structured in accordance with discourse ethics must consist of both participatory organizations, comprising nonoccupational public spheres and economic units, and formally organized mass party organizations and state bureaucracies. The author adds that democracy and rationality will vary depending on features peculiar to these structures: more orientation toward consensus and procedural equality and at the local and occupational level (and hence more social rationality); more compromise and procedural inequality at the level of party politics and administration (and hence less social rationality).

Ku, Agnes S. Boundary Politics in the Public Sphere. Sociological Theory 16, no. 2 (Jul., 1998): 172-192. JSTOR. 15 Jun. 2007 <http://www.jstor.org>. This article theorizes the cultural and political dynamics involved in the public sphere in modern society vis--vis the practice of open/secret politics by the state. It sets out to address the question of state openness/secrecy from the vantage point of the public sphere. Although the notion of public sphere has gained increasing prominence in recent academic discourse in terms of the conceptual distinction between public and private, little attention has yet been given to the issue of openness/secrecy as a facet of the constitution of the public-private boundary. It is


in light of such a theoretical and substantive gap that this article reworks some of the ideas in the current interpretations of the public/private distinction. In particular, parts of Habermas critical theory and Thompsons political sociology have been reinterpreted, reformulated, expanded, and integrated into an alternative notion of the public sphere as a sphere of the public straddling the domains of secrecy and publicness. In reviewing Habermas work on the public sphere, the author has argued that within the context of civil society, the media embodies two related elements of publicness that are distinctive, namely openness versus restrictedness and openness versus secrecy. This then leads her to postulate that the development of the media has been concomitant with a democratic struggle against state secrecy and that politics through the media would need to make constant references to the symbolic public.

G. Research Methodology

1. Research Method

This research is a critical analysis of Habermas Theory of the Public and its associated legitimation problems at the backdrop of communicative reason and deliberative models, with critical theory as pure conceptual framework. It will likewise critique the impact of the Habermasian conception of consensus theory of

truth to justification of political claims. The critical hermeneutic method will be the foundation for the delineation of the philosophy of Habermas and the critique of the suggested politics of public credibility.

The research is carried to the height of textual critique and analysis only, thus finding it unnecessary to conduct methods such as interview and survey, inasmuch as such methods are irrelevant and would not furnish the level of erudition which this study requires.

2. Research Design

After giving an introduction to the research, the next chapter shall give a summary of the burgeoning issues on Habermas Strukturwandel der ffentlichkeit, most of which deliberately tries to come to terms with or correct and improve Habermas historical model of its transformation. I shall also stress the role of the state and particularly the power of the rising market of the periodical press and its intrinsic dynamics for the transformation of the public sphere.

In Chapter III, the problem of difference in Habermas private-public distinction shall be brought up. It will theorize the dynamics involved in the public sphere in modern society vis--vis the practice of open/secret politics by the state. It


will address the question of state openness/secrecy from the vantage point of the public sphere. Although the notion of public sphere has gained increasing prominence in recent academic discourses in terms of the conceptual distinction between public and private, little attention has yet been given to the issue of openness/secrecy as a facet of the constitution of the public-private boundary. It is in light of such theoretical and substantive gap that this chapter seeks to rework some of the ideas in the current interpretations of the public-private distinction. In particular, parts of Habermas critical theory and Thompsons political sociology will be reinterpreted, reformulated, expanded, and integrated into an alternative notion of the public sphere as a sphere straddling the domains of secrecy and publicness.

Chapter IV will propose an alternative conception of Habermas notion of the public that is able to encompass the structural, institutional, and cultural levels of analysis in a more consistent and coherent way. The explanation it will present should go beyond the traditional state-nonstate distinction as the defining basis of the public, in that it will establish the claim that the category of citizenship is central to the definition as well as operation of the public sphere, will conceptualize the public sphere as a sphere in terms of the public in terms of the distinctive institutional and cultural property and publicness, and will introduce a theory of


politics of public credibility to capture the cultural and political dynamics of the public sphere, and to solve Habermas theoretical construction of the public sphere.

Finally, Chapter V provides summary, conclusion and recommendations about the research problem that could spur scholars of critical social theory to gain a proper understanding of the Offentlichkeit and investigate such Habermasian concepts beyond the often invoked framework of communicative action that could be contributory to postmetaphysical thinking and philosophical discourse of modernity.



A. Historical Sketch of the Public and Private Spheres

1. The Function of History in Habermas ffentlichkeit

For Habermas, his inquiry into the nature and development of ffentlichkeit in its two senses of publicness and public sphere is part of a normative theory of political communication. His aim is the exploration of the prerequisites for democracy, which for him is linked to the implementation of reason, truth, morals and justice in political life. In true enlightenment fashion Habermas finds the main support for such a democratic political culture in public political reasoning in an environment in which the individual can speak freely and arguments are not distorted by fear or political or social power.34 Thus, the chief purpose of the book was to understand and criticize the threat to democracy resulting from the decline of such a critical public sphere in late capitalist society.35 In order to understand the function of the historical chapters of his book, they have to be read in the context of the political analysis of the corruption of the contemporary public sphere in its final sections.
34 35

Habermas, STPS, p. 27. See ibid., pp. 89ff. 42

The fact that the historical argument is constructed to fit the needs of this political analysis must be seen as one of the weaknesses of the book. The analysis runs as follows. In organized capitalism, the state and private economies have become increasingly intertwined. The welfare states care for all individual hardship blurs the divide between public and private interests which was so dear to nineteenth-century liberal political theory. Modern political parties are neither independent of state power nor of the private economic interests of big business and capital. The same holds true for the media who have lost their critical edge and are more concerned with winning viewers and advertisements than being the platform for debating questions of the public good.

In order to support his analysis of the contemporary corruption of the public sphere, Habermas constructed as a counterpoint an ideal type which he named the bourgeois public sphere. It was a social space where propertied people reasoned in public on those private interests that were of general relevance, such as the rules of markets and economic production, and referred these interests back to the state. They debated in Parliament and used the media for their purposes without having to fear censorship or political prosecution for their open criticism. These were the ideal public, as viewed in a liberal theory of democracy. According to Habermas their emergence is based on the rise of private property and on the consequent division between state and civil society mentioned above. Thus, just as the fading

division between state and society was the reason for the contemporary decline of the public sphere, its rise seems to have been initiated by their separation.

Habermas takes this mirror image construction of his argument one step further by drawing clear parallels between the ideal types of pre-bourgeois and post-bourgeois public spheres. In the early modern period the people functioned merely as an environment for the rulers demonstration of splendor and power. Their political participation was reduced to the role of bystanders in the streets, when the princes represented their lordship not for but before the people.36 Similarly today, public participation in political power and its control of it is reduced to sporadic acts of acclamation or disapproval through general elections whose outcome is not primarily a result of rational political discourse but of publicity campaigns presenting images rather than arguments to the people.37

In this mirror-image construction argument Habermas provides the reader only with a very brief outline of what he terms the pre-bourgeois representative publicness of absolutist states. He examines neither the nature of early modern rulership nor the political function of this type of public in detail. However, in order to draw a comparison with the late capitalist public, he presents the latter as being void of any rational communication. This type of public sphere is presented as being
Op. cit., p. 8. Loc. cit., p. 176: The public as such is included only sporadically in this circuit of power, and even then it is brought in only to contribute its acclamation.
36 37


based solely on the physical presence of the ruler who communicates with his subjects through symbols rather than words. Printed media do not seem to play any role in this type of communication.38 Habermas also reduces the underlying forces of historical change to economic developments such as the decline of mercantilist economic policies in the eighteenth century and particularly the economic rise of the bourgeoisie and with it that of free labor. Only on the basis of these processes were the media revolution of the early modern period and the new spaces of social communication such as the coffee house or the salon able to transform the representative publicness into that ideal-type reasoning body which is at the centre of Habermas construction, the bourgeois public sphere.

There is hardly any aspect of Habermas construction which has not yet, been questioned by early modernists. However, no convincing alternative to his master narrative has been found by historians, and many critics seem to be satisfied with the basic line of his argument. Thus Timothy Blanning, in his masterful analysis of the dialectics of culture and power in the Ancient Regime, concludes his survey of Habermas on the harmonious note that once the Marxist residue has been cleared awaythe insistence on the bourgeois nature of the public sphere, its allegedly oppositional orientation, and its chronologywhat remains provides an


Habermas, STPS, p. 159. 45

illuminating perspective from which to view the political culture of the old regime. 39 However, it has to be asked what remains of Habermas argument after Blanning has pulled out all its politically sharp teeth, and what will happen to it if several other bad teeth, not mentioned by Blanning, also need to be extracted.

In what follows, some core arguments critical of Habermas book will be analyzed. A first brief section will look at the social strata of Habermas late eighteenth-century public sphere. If its composition was not bourgeois, then we are faced with the problem of finding different factors that effected the undisputed rise of a debating public in the late eighteenth century. If it cannot be attributed to the rise of the bourgeoisie, it is also unlikely that it was the result of an increasing division between state and civil society which was said to have been brought about by the rise of the bourgeoisie. The following sections will therefore examine other explanations which have been put forward in historical research.

2. Eighteenth-Century Bourgeois Public Sphere

Habermas based the rise of his bourgeois public sphere not only on the increasing economic power of this class. He also looked at its social practices and forms of sociability. He was, indeed, one of the first to realize how important literary
T C. W. Blanning, The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture: Old Regime Europe, 1660-1789 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 14.


circles and other associations and gathering places such as coffee houses were for the formation of a political public. However, were these associations and circles really bourgeois in their social composition? Ute Daniel and others have asked this question and come to the conclusion that not only in Germany but also in France, Italy and partly even in Britain, eighteenth-century associations, enlightenmentoriented reading clubs, salons and even freemasons lodges were by no means dominated by a rising bourgeoisie. The characteristic mixture was in fact one of elites, of nobility, civil servants, academics, priests, and only a few bourgeois men and women.40 Tim Blanning summed his wide research on the rise of the eighteenthcentury public sphere up with the image of it being socially more like Noahs Ark than a merchantman.41

Having discovered that the members of those institutions of sociability and political reasoning which formed the embryonic nucleus of Habermas prerevolutionary bourgeois public sphere were by no means primarily of bourgeois origin, it was hardly surprising that historians did not stop short of further dismantling the concept by looking at the substance of pre-revolutionary public discussion. The topics discussed in these circles were primarily literary and

Habermas, op. cit., 151. Blanning, op. cit., p. 12: the public sphere which developed in the course of the eighteenth century cannot be described as bourgeois in a social sense, given the high proportion of clergymen and nobles of various types who operated within it. Socially the public sphere is more like Noahs Ark than a merchantman.
40 41


academic, and if they were political, they were mostly directed towards reform and not opposition. This discourse on reform was supported by the state itself, by enlightened princes and civil servants who were frequently to be found at its forefront. Thus, if there was critical public debate on matters of the state, it was rather initiated within the administration than directed against it, and often enough it was conducted with explicit state support. In late eighteenth-century Bavariaas in Prussiathe enlightened reform discourse was able to unfold under the protection of the state administration and its system of censorship, which tolerated critical political treatises as long as they were not directed against the person of the elector or king.42 This changed in Bavaria only in the middle of the 1780s and in the 1790s after the detection of the alleged conspiracy of the Enlightenment eventually turned into a state-geared anti-enlightenment campaign. This was also not without public support, which reminds us that there can also be bad publics. 43 However, both phases of Bavarian politics affecting public political debate seem to point in a direction also suggested by other research, that in most of eighteenth-century Europe for most of the time, the relationship between the public sphere and the

The most comprehensive analysis of this is Michael Schaich, State and the Public Sphere in the Electorate Bavaria of the Late Enlightenment (Munich, 2001), esp. pp. 15761; ibid., p. 161: An opposition between state censorship and enlightened public sphere can barely speak. The enlightened public sphere could develop in the course of the 1780s rather in the protection of the censorship. 43 See Habermas, loc. cit., pp. 181-190.


state was amicable and mutually supportive. Indeed, one might well go further and argue that the public sphere was both the creation and the extension of the state.44

This statement not only invalidates Habermas notion of the driving economic forces behind the rise of the public sphere. It also provides us with a key to a different explanation. Increasingly historians see the early modern states and their administrations as the main actors who, however unintentionally, facilitated the rise of a political public sphere by supporting the improvement of communication infrastructures and using the media for their own purposes. It is these material aspects of mass communication and their development in the early modern period which have to be examined first.

3. The Development of Communication Systems in Early Modern Europe and the Rise of the Press

There are two processes which form the foundation of any type of modern media-based public sphere: the printing press as a means of multiplying relevant information for a wider public, and efficient and regular postal routes for its distribution. Whereas the early modern printing revolution has always attracted scholarly interest, the rapid development of an efficient Europe-wide network of

Blanning, loc. cit., p. 13. 49

postal routes since the early seventeenth century has been largely ignored in its relevance for the transformation of early modern political culture. 45 It was Wolfgang Behringers path-breaking work on the imperial postal system which put this topic right into the centre of the debate on the transformation of the political public spheres.46 He was not only able to show how the development of a close network of postal connections became a vital prerequisite for efficient government, but also that the rulers and their administrations had very little influence on the actual shaping of this network once it had been established, interconnected with other postal routes abroad and opened to the public.47 The postal networks functioned like independent machines where individual wheels cannot be taken out or changed without destroying the entire mechanism. Contemporaries used this metaphor, and imperial post masters were able to prevent attempts by the Emperor to interfere with the system by convincing him of its intrinsic rationality and dynamics. 48 Thus, communication routes became a commodity which the individual states had to provide for efficient government as well as for the public. They were, however, no

Although Habermas himself does mention the post as a prerequisite of the development of the public sphere. Habermas, STPS, pp. 14ff. 46 Wolfgang Behringer, Imperial Post and Communication Revolution in the Early Modern Times (Gttingen, 2003). 47 Contrary to the courier system of the ancient Roman Empire which was exclusively for the state, the imperial post became available to the public as early as the sixteenth century. Other European states followed. See supra note, pp. 66ff. 48 Ibid., pp. 280301.


longer able to control them effectively themselves after the networks had reached a certain complexity.

It was through the communication channels of this European postal network that regular information provided from all parts of the known world became the subject of private and public discussion. This resulted in a new perception of space and the interconnectedness of events and processes, which is vital for the emergence of a public sphere that goes beyond the local community. Contrary to what Habermas maintains in his book, this function of providing regular public information was by no means a new development of the late seventeenth or even the eighteenth centuries but characteristic of the European postal services right from the end of the sixteenth century and particularly after the beginning of the seventeenth century.49 It was above all the regularity of the incoming news which prompted sixteenth- and seventeenth-century printers to turn their news books, which were published bi-annually, into newspapers published weekly. By the end of the seventeenth century there had developed a pan-European, if not global market for regular news spread by printed newspapers.50

Behringer providesfor the first timea detailed analysis of the economic and other decision-making processes that led to the appearance of the first weekly
Habermas, op. cit., p. 16. Loc. cit., p. 195. 51

49 50

newspaper in Strasbourg in 1605.51 What is equally important is that in contrast to Habermas and other critics who found that the contents of early newspapers were of no political significance,52 he maintains that the contents were of good quality and by no means uncritical. The Strasbourg printer Carolus, son of a Protestant priest, used almost proto-enlightenment arguments when he set as one of the aims of his newspaper to spread knowledge and reason.53 There can be no doubt that distributing information in the early newspapers week by week at least helped to increase general knowledge.

It is an interesting phenomenon that the rise of the early modern state with its tendencies towards absolutist government also saw the rise of newspapers, which soon appeared not only in other imperial cities such as Hamburg or Frankfurt but also in the major towns of the territorial states. This meant that they must have been tolerated and approved of by rulers who on other occasions insisted that politics were no matter for the common people.54 There were probably two main reasons why newspapers enjoyed court approval. One may have been that only the news in a regularly printed paper could be effectively censured.55 The other was that the

Behringer, op. cit., pp. 347ff. Ibid., 21. 53 Behringer, loc. cit., p. 353. 54 Habermas, STPS, p. 80. 55 The fact that there was such a mass of broadsides in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries shows that no effective control could be exercised over their production or their contents. They appeared anonymously and were sold by hawkers or peddlers. A newspaper could not appear
51 52










communication. Their news played an important role in all early newspapers. Courts released official news to the press and made sure that the right information was spread. Diplomats did the same.56 Thus the courts and their diplomats were on the giving as well as the receiving end of newspaper production.

This was not only an important factor for the rise and stabilization of the early newspaper market, but had more far-reaching effects on the formation of a public sphere. The fact that ordinary people could read about political subjects several times a week sparked off conversations in taverns, coffee houses, reading clubs and similar locations where newspapers were normally available, often read out loud so that even those who were not able to read could partake in political debate. The limited public sphere of the courts and of inter-court communication via the press had unintended consequences and gave rise to a debating public that was by no means restricted to the nobility.57

over a longer period without the printer being known. So a license was needed which then exposed it to government control. 56 Habermas, op. cit., pp. 89ff. 57 Loc. cit. 53

4. Wars and the Rise of a Political Public Sphere

One aspect completely ignored by Habermas was the importance of wars for the formation of a political public sphere. The steep rise of the printed newspapers seems to have been so closely related to the frequent wars of the time that one press historian even maintained that war was the father and provider of the early newspaper.58 Military news was most interesting to ordinary people. Whether there was going to be a war and whether their own area would be affected or whether it was safe to trade with another country was of vital importance. War-related reporting was therefore particularly prominent in early newspaper reporting and could reach up to 90% of the total reporting in late-seventeenth-century newspapers.59 Partly to satisfy this anxious curiosity of the people and their need to plan ahead, and partly to complement the war of arms with a war of pens, the military themselves started very early to release regular reports in wartime. They provided newspapers with documents and additional information. As today, early modern warlords tried to hide defeats and enlarge the importance of their victories.60

This shows that the general public was increasingly perceived as a relevant partner in political communication whom it was important to influence through
Ibid., p. 185. Ibid., p. 251. 60 Ibid., p. 253.
58 59


propaganda. For the eighteenth century it is well known that the Silesian Wars and especially the Seven Years War brought about a rapid increase in political consciousness and political interest in all major European states.61 For the Holy Roman Empire this can be shown best in the steep rise in the number and circulation of newspapers and political journals.62 One of the leading German newspapers, The Hamburg Correspondent, increased its circulation of printed copies between the 1730s and 1780s from around 1500 to over 10,000.63 The number of independent newspapers in the German territories rose from approximately 60 at the beginning of the eighteenth century to over 200 in the 1770s. 64 Newspaper reading formed a great part of what has been termed the revolution in reading, the onset of which is normally located in the 1750s.65

On a quantitatively lower level, similar effects of wars on the public interest in politics can already be shown for the second half of the seventeenth century. Then the various wars against France intensified media reporting and public discussion as well as the general interaction between rulers and their subjects. Particularly the Franco-German war over the Electoral Palatinate of 1689 to 1697 led to an increased production, circulation and reception of news on all levels of society, to public

Ibid., p. 254 Ibid., p. 251. 63 Ibid., p. 259. 64 Ibid. 65 Ibid., p. 261.

61 62


debate and the emergence of early patriotism. Patriotic sentiments in the press were frequently part of official press policy aimed especially at the nobility and the upper classes involved in political decision-making. However, patriotic articles also helped to create the impression that people of differing social status nevertheless belonged together and had a common enemy. They created a patriotic sentiment vital to governments needing to find soldiers and levy taxes. Early modern European courts always had to fight their wars on two levels; the actual fighting with arms had to be supported by a war of pens. War manifestos and many other political pamphlets hadas one of the Emperors scribes put it in 1674the function of defending the monarchs reputation, which is an important pillar of his might and his glory.66 Any written attack on the legality of a monarchs claims and conduct was an attack on his reputation and had to be publicly refuted. Thus a monarch was sometimes forced to give a public account of the reasons and legal grounds of his actions although he was not legally obliged to do so.

Whoever the authors and whatever their aims were, the fact that political pamphlets were printed and often sold in bookshops in major towns, sometimes even reprinted illegally or sold by book hawkers, meant that many of these pamphlets had a much wider readership than intended by their authors, and that


Ibid., p. 222. 56

they did indeed influence public opinion.67 By the end of the seventeenth century controversies published in pamphlets tended to be picked up by other media such as journals. Sometimes they formed the basis of university lectures on public law because some of them contained publications of treaties, intercepted correspondence and other documents which might be embarrassing for the enemy. Pamphlets therefore often set the agenda of discussions in circles they were not aimed at and supplied people with information not intended for them.

Neither the rise of the newspapers nor of a generally politicized reading public happened in a new social space between state and society, nor was this new reading public bourgeois by nature, nor, in fact, did it take a long time for this public to become politicized, only gradually turning conversations on literary subjects into political debates, as Habermas suggested. We can clearly trace in the seventeenth century the rise of a public in the sense of a supra-local social unit connected through communication via printed media and both interested in political matters and able to debate them. While it might not always have been critical of the state, it was, however, concerned about affairs public and private. And the European princes and their administrations and war machines furthered the rise of this wider public, willingly or unwillingly, by providing it with information, media and in wartime even appealing for its support. Most of these early appeals to patriotic

Ibid., p. 236. 57

sentiment might have only been aimed at the estates, who perceived themselves as representing the land in the traditional sense. However, they were read more widely and had a much wider impact.

5. Different Circles of Public Political Communication

Putting the state back into play as a main actor in the early modern public sphere seemed necessary. However, it is not really sufficient. In the preface to his book, Habermas himself had briefly mentioned the ordinary people as sporadic political actors. E.P. Thompson, in particular, showed that Habermas plebeian public sphere was worth further exploration and by no means as anarchic and irrational as Habermas suggested.68 A great deal of work has been done to prove this. Research on the French Revolution has been particularly fruitful. However, it is probably even more relevant to look at the politicization of the wider populace in earlier and less extraordinary times.

An interesting example of this is popular uprisings and the press in early modern Germany and Switzerland.69 There were numerous uprisings, both in towns and in the countryside, in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Habermas picture of the early modern public sphere as nothing but the acclamation
68 69

Ibid., p. 270. Ibid., p. 272. 58

of a rulers self-representation was fairly distorted. The people watched the actions of their governments critically, commented on them and were ready to resist them if they seemed too burdensome or unjust, and that they demanded their traditional right to be consulted on specific occasions. Early modern urban uprisings in particular were directed against the tendencies of oligarchic policy-making in the German town-states, but similar targets can also be found in territorial states.

These local unrests were widely reported on in eighteenth-century newspapers. This, again, is clear proof of the fact that newspapers did not contain politically irrelevant court messages but gave detailed information even on subjects which were politically as hot as unrests and attempts to depose a prince. Again, it becomes clear that an active political public existed long before Habermas sees it rising, and that it already contained many elements typical of his bourgeois public sphere. Indeed, particularly the tradition of an active urban or communal public sphere under the time was not without a considerable influence on the political aims of early nineteenth-century liberalism.70 Local unrest alone, however, does not explain the rise of the regular press nor of a geographically wider political public interconnected by the media. Unrest tends to be locally or regionally limited and generally also of short duration. However impressive in number, from their own intrinsic dynamics they would not have resulted in the development of a permanent

Ibid., pp. 259ff. 59

communication infrastructure nor in regular media-reporting. This had to come from a different, more powerful side which had the opportunity and interest to act on a larger geographical scale.

Another important area of research where similar tendencies are revealed, namely of a wider public participating actively in questions of individual as well as collective importance, is religion and religious movements. This area is also closely connected with the rise of literacy and the media. There have been several studies exploring the impact of printing and early news reporting on the dissemination of the Reformation, and it is standard knowledge how much literacy gained from individual reading of the Bible and religious tracts.71 However, these developments in the sphere of religion also had a wider impact on the way religious groups perceived their role in the realm of politics.

David Zaret, for instance, has shown how a liberal model of the public sphere emerged in seventeenth-century England from the context of lay Bible-reading, experimental science, the development of print culture and advancing capitalism. His aim is to go beyond Habermas focus on economic factors and place the transformation of the public sphere within the broader context of general cultural

See now especially James van Horn Melton, ed., Cultures of Communication from Reformation to Enlightenment: Constructing Publics in the Early Modern German Lands (Aldershot, 2003).


developments. Underlying the transformation of the public sphere there is, according to Zaret, a transformation in mentality.72

A final example of an independent field also contributing to the transformation of the function of the public in politics is the academic world. After Descartes Discourse on Method of 1637, public discourse and open criticism within the academic community was seen as an important element on the path to the truth. Open discussion not only within the universities but also in learned journals and other printed publications was seen as vital to academic life and progress. These principles were adopted quite quickly for the sciences but also for other academic subjects and resulted in the rise of learned journals containing critical book reviews. Whether politics should also be debated at universities or even in public print was not clear at the end of the seventeenth century. Academic interest in the subject of public law rose considerably during that time, however, and in academies for young noblemen as well as in normal university courses on public administration, the forerunners of the modern subjects of contemporary history and political science, became increasingly fashionable. It is interesting that newspaper reading formed an important part of these courses.73 At the new reform university of Halle at the end of the seventeenth century several professors offered special classes in newspaper

David Zaret, Religion, Science, and Printing in the Public Spheres in Seventeenth-Century England, in Calhoun, loc cit., pp. 21235. 73 Habermas, STPS, p. 237.


reading. It was their aim to make the students acquainted with the strong and weak sides of every state and to enable them to reason rationally on state affairs. 74

Apart from contributing to a new ideal of science and new politics-related curricula, academics were also involved in the unfolding of a critical public sphere in other ways. They served as learned councilors and had access to political information; professors specializing in public law had to write legal opinions on political controversies and support their government by writing state pamphlets and treatises as well as other, more popular tracts. Political pamphlets released by governments were frequently the work of academics either already employed by the courts or offering their services to them. But apart from these more official or semiofficial writings, academics also started to write and publish political texts and regular journals for a wider public of their own accord and partly without the consent of the government.

Since the end of the seventeenth century we also find an increase in sometimes only short-lived journals or short tracts which tried to present political news and reasoning in an entertaining way. Most of these journals and tracts originated in the context of the French Wars, were wildly anti-French and patriotic, and tried to appeal to a wider public by wrapping the news up in stories or satirical


Ibid., p. 238. 62

dialogues. It is impossible to reconstruct the exact readership of these journals and tracts. However, one can assume that they were read by the urban elite, in coffee houses but also at courts. In any case, these periodicals show that with a new type of journalism a new type of public debate and reasoning was emerging at the turn of the seventeenth century. The topic of this debate was mostly foreign policy and war, and this formed the bulk of the contents of these journals as well as of newspapers. 75 Home news was still rare and a debate on it within the country dangerous. Nevertheless, the framework of a new public sphere was set, able to form itself especially in the disguise of anti-French reporting and propaganda. And what we see is the emergence of a new media market which was at least in theory open to everyone and which appropriated the right to public discourse on political matters.

B. Habermas Concept of the Public Sphere

Directed against the absolute will of monarchs, the bourgeois public sphere emerged in the 18th century as a neutral social space independent of the public authority and made up of private people gathering together as a public and articulating the needs of society with the state.76 These private citizens debated

75 76

Ibid., p. 190. Calhoun, Introduction, in Calhoun, Habermas and the Public Sphere, p. 21. 63

matters of common interest in a free, rational and (in principle) disinterested way.77

Based on, as Curran suggests, idealized notion of the bourgeois public sphere, Habermas developed a normative model of the public sphere as a realm of our social life in which something approaching public opinion can be formed.78 Access to all citizens, as Habermas argues, must be guaranteed. A portion of the public sphere comes into being in every conversation in which private individuals assemble to form a public body, contends Habermas. 79 This public body is constituted when citizens confer in an unrestricted fashionthat is, with the guarantee of freedom of assembly and association and the freedom to express and publish their opinionsabout matters of general interest.80

Public opinion, as Habermas uses it here, is not the one that reflects mere opinion (or arbitrary views) of isolated individuals taken in the aggregate 81today most commonly expressed in opinion polls. The genuine public opinion instead

James Curran, Rethinking Media and Democracy in Curran and Michael Gurevitch, eds., Mass Media and Society (London: Hodder Arnold Publication, 2005), p. 134. 78 Habermas, The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article, New German Critique 1, no. 3 (1974): p. 49, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO, Miguel de Benevides Library, Manila, PH, 15 Jul. 2007 <http://search.ebscohost.com>. 79 Ibid. 80 Ibid. 81 Calhoun, op. cit., p. 17.


comes to refer more positively to the views held by those who join in rationalcritical debate on an issue.82

The public sphere depends both upon the quality of discourse and the quantity of participation. This means that not only should discussion be constituted around rational critical argument83 but the more people participate as citizens in politics, the closer one comes to the ideal of a public sphere.84

However, Habermas demand for equal and unrestricted participation is in a way paradoxical. The bourgeois public sphere in its early days was reserved mainly for educated propertied men. Its character was therefore exclusionary.85 The inclusion of other social groups occurred gradually contributing to the openness of the public sphere but at the same time introducing degeneration in the quality of the discourse.86

The real decline of the public sphere and its structural transformation, according to Habermas, came with the mass consumption and commodification of culture that was reinforced by the media. Personalized accounts of politics have been diminishing public readiness to take part in critical debates while the new
Ibid. Ibid., p. 2. 84 Michael Schudson, Was There Ever a Public Sphere? If So, When? Reflections on the American Case, in Calhoun, ed., loc. cit., p. 147. 85 Calhoun, ibid., p. 3. 86 Ibid.
82 83


public relations industry engineers consent among the consumers of mass culture.87 Acclamation, fears Habermas, not critical discourse is what became important.88

The media turn active citizens into passive spectators constructing a pseudopublic sphere: the world fashioned by the mass media is a public sphere by appearance only.89 Televisions appeal to emotions and the readiness of the press to adapt to the commercial rules of the market caused decay of the critical discourse.

1. Media as a Public Debate Forum

Habermas, in his concept of the public sphere and the critique of its structural transformation, tends to overlook the potential of the mass media to contribute to the public debate by providing a platform for it or by initiating discussions about matters of general concern.

The media are, on the contrary, seen as distorting the public sphere and providing only a false impression of it.

His work, however, started an avalanche of accounts and debates about the normative conception of the contemporary public sphere as a neutral space within
Ibid., p. 24. Ibid., p. 26. 89 Calhoun, Introduction, in Calhoun, ed., in Habermas and the Public Sphere, p. 23.
87 88


society, free of both state and corporate control in which the media should make available information affecting the public good and facilitate a free, open and reasoned public dialogue.90 The question that underlies many of them, as Livingstone and Lunt put it, is How far do the mass media provide a public sphere in which citizens may debate issues in a democratic forum and in which those in power may be held accountable to the public?91

The media facilitate public discussions by providing a technological and structural forum and, which is even more important, by initiating public discussions and setting the agenda for it. Although this demand for agenda setting may seem unpopular in the light of the political and economical interests that may be driving it, without limiting debate, defining issues, and restricting alternatives, no debate can be rational.92 An unstructured flow of thoughts leads nowhere. It has to be a small set of identifiable, branching alternatives that can be examined reasonably enough one at the time,93 argues Schudson.

Curran, op. cit., p. 135. Son Livingstone and Peter Lunt, Talk on Television: Audience Participation and Public Debate (London: Routledge, 1994), p. 9. 92 Schudson, Was There Ever a Public Sphere? If So, When? Reflections on the American Case, in Calhoun, ed., op. cit., p. 156. 93 Loc. cit.
90 91


I will focus more closely on the potential of the public service broadcasting (as opposed to the commercial broadcasting), television debate and the Internet to facilitate and initiate a public debate.

a. Public Service Broadcasting

In contrast with Habermas who sees television as the cause of the decline of the public sphere, researchers such as Paddy Scannell and Nicholas Garnham argue that it was actually the public service broadcasting that brought the public sphere into existence. The commercial media, on the other hand, have been significantly contributing to the decline of the public sphere.

Recognizing the public service broadcasting as an imperfect realization of Habermas ideal, Garnham94 argues that it is the closest that the modern society can come to establishing a space for a rational and universalistic politics distinct from both economy and the state.

Found in John Keane, Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, in Margaret Scammell and Holli Semetko, eds., The Media, Journalism and Democracy (MA: Dartmouth Pub Co, 2001), p. 55.


Scannell contends that the public service broadcasting has unobtrusively contributed to the democratization of everyday life.95 The fundamental commitment of the public service broadcasting is its universal availability, unlike the commercial broadcasters whose primary interest is profit.

The public service broadcasting, according to Scannell, not only enabled universal access to broadcasted program but gradually came to represent all social groups. It has not always been that any subject can be given airtime. The media agenda has been changing slowly, fighting resistance and pressure. Todays broadcasting Came to fulfill... its role as an independent public sphere, as a forum for open discussion of matters of general concern.96

Before the rise of the public service broadcasting, public events had restricted access and were not available to everyone. Broadcasting brought general public into existence: public life was equalized in a way that had never before been possible. 97

The mixture of the content guaranteed by the public service broadcasting is endangered by generic programming in which all the material in a particular

Paddy Scannell, Public Service Broadcasting and Modern Public Life, Media, Culture and Society 11 (1989): p. 136, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO, Miguel de Benevides Library, Manila, PH, 15 Jul. 2007 <http://search.ebscohost.com>. 96 Ibid., p. 145. 97 Ibid., p. 140.


channel is of the same kind.98 Generic programming fragments the general public into the taste public that is easily seduced by advertisers. Furthermore, once information turns from the public good into a private commodity, society will be polarized into the information rich and the information poornot everybody will be able to afford access to information. Commercial broadcasting, therefore, occurs as a threat to the general access and the mixture of the content. The process of decommodification, as Keane paraphrases Garnham, can happen only through the public service broadcasting.99 Scannell criticizes the work of Stuart Hall and other media critics that perceive all broadcasting as manipulative and supportive of the dominant economic and political institutions and processes, and of existing structures of class, gender and ethnic relations in capitalist societies. 100 The ideological effect thesis is a one dimensional critique that reads all outputs of broadcasting in the same way, argues Scannell.101

Habermas concept of the general public has encountered heavy criticism just like his idea of the unified public. Listing the main problems the public service broadcasting has been faced with todaysuch as the questions of financing, legitimacy and technological change in the light of the rapid expansion of cable and

Ibid., p. 139. Keane, op. cit., p. 56. 100 Quoted by Scannell, op. cit., p. 156. 101 Ibid., p. 157.
98 99


satellite television and computer networks102Keane warns that television will have to undergo the process of the gradual recognition of the fragmentation of mass audiences into different taste public as radio did years ago. By which standards can one indeed measure the taste of the general public? The idea that the commercial broadcasting encourages pluralism through its multiple choice of specialized programs, rather than endangers democratic principles by widening the gap between the rich and the poor, is also worth giving a second thought.

b. Television Debate

In the light of the controversy between the public service broadcasting and the commercial media, it may be useful to take a look at the television debate as a genre that may epitomize the idea of people getting together to discuss matters of general interest. It is present both in the public service and the commercial sectors, but with different aims and effects.

According to Habermas, television debates are only a semblance of public discussion but in reality they are consumer-oriented and harmful for the concept of the public sphere.103

102 103

Keane, loc. cit., p. 58. Habermas, STPS, p. 164. 71

rnebring describes how current affairs debate programs in Sweden have been continuously changing.104 It is interesting to take a look at how the role of hosts and experts has been shifting in line with an increased participation of lay public. It is also worth noting how the nature of the genre has been gradually changing. In the first stage, the so called courteous public debate (1956-1967), the programs were hosted mainly by politicians, representatives of different interest groups, media experts and academics, and the discussion was likely to end with a consensus. Lay participants in these debates were uncommon. The role of television in the public sphere was seen to be mainly educational.105 The critical public debate (196883) marked the second stage which welcomed lay people as active participants. Journalists appeared as mediators between the experts and the studio audiences whom they often approached in a patronizing way. The orientation towards consensus was replaced by an orientation towards conflict and confrontation,

notes rnebring. The popular public debate of the third period (198496) started appreciating conflict not for the sake of criticism but for the sake of high ratings and attracting audience. The role of the host became central. They were given celebrity status. The issues ranged from trivia to high politics. Controversy was celebrated just for the sake of it. The genre was totally subjugated to commercial rules of the
Henrik rnebring, Televising the Public Sphere: Forty Years of Current Affairs Program on Swedish Television, European Journal of Communication 18, no. 4 (2003): p. 504, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO, Miguel de Benevides Library, Manila, PH, 15 Jul. 2007 <http://search.ebscohost.com>. 105 Ibid., p. 511. 106 Ibid., p. 513.


market, although lay people gained better access to the program than ever before. It is hard here not to recall the Habermasian paradox of the inversed reciprocity between the extended participation and the quality of the discourse and his arguments about the decline of the public sphere.

However, other accounts about the genre point out different effects. Sturken and Cartwright for example believe that different television debate programs contribute to the public sphere in that they create a forum for contemporary issues and thus promote the formation of public spheres.107

For Sonia Livingstone and Peter Lunt participatory programming, such as audience discussion programs, has the potential to construct a particular relationship between the lay participants and the experts: Both are presented as interested parties but as knowing different things in different ways.108 They analyze the changes in the setting of these programs that bridge the gap between the alleged incompetence of ordinary people and the elitism of experts. These changes range from technical things, such as the seating arrangement (the experts are seated among the studio audience, instead on a raised platform) to the structure of the program, which became rather loose, and the role of the host who tends to address the studio audience in a more sympathetic manner and is more hostile, more
Marisa Sturken and Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 182. 108 Livingstone and Lunt, op. cit., p. 101.


provocative towards the experts. This type of program encourages formation of the critical discourse and consensus in the public, bridging the communication gap between the life-world and the system world, something that also Habermas has been striving for.

c. Internet

The growth of the Internet and its rapid expansion has led to extensive researches of the possible implications it might have for democracy. The bulk of it has been addressing interactivity as the main element to change the nature of citizens participation in politics and public life in general. The advocates of the socalled electronic democracy109 argue that the Internet may either improve the existing form of democracy or revive the ancient form of direct democracy. Summarizing the arguments for electronic democracy, Street notes that the Internet may offer solutions for the problems that have been obstructing political participationtime, size, knowledge and access.110 The Internet has overcome the boundaries of time and space and it is no longer necessary for citizens to be physically present to contribute to a discussion. The limited political knowledge of ordinary citizens and the unequal distribution of resources, which has been

109 110

John Street, Mass Media, Politics and Democracy (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001), p. 214. Ibid., p. 217. 74

hampering their capacity to get involved in the process of deliberation may no longer be a problem.111

The Internet has been recognized as a platform for public deliberation and the solution for other problems modern democracy may encounter: The net seems to provide a way around the practical problems posed by democracy, whatever its form; citizens can exercise their vote, deliberate on public policy or participate directly.112

Curran refers to Negroponte who thinks of cyberspace as generating a new world order based on international communication and popular empowerment.113 Keane suggest that the internet stimulates the growth of macro public spheres since one segment of the world population uses the Internet to generate controversies about matters of common concern with other members of the virtual community.114 It is the forum for discussion or interaction between the members of special interest groups, ad hoc pressure groups or cyber protesters. Websites provide infrastructure for deliberation, which may eventually lead to real actions. In that sense, the Internet opens up some options for the development of the international civil society.

Ibid. Ibid., p. 218. 113 Curran, loc. cit., p. 137. 114 Keane, Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, in The Media, Journalism and Democracy, p. 67.
111 112


However, the critique of the electronic democracy rests on diametrically opposite assumptions: democracy involves deliberation and dialogue in the formation of collective goals, rather than the aggregation of individual preferences.115 And the Internet is all about registering preferences. People in most parts of the world do not have access to it, while the very idea of electronic participation is based on the assumption of the universal and cheap access. 116 Furthermore, Curran argues that the fastest-growing branch of the Internet is ecommerce which only shows that the relations of power shape new technologies and not the other way around.117

What distinguishes the Internet from the other media, besides its basic technological characteristic, is its rather unstructured form of communication and the absence of mediators which is an issue of great controversy when, for instance, television discussion programs are addressed.

Despite the professional, technological and structural constraints and the need to adjust to the rules of the marketwhich sometimes proves not to be particularly rewarding for the quality of discussionthe media have the potential to facilitate public discussion.

Street, op. cit., p. 219. Loc. cit., p. 220. 117 Curran, Rethinking the Media and Democracy, in Curan and Gurevitch, Mass Media and Society, p. 137.
115 116


Curran hopes that democratic media can bridge the gap between the fragmented social groups and the universally shared arena of general discourse. 118 The specialist media sector should cater for different audiences and enable them to debate issues of social identity, group interest, political strategy and normative understanding on their own terms.119 These media should foster discussion within multiple and mutually overlapping public spheres. The general media sector should reach the general, heterogeneous public in such a way that different groups in society come together and engage in reciprocal debate.120 The general media should be sensitive to public initiatives and pursue response from governments if the civil sector requires it.

C. Discursive Theory as a Model of Habermas Public Sphere

The line between participatory liberal and discursive theories is not easy to draw, especially regarding who should be included in the public sphere. Popular inclusion is equally embraced by both traditions. As Joshua Cohen puts it, The notion of a deliberative democracy is rooted in the intuitive ideal of a democratic association in which justification of the terms and conditions of association proceeds

Ibid., p. 141. Ibid., p. 140. 120 Ibid., p. 141.

118 119


through public argument and reasoning among equal citizens.121 The central value here is in the process of deliberation with popular inclusion being desirable because it supports the valued process.

Habermas accepts the fact that decisions on public affairs are normally made at the political centerby government agencies, parliaments, courts, and political parties. For routine decisions, it is reasonable and acceptable if these are made without extensive public discussion. But when important normative questions are at stake, it is crucial that the discussion not be limited to actors at the center of the political system. On such issues, a well functioning public sphere should simultaneously include actors from the periphery as wellthat is, civil society actors including especially grassroots organizations. Political parties may therefore offer sufficient opportunities for political discourse in typical cases, but issues that are novel or normatively significant should reach beyond the routine deliberative processes found in political parties and draw in outsiders to discuss them.

Within this periphery, Habermas makes a distinction between autonomous (autochtone) actors, characterized by a mode of association tied to the life-world of the citizens, and power-regulated (vermachtete) actors, characterized by formal

Joshua Cohen, Deliberation and Democratic Legitimacy, pp. 17-34, in The Good Polity, eds., Alan Hamlin and Philip Pettit (Cambridge: Blackwell, 1989). The quotation is from p. 17


bureaucratic relations of hierarchy.122 The autonomous actors, by which Habermas basically means small, non-bureaucratically organized grassroots associations with little or no division of labor, are minimally mediated and closer to personal, everyday experience.

Habermas assumes that such associations will take a particular organizational form, noting that with their informal, multiple differentiated and networked communication processes, they form the true periphery. In this regard, his standard for what counts as a grassroots organization is much narrower than the participatory liberal perspective, which values groups that actively bring their members into politics regardless of their specific form of organization. For Habermas, the organizational form is important because of its contribution to the deliberative processthe less bureaucratic, centralized form serves to carry political discussion into the lifeworld of the members.123 Autonomous groups have a special role in the public sphere and their inclusion is vital. These associations, Habermas writes,

As Habermas uses the term, lifeworld is in the realm of communicative action, in contrast to systems run by power or money. The life-world, if intact and not colonized by other systems, secures cultural reproduction, social integration, and socialization. 123 In practice, the distinction may simply reflect differences in how real social movements are structured in the United States and Germany. Social movement organizations in the United States are typically larger, and have more of a division of labor, including a media relations division or specialist, while German social movements, being organizationally decentralized and nonbureaucratic, come closer to Habermas ideal type.


are the knots in a communication net constructed among autonomous publics. Such associations are specialists in creating and spreading practical convictions. They specialize in discovering issues of relevance to the entire society, contributing to possible solutions, interpreting values, producing good rationales and discrediting others.124

Habermas assumes that these autonomous actors communicate in a different way. They are free from the burden of making decisions and from the constraints of organizational maintenance. This allows them, in contrast to other actors, to deliberate more freely; they can more easily take the viewpoint of other actors and respect the better arguments.

Representative liberal critics doubt that autochtone actors such as social movements deliberate more fully than vermachtete actors or that their

communication processes are better in the ways that Habermas claims. Ultimately, this is an empirical question, best answered by closely and systematically examining differences, rather than relying on problematic a priori assumptions.

Several years before Habermas Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere first appeared in German, C. Wright Mills seems to have anticipated some of the central themes of the discursive tradition:

In a public, as we may understand the term, 1) virtually as many people express opinions as receive them. 2) public communications Habermas, Discourse as a Procedure: A Normative Concept of the Public Sphere, Mercury 43 (1989): pp. 465-477, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO, Miguel de Benevides Library, Manila, PH, 18 Jul 2007 <http://search.ebscohost.com>. The quotation is from p. 474.


are so organized that there is a chance immediately and effectively to answer back any opinion expressed in public. Opinion formed by such discussion 3) readily finds an outlet in effective action<. 4) authoritative institutions do not penetrate the public, which is thus more or less autonomous.125

Criteria concerning the style and content of public communication are at the heart of the discursive tradition. The ultimate goal is a public sphere in which better ideas prevail over weaker ones because of the strength of these ideas rather than the strength of their proponents. The normative ideal in the Habermas version is embodied in the concept of an ideal speech situation. He insists that it is more than simply an abstract ideal that should guide practice without ever being fully achieved. It is being realized, at least in part, whenever one starts to argue in order to convince others rather than simply commanding, negotiating, suggesting a compromise, or in other ways abandoning the effort to persuade.

Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompsons deliberative democracy suggests a similar set of normative standards. Citizens must be able to transcend their narrow interest to consider what can be reasonably justified to people who disagree with them:

Deliberation can clarify the nature of a moral conflict, helping to distinguish among the moral, the amoral, and the immoral, and between compatible and incompatible values. Citizens are more likely to recognize what is at stake in a dispute if they employ moral


C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 303-304. 81

reasoning in trying to resolve it. Deliberation helps sort out selfinterested claims from public-spirited ones.126

For the better argument to be decisive, it should not matter who is making the argument. Differences in external status or power among speakers should be bracketedthat is, put aside and ignored. There must be mutual and reciprocal recognition of each by all as autonomous, rational subjects whose claims will be accepted if supported by valid arguments. If this process is constrained by political or economic force or manipulation, or some arguments are disallowed, then participants are not taking the arguments of others seriouslyand the conditions of an ideal speech situation are not being met. Thus, popular inclusion in the discursive tradition is justified in part by its ability to foster deliberativeness, the more theoretically central criterion.127

Other criteria on the how and what of good public communication also flow from deliberativeness. Civility and mutual respect are required.128 In an ideal deliberative process, one seeks agreement when it is possible and maintains mutual respect when it is not. Mutual respect is a form of agreeing to disagree, but demands

Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson, Democracy and Disagreement (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996), p. 43. 127 Habermas, IO, p. 81. 128 Ibid., p. 82.


more than simply tolerance. It requires a favorable attitude toward, and constructive interaction with the persons with whom one disagrees.129

Communitarians such as Amitai Etzioni offer similar rules of engagement for what he calls values talk.130 The normative standards should reflect the tenet that one should act on the recognition that the conflicting parties are members of one and the same community; hence, they should fight, as the saying goes, with one hand tied behind their back. These standards lead him to such specific rules as: the participants should not demonize one another or depict those with whom they disagree as satanic or treasonous. Another rule is

not to affront the deepest moral commitments of the other groups. The assumption is that each group is committed to some particular values that are sacrosanct to it, values which must be particularly respected by others; as well as some dark moments in its history upon which members prefer not to dwell. Self restraint in these matters... enhances the processes that underlie moral dialogue.131

All of these strands of discursive democratic theory share an underlying assumptionthat the participants are part of the same moral community, sharing basic values. They assume that all the participants deserve respect but what of those participants who repudiate the shared values or whose ideas are not worthy of respect? Once one acknowledges that there is a boundary defining what content is

Ibid., p. 79. Amitai Etzioni, The New Golden Rule (New York: Basic Books, 1990), p. 103. 131 Ibid., pp. 104-105.
129 130


included or excluded in a mutually respectful discourse, one can see that this is often contested and not consensual.

Suppose one believes that a doctor who performs an abortion is a murderer, or that a person who murders a receptionist in a womens health clinic is outside of the moral community. Then it hardly makes sense to extend mutual respect to those who defend such people. It turns out that most issues with a strong moral component involve ambiguity about who is or is not in the same moral community. Different frames give different answers, and draw the boundaries of who should be extended mutual respect in different ways. The applicability of this normative standard of mutual respect depends on and assumes a consensus about the boundaries of inclusion that often does not exist in practice.

In addition to mutual respect, the participants in public discourse should demonstrate their readiness for dialogue. Dialogue, in the Habermas version, implies a discourse in which claims and assertions are backed by reasoned, understandable arguments. This implies a willingness to entertain the arguments of those who disagree. Dialogue oriented speakers take account of the arguments of others, include some of their valid points in further refining and developing their own position, provide a full account of their reasoning and justifications so that


others in turn may attend to them, and actively rebut rather than ignore ideas that they view as invalid.

James Hunter argues that the right to participate in the public sphere should be balanced and limited by a corresponding responsibility to speak appropriately:

First, those who claim the right to dissent should assume the responsibility to debate<. Second, those who claim the right to criticize should assume the responsibility to comprehend<. Third, those who claim the right to influence should accept the responsibility not to inflame<. Fourth, those who claim the right to participate should accept the responsibility to persuade. 132

The normative standards of dialogue, civility, and mutual respect combine to promote a positive value on consensus-seeking speech. Guttman and Thompson explicitly apply their model of deliberative democracy to abortion discourse:

Accommodation calls on citizens to try to minimize the range of their public disagreement by promoting policies on which their principles converge, even if they would otherwise place those policies significantly lower on their own list of political priorities. Thus, pro-choice advocates may think that publicly funded programs that help unwed mothers care for their own children are less important than pro-life proponents do, but the pro-choice advocates should join in actively promoting these programs and other policies that are similarly consistent with the principles they share with opponents. By trying to maximize political agreement in these ways, citizens do not end serious moral conflict, but they affirm that they accept significant parts of the substantive morality of their fellow citizens to whom they may find themselves deeply opposed in other respects.133

Guttman and Thompson contrast the normative standards of deliberative

132 133

James Davison Hunter, Before the Shooting Begins (New York: The Free Press, 1994), p. 239. Gutmann and Thompson, op. cit., p. 89. 85

democracy with a discourse that,

encourages the practice of impugning the motives of ones opponents instead of assessing the merits of their positions.. .. When the imputation of bad motive dominates an institutional culture, citizens do not reason together so much as they reason against one another. They reflexively attack persons instead of policies, looking for what is behind policies rather than what is in them. In a culture where moral disagreement turns so readily into general distrust, citizens are not disposed to think and act in a reciprocal frame of mind. A reciprocal perspective is important not only to enable citizens to resolve disagreement but also to enable them to learn to live with it.134

The practices they impugn are often associated with the actual mobilizing efforts of social movements which, as participatory liberal theory points out, may need to heighten contrast between positions, emphasize threats to strongly held values, and discredit the trustworthiness of government in order to encourage people to see their own political actions as necessary and efficacious.

It is worth noting that Guttman and Thompson make repeated efforts to define the boundaries of what is acceptable discursive practice more broadly than in the Habermas version. We do not assume, they assert, that politics should be a realm where the logical syllogism rules.135 They argue, for example, that deliberation can be consistent with impassioned and immoderate speech. First, even extreme non-deliberative methods may be justified as necessary steps to

134 135

Loc. cit., p. 360. Ibid., p. 4. 86

deliberation... Second, deliberation itself does not always have to take the form of a reasoned argument of the kind that philosophers are inclined to favor.136

Their standards of civility are relatively weak in comparison to those of representative liberalism. They do not demand that priority be given to logic over emotion. They concede that their

politics of mutual respect is not always pretty< Citizens may find it necessary to take extreme and even offensive stands< These strategies may be justified when, for example, they are required to gain attention for a legitimate position that would otherwise be ignored, and thereby to promote mutual respect in the long term. 137

Here, they show recognition of the potential conflict between the norm of popular inclusiveness and the norms of deliberativeness and civility.

The civic or public journalism movement in the United States draws much of its inspiration from this discursive tradition. Edmund Lambeth, in an essay discussing civic journalism as democratic practice, suggests that if it were to require a philosophical patron saint, Habermas< would appear to be a logical nominee.138 Tanni Haas elaborates this point. Habermas, she argues, implies that the primary responsibility of journalists should be to facilitate [emphasis in original] public deliberations aimed at reaching rational-critical public opinions that are

Ibid., p. 136. Ibid., p. 90. 138 Edmund B. Lambeth, Philip E. Meyer and Elizabeth E. Throson, eds. Assessing Public Journalism (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1998), p. 27.
136 137


autonomous vis--vis the private sphere and the state.139 Or to quote Jay Rosen, one of the major articulators of the civic journalism project, journalists should focus on citizens as actors within rather than spectators to [the democratic process].140

The discursive democratic tradition assumes that an ideally conducted public discourse should produce a gradual consensus over time. People are encouraged to think in terms of the collective good rather than their private good and search for areas of agreement in an atmosphere of mutual respect. If consensus is ever possible, these conditions should produce it, since conditions such as these promote an atmosphere designed for conflict resolution. At a minimum, a good public discourse should produce a working consensusenough of an agreement on the general direction of public policy to remove it from the public agenda.

While this tradition shares with representative liberalism a belief in the positive normative value of closure, it assumes that achieving a consensus is both desirable and attainable, at least in the ideal case. Only under these conditions, does closure after a decision make sense:

According to the perspective of discourse theory, majority opinion must maintain an internal link to the praxis of argumentation<. A Tanni Haas, Whats Public about Public Journalism? Communication Theory 9 (1999): pp. 346-364, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO, Miguel de Benevides Library, Manila, PH, 18 Jul 2007 <http://search.ebscohost.com>. The quotation is from p. 356. 140 Jay Rosen, Making Things More Public: On the Responsibility of the Media Intellectual, Critical Studies in Mass Communication 11 (1994): pp. 363-388, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO, Miguel de Benevides Library, Manila, PH, 18 Jul 2007 <http://search.ebscohost.com>.


majority rule should only be formed in a way that its content can be considered as a rationally motivated but fallible result of a temporarily finished discussion about the right direction to solve a given problem.141

Representative liberal theorists tend to be skeptical about consensus as a realistic goal in politics. The public sphere works better, in their view, if actors recognize that there are different positions that are unlikely to be reconciled. In such a situation, it is better to follow Bruce Ackermans principle of conversational restraint, avoiding fundamental normative disputes and looking for a working compromise rather than consensus.142

In summary, the discursive tradition shares the value of popular inclusion with participatory liberalism, but unlike that tradition, views this as a means to a more deliberative public sphere rather than as an end in itself. Inclusion of speakers from the periphery should contribute to an active dialogue between center and periphery and foster more deliberative speech. Deliberativeness is the core value of this perspective, and it involves recognizing, incorporating, and rebutting the arguments of othersdialogue and mutual respectas well as justifying ones own. Civility and closure are also values that this tradition shares with representative liberalism, but these norms are interpreted more loosely: civility is not tantamount to emotional detachment nor is closure desirable if consensus has not been achieved.
Habermas, TCA, p. 42. See Bruce Ackerman, Why Dialogue? Journal of Philosophy 86 (1989): pp. 5-22, JSTOR, 15 Jun. 2007 <http://www.jstor.org>.
141 142


D. Private/Public Distinction The public/private distinction is prominent in scholarship on social and legal issues. The dichotomy appears necessary for individual autonomy, the maintenance of social institutions, and the conduct of legal action. At the same time, it tends to legitimate and mystify patterns of inequality and structures of power through which individual autonomy, social institutions, and legal action are accomplished. The appearance of capitalist market relations as a self-regulating economic system has enhanced the centrality of private individualism and has shaped political and legal interventions in the economic sphere. Institutional and legal practices supported by the public/private dichotomy both legitimate and block the recognition of patterns of inequality and power in the relationships among personal experience and public policy. Social dislocations are experienced as personal troubles rather than formulated as public issues and psychological individualism dominates popular consciousness. Commitments to family and career are sources of privatized orientations toward the public arena of law and politics. 143 Legal constructions of the public/private distinction support patterns of participation in personal spheres of consumption and publicly organized production,144 and in the allocation of persons to public arenas of production and decision-making and to the private arena of

143 144

Habermas, LC, pp. 78-92. See Daniel Bell, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism (New York: Basic Books, 1976). 90

household responsibilities on the basis of gender.145 The public/private distinction combines contradictory tendencies that define it as an ideology.

The most encompassing approach to the public/private distinction as an ideology is developed in Habermas writings.146 Habermas analyzed the public/private dichotomy directly as an ideology. For Habermas, the public/private distinction is pivotal for analyzing intersecting levels of social structure and law such as class relations and the powers to create and implement legislation. In addition, Habermas developed a dialectical critique of the public/private distinction. He examined both structural features of social reality and patterns of meaning through which actors reproduce the social structures that constrain their actions.

The public/private distinction underlies basic issues that Habermas studied and also infuses his analytic concepts. Habermas developed alternative approaches to the critique of legal ideology by articulating issues through the public/private dichotomy. There are three major approaches to the public/private dichotomy in law
Nadine Taub and Elizabeth M. Schneider, Perspectives on Womens Subordination and the Role of Law, The Politics of Law: A Progressive Critique, David Kairys, ed. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1982), p. 11240. 146 Other classical approaches to the sociology of law provide alternative directions for the analysis of the public/private distinction. For Emile Durkheim, the distinction is a manifestation of changing patterns of morality associated with the growing complexity of the division of labor realized through patterns of ritualized public communication [Emile Durkheim, Professional Ethics and Civil Morals, trans. Cornelia Brookfield (Glencoe and Illinois: Free Press, 1958), pp. 129-85; and Durkheim, The Division of Labor in Society, trans. George Simpson (New York: Free Press, 1964), p. 127]. For Weber, the most rational forms of legality in the public sphere are a condition for the realization of privatized values and, indeed, the realization of individual will [Anthony Kronman, Max Weber (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1983)].


in Habermas writings, although I shall explain only two more relevant approaches. First, from the vantage point of philosophical criticism, the public/private distinction provides the categorical framework for legal discourse.

These categories have an abstract, mystifying universality: the discourse of citizenship, formal equality and private rights obscures the social relationships among people and their conditions of life. In its ideological formulation, the private/public distinction in legal theory reverses the dependency between social institutions and legal categories.147 For example, civil society and the private sphere are made to appear to be dependent on legal categories that separate them as arenas of action. Owning property, buying and selling on the market, and engaging in household consumption have their social significance established through a legal discourse that is universalizing rather than through the practical meaning they have for actors/participants.

The domination and inequality characteristic of civil society and the private sphere are obscured through legal categories which are ideal. Specifically, the equality and freedom posited in the public sphere serve to secure social, religious, and material distinctions in the form of private rights that are the material conditions of inequality and conflict through which social relations are


Habermas, STPS, p. 174. 92

constituted.148 Both the reduction of the workers need to the barest and most miserable level of physical subsistence and the refinement of needs of those with wealth are supported by public principles of formal equality and commodity exchange.149 To be sure, bourgeois law provides an ideal vision of freedom and equality. Yet, it actually serves as a formal framework for the realization of private power and domination. Habermas not only formulated the public/private distinction as ideological; he argued against it by showing that the law and the state are not subjects of action that predicate civil society and the private sphere. He maintained that the universal, abstract categories of the public sphere are not adequately grounded in social conditions and the forms through which social life is conducted. Rather, legal categories, rooted in idealist suppositions, distort social relations. In large part, the inadequacy and ideological character of this idealized approach to the public sphere results from deducing those forms of social life that are closest to the private sphere from the most universal public categories. Family life, property ownership, and market relations are viewed as personal emanations of eternal principles. As a consequence, the private sphere and the realms of everyday action are presented as aspects of an abstractly unified logic of social and political constitution.

148 149

Ibid. Ibid., p. 180. 93

In opposition to this formulation, Habermas maintains that the family and civil society are, actually, the driving force of the state rather than being merely produced by the idea of the state.150 Instead of being determined within the bounds of the relations among ideas, the fact is that the state issues from the multitude in their existence as members of families and as members of civil society.151 Indeed, it is from this facticity rather than from speculative thought that the family and civil society can be correctly understood as the natural basis of the state. Individuals, in their actual relations with one another in the private sphere of the household and in more extended relations in civil society, provide the foundations for public life and the state.

In addition, Habermas criticized the ideological distinction between the public and private from the standpoint of democracy. Democracy locates the sources of politics, law, and the state in the activities of people, and therefore represents a major departure for the self-grounding of human activity. Democracy, Habermas maintained, does not require an abstract, transcendental origin: through democracy people can recognize that it is not the constitution which creates the people but the people who create the constitution.152

Ibid., p. 181. Ibid., p. 184. 152 Ibid., p. 189.

150 151


Nonetheless, law based on popular democracy may itself generate the public/private distinction as ideological. Conditions of private life and civil society, that is, how people live together in families, their means of survival, and their relationships to one another and to history determine whether forms of law and politics are truly democratic. Most pointedly, the abstraction of the state as such belongs only to modern times, because the abstraction of private life belongs only to modern times.153 We may say that the distancing of the public sphere of politics and law from the private sphere is based on conditions internal to the private sphere and civil society.

To continue, Habermas second approach to the analysis of the public/private distinction attempts to analyze the relations between the private sphere and legal categories by delving on material relations. Grounded in the concept of alienated labor, Habermas criticized bourgeois political economy in much the same manner that he criticized idealist conceptions of law. For him, political economy is neither grounded in the social conditions that are the basis for its categories nor does it adequately conceptualize the active relationships that its categories formally express. The categories of private property, exchange, free labor, profit, and rent are assumed as fundamental premises by bourgeois political economy without attending to the human agency that gives rise to them in the first place, and without

Ibid. 95

grounding them in the human processes that actively produce them. For this reason, Habermas tells us that the categories of political economy take on the character of nonsensical analytic concepts that operate as obscure ideals. In effect, political economy starts with the fact of private property, but it does not explain it to us. It expresses in general, abstract formulas the material process through which private property actually passes, and these formulas it then takes for laws.154

In the above approach, private property is the core category around which political economy and law converge. Private property is the public presentation of the results of alienated labor of disengaging the person from the product of labor and productive activity, in the appropriation of the products of labor. Private property, moreover, is a point of contradiction and obscurity for both legal categories and economic activity, so much so that just as labor is the condition for the appropriation of objects in the form of private property, so private ownership is the condition for labor as a commodity that has but very limited rights in the product that it creates.


Ibid., p. 200. 96


A. The Public-Private Distinction: A Double-Layered Conceptualization

In terms of the public-private dichotomy the meanings of the public in Habermas framework are anchored on two different levels of analysis spatial/institutional location and structural relations. Conceptually speaking, as a space for free discussion among the members in civil society, it is a structural prerequisite that the public sphere be developed from within a nonstate domain whereby its political autonomy vis--vis the state can be safeguarded. Habermas has made this point very clear, but he does so at the expense of conceptual precision and consistency. In rather paradoxical terms, the public sphere is conceived as a public space instituted in the private realm of civil society. It follows that the carrier of the public sphere lies among the new stratum of private individuals in civil society. Habermas theory does not itself contribute to such a paradoxical conception. Rather, it epitomizes some unresolved tensions between, and inadequate conceptualization within, two divergent theoretical strands prevalent in Western political and academic thinking: the metanarrative of Anglo-American citizenship


theory in terms of the state/public versus market/private duality on the one hand, and the tradition of republicanism on the other.

The state/public versus market/private duality has its intellectual roots in Enlightenment thinking as exemplified in the works of Locke, Smith, Bentham, and their contemporaries. A major part of this tradition is concerned with the question of the scope of public or state jurisdiction vis--vis the private individuals in society. Despite internal disputes over this question, there is a common tendency within the tradition to define the public and civil society in terms of the overarching statenonstate distinction155 striking a synonymy between public and state on the one hand and conceiving civil society as the nonstate, hence private, domain of market economy on the other. Apparently, a state-centered framework has underlaid the definitions of public, private, and civil society. The origin of this state-centered framework could be traced back to the tradition of Roman law as well as absolutism. The Roman law embodied the idea of the public as the visible expression of absolute sovereignty of the territorial ruler who was supposed to represent the political community. It emphasized the jurisdiction of the state over its subjects. The absolutist era revived this idea, referring the public to the functioning of a political apparatus endowed with its spheres of jurisdiction as well as a monopoly over the legitimate use of coercion. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, from the

John Keane, Democracy and Civil Society (London: Verso, 1988), p. 179. 98

perspective of the liberal Enlightenment thinkers, it was against this kind of proclaimed public authority of the absolute monarchy that the emerging civil society counteracted. Specifically, they identified the capitalist market as playing an essential part in the formation of such a civil societya community that was capable of organizing itself independent of the specific direction of state power. In a nutshell, absolutism proclaimed a state-centered view of the constitution of political community whereas Enlightenment liberalism rejected it. In terms of their political stances, the two were obviously incompatible with each other. Yet, in terms of metatheoretical framework, they would seem to constitute two sides of the same conceptual coin, that is, the public/state versus private/civil society dichotomy.

Following the Enlightenment dualistic framework, Habermas equates the state with the public domain and civil society with the private domain (market economy). The identification of civil society with the private domain of market economy, however, offers a narrow and overly materialistic conception of civil society as well as public sphere. Institutionally, the notion of civil society touches the existence of free associations and organized political life within a community of citizens.156 The market itself is not equivalent to civil society but perhaps provides

For the shifting and varied meanings of the notion of civil society, see Jeffrey Alexander and Phillip Smith, The Discourse of Civil Society: A New Proposal for Cultural Studies, Theory and Civil Society (1993): pp. 151-207, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO, Miguel de Benevides Library, Manila, PH, 15 Jul. 2007 <http://search.ebscohost.com>. Despite the divergent emphases, there seems to arise a consensual understanding that civil society is a domain of society that 1s analytically and, to


the necessary socio-economic infrastructure for the emergence and development of a politically autonomous communicative network among citizens that is strong enough to counteract state control. In this light, Habermas conflation between civil society and economic market not only gives rise to a somewhat impoverished understanding of civil society; with regard to public sphere, it also leads him away from identifying the general citizens as carrier of the public. As a result, he sees continuity among the identities of bourgeois, homme, and citoyen:

For the private person, there was no break between homme and citoyen, as long as the homme was simultaneously an owner of private property who as citoyen was to protect the stability of the property order as a private one. Class interest was the basis of public opinion.

With these conflations, bourgeois interest became identical to the general interest of the public. What is missing, rather unfortunately, is a proper and adequate conceptualization of civil society and public sphere in terms of the category of citizenship.

Historical studies by Zaret have challenged the class-centered analyses by Habermas that linked the initial appearance of democratic ideas to class interests of
a certain extent, empirically separated from the market, the family, the state, and other social domains. 157 Kumar claims that the term brgerliche Gesellschaft makes no distinction between the spheres of the bourgeois and of the citoxen. However, Hegel has made a distinction between the two categories that allows him to critique the bourgeois character of civil society. See Krishnan Kumar, An Inquiry into the Usefulness of an Historical Term, British Journal of Sociology 44, no. 3 (1993): p. 381, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO, Miguel de Benevides Library, Manila, PH, 15 Jul. 2007 <http://search.ebscohost.com>. 100

the bourgeois or to an extension of aristocratic privileges that involved alliances between the aristocracy and bourgeoisie.158 Instead of identifying the bourgeois as the carrier of the public, Zaret locates the origin of the modern public sphere in a novel communicative practice among the wider populace-printed petitions from political associations. Significantly, these publicist petitions by general citizens invoke or imply popular will as a source of authority.159 I think such changes provide a clue for us to reconceptualize the notion of the public in terms of citizenship.

On the institutional level, Habermas nonetheless seems to be well-disposed to a rival conception of the public that is more akin to the notion of citizenship. Republicanism, as it is advocated by political philosophers like Aristotle and Rousseau understands the public sphere as a sphere of debate, deliberation, and collective self-determination within a community of equal and active citizens. Such a sphere is distinct from both state administration and market economy. Habermas conceives the public sphere of rational-critical discourse in similar terms, except that he identifies the participants as private individualsindividuals whose identities have been fully formed in the private domains of market economy and family life
Cf. David Zaret, Literacy and Printing in the Rise of Democratic Political Culture in Seventeenth-Century England, Research on Democracy and Society 2 (1994): pp. 175-211, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO, Miguel de Benevides Library, Manila, PH, 15 Jul. 2007 <http://search.ebscohost.com>. 159 Zaret, Petitions and the Invention of Public Opinion in the English Revolution, American Journal of Sociology 101, no. 6 (1996): p. 1514, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO, Miguel de Benevides Library, Manila, PH, 15 Jul. 2007 <http://search.ebscohost.com>.


rather than as public citizens. This republican conception of the public stands in contrast to the Roman or absolutist conception. For Habermas, the former stresses the active participation of the people vis--vis the state whereas the latter emphasizes the jurisdiction of the state over its subjects.160 Both meanings are found in Habermas framework without one overriding the other. In this regard, his conception of the public does indeed avoid a conflation of state apparatuses with the public arenas of citizen discourse and association in the socialist and Marxist tradition.161 However, without spelling out what, if any, commonality may lie behind them, it remains a contradiction in terms that the public should mean both at the same time. This boils down to the problem of theoretical inconsistency as well as conceptual inadequacy about the notion. The problem, however, may not be resolved simply by adopting one model in lieu of the other. This is because neither the state versus market approach to civil society nor the republican model of public participation has offered a satisfactory account of the public sphere of civil society.

Thompson notes that the problem could be looked at from three angles. 162 First, both approaches fail to see how the modern notion of public should be tied to both state and civil society. Today, state and civil society have become so deeply

Habermas, LC, p. 45. Nancy Fraser, Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy, in Calhoun, op. cit., p. 120. 162 John B. Thompson, Ideology and Modern Culture: Critical Social Theory in the Era of Mass Communication (Oxford: Polity Press, 1990), pp. 43-50.
160 161


intertwined that they interact with each other in shaping the political and moral boundary of public life and that they are simultaneously subject to a common cultural field that constitutes and regulates public life. Thus, we need to redefine the notion of public in the context of modern politics that would allow us to address the question of legitimacy, public culture, and citizenship practice in more adequate terms. Secondly, Habermas approach to the public, under both the liberal conception (the flip side of Roman absolutism) and the republican conception tends to take for granted the shifting, contested, and often interpenetrating boundaries between state and nonstate, public and nonpublic. With this, it not only depoliticizes power relations in the private spheres, viz., the family and the economy; it also fails to address the questions of hegemonic domination, power alliance, and political struggle within the state institution and in the public sphere. Feminist scholars such as Arendt, Fraser, and Benhabib have already presented their critiques in this regard.163 The problem is that Habermas has provided for a rather confined understanding of power and politics: Under his Enlightenment conception, power resides primarily in the judicial institution of the state164; under his republican conception, the idealized public sphere of citizen participation is free from issues about culture, identity, power, and struggle. Apparently, neither the state-centered

See their individual essays in Calhoun, loc. cit. Habermas, Burdens of the Double Past, Dissent 41, no. 4 (1994): 513, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO, Miguel de Benevides Library, Manila, PH, 15 Jul. 2007 <http://search.ebscohost.com>.
163 164


approach nor the republican model could adequately deal with the multiplicity of citizenship politics in contemporary society, including various kinds of cultural politics, identity struggles, and boundary issues. A corrective to these problems rather than dispensing with the public-private distinction altogetherwould lie in redefining the notion of public in its own terms which will encompass a broader definition of the political. This would require us to conceptualize the public as a signifying construct about citizenship or citizen membership that is attached to both state and civil society. Finally, Habermas republican model of the public sphere contains another hidden meaning of public which underscores further deficiencies in his understanding of the public sphere on the cultural and the institutional levels.

B. The Hidden Public-Mass Distinction

Besides the double-layered public-private duality, embedded in Habermas theory of public sphere is a different, more hidden interpretation of the public in terms of the public versus mass distinction. This interpretation underlies an overly rationalistic conception of public culture within a republican model that builds upon the Enlightenment ideal of rationalism.165 The republican conception of citizenship presumes a willed citizenry involved in conscious, collective decision-making by

Habermas, LC, pp. 61-67. 104

means of pro-active public participation. Within this framework, the earlier traditions of sociology and critical theories maintain that the emergence of mass society in the modern era has eclipsed the public of reasoned opinions or polymorphous sociability.166 Habermas shares some of the critical theorists concern about the institution of public communication that is central to the practice of democracy. Given an affinity with Enlightenment rationalism, his primary aim is to explore the social and the cultural bases within the private realm of society for the development of an effective critical-rational discourse in public sphere as well as the subsequent degeneration of the public sphere. It is on this central problem that his analysis of public discourse develops into an arduous elaboration of the mass versus public framework from a socio-historical perspective. He sets out to establish that the meaning and material operation of the public has changed over time, in accordance with changes in the nature of the public sphere. In a nutshell, the public sphere had developed from (i) one of publicity of royal or manorial representation before the subjects in the Middle Ages167 to (ii) the bourgeois public sphere of critical-rational debate among private citizens in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,168 and then degenerated into (iii) a sphere of manipulative,

See Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception, in Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans. John Cumming (New York: Seabury Press, 1972), pp. 120-67. 167 Habermas, STPS, p. 14. 168 Ibid., p. 44.


staged publicity169 thereafter. Depending on the nature of the public sphere, public opinion would take on a different meaning, either as the object to be molded in the service of particular persons and institutions or as a critical normative authority over the exercise of political and social power.

In Habermas analysis, the mass media in contemporary capitalist societies are relegated to a sphere of manipulative, staged publicity that turns the once rational public of private individuals into a passive mass of privatized audience. 170 In terms of theoretical construction, he arrives at such a degeneration thesis by building the public-mass dichotomy into his Enlightenment-republican conception of the idealized public sphere. On the one hand, his republican interpretation has allowed him to locate identity formationbourgeois and hommeprimarily in the private realms of economy and family and to conceive the public sphere characterized by rational discourse of general interest among private individuals. On the other hand, underlying the public-mass distinction is a conception of public culture in a way that denies public discourse of any instrumental concern and symbolic references. Within this framework, attempts to affirm or reshape identities through public action would be understood as degenerative intrusions due to growing inclusiveness and interest-based manipulation of opinion by means of

169 170

Ibid., p. 89. Habermas, Burdens of the Double Past, p. 520. 106

symbolic identification.171 In this part of Habermas account, that is, in his analysis of public discourse, what is regarded as genuinely public is what is believed to be critical-rational as opposed to what is simply irrational, instrumental, and particularistic. Debate in the bourgeois public sphere is presumed to be governed by universal rules, which, in being objective and strictly external to the individuals, do not so much constitute their identities as secure space for the development of their unique and private interiority that has taken place in the family. 172 However, in emphasizing the universal rules and the common humanistic principles that governed critical-rational discourse, Habermas tends to slight the substantive relevance of a communitys culture-tradition, history, collective memories, and valuesto public discourse. Moreover, in emphasizing general concerns that transcend the diversity of interests and identities in civil society, he sidesteps the issues of power, struggle, and meaning in the public sphere. In so doing, he not only impoverishes the notion of the public as the ground for collective self-understanding and cultural politics but also neutralizes the possible power relationships involved.

Habermas conception of the bourgeois public sphere is at once de-politicized and de-culturalized. It is with this thin notion of the public that, in his neo-Marxist framework of late capitalism, he credits culture as well as the media very little
Habermas, BFN, p. 351. See Habermas, STPS, p. 54. Regarding this, Calhoun has poignantly criticized that Habermas presumes that the private sphere provides it with fully formed subjects with settled identities and capacities. (Calhoun, Habermas and the Public Sphere, p. 23).
171 172


autonomy in contemporary society and sees the political and economic subsystems as possessing an irrepressible force that overruns the domain of communicative action. His account of degeneration is based on a conception of symbolic representations as mere faades of interests (sheer politics) and as distortions of rational discourse. I see this as a failure on his part to see how politics is as much about culture as culture is about contested meanings and identities embodied in symbolic forms.173 On the presuppositional level, moreover, there could be no such thing as the mass per se. The problem is that the concept of mass represses the possibility of human agency, and hence is incapable of conceiving the complicated political and cultural processes at work in the multiplicity of discursive practices. Drawing on Thompsons critique174 of the culture industry thesis, I suggest that the conception of the mass is founded upon a fallacy that assumes that the people will become a mass when they are treated as such by the state (or the market).

The public versus mass distinction contains a presuppositional flaw that strikes at the heart of our basic assumptions of how culture works or how society and culture interact. Just as it fails to give meaning to the cultural basis of public life, by the same token, it also prevents us from finding out the cultural and political


See especially Calhoun, Social Theory and the Politics of Identity (London: Blackwell, 1994), pp. Thompson, op cit., p. 67. 108


implications of openness as a defining feature of the public sphere on both the institutional and cultural levels.

C. Under-theorizing the Notion of Openness

The institutional level of analysis concerns the location as well as organizational infrastructure of the public sphere. There have been two competing answers to this question, in accordance with two different interpretations of the public, namely public sphere versus private sphere and publicity versus privacy/secrecy. According to Thompson, the former is lodged within a conception of publicness that is essentially spatial and dialogical in characterthe public as an assembly of individuals meeting in an open or public place where they discuss issues of general concern. Habermas republican model of public sphere is a case in point. In contrast, the latter interpretation is based on a conception of publicness becoming increasingly divorced from the idea of a dialogical conversation in a shared locale.175 What is public is what is visible or what is, in principle, open to all. Apparently, media publicity has a distinctive role to play in this regard. This latter interpretation does not completely contradict the former but brings to the fore the cultural, dramaturgical, and also democratic/nondemocratic underpinnings of

Ibid., p. 246. 109

public life. In the following paragraphs, I will reexamine Habermas theory of public sphere on the institutional and the cultural levels in relation to this different interpretation. I follow Thompson in interpreting this as one of nonspatial (imagined) public as opposed to the spatial conception of public sphere.

Habermas analysis leans toward the spatial conception while at the same time maintaining an uneasy relationship with the nonspatial one. On the one hand, given his overwhelming concern with the dialogical aspect of the public insofar as critical rationality is concerned, he takes the intermediate organizations in civil society as the ideal public sphere. On the other hand, acknowledging the relevance of media publicity, he also dwells on the critical function of the press, and admits in Structural Transformation, if in a somewhat implicit way, that the media as public sphere with the widest accessibility to the people can be a cohesive force within civil society and a link between civil society and the state.176 Despite this, given his overly rationalistic conception of public discourse, he can only develop a one-sidedly negative view of the mass media in his degeneration thesis. The problem is that the degeneration thesis tends to foreclose investigation of the conditions under which meaningful public discourse might be organized at a scale appropriate to democratic participation in contemporary politics. This must surely involve some level of


Habermas, op. cit., pp. 83 and 89. 110

reliance on the mass media.177 Towards the end of the book, Habermas concedes that the two domains of (critical) public communication and (manipulative) staged publicity may be mediated by that of critical publicity, which emerges from the public sphere within a social organization such as an interest group. The degree to which an opinion is a public opinion, he argues, hinges on the degree to which it emerges from the intraorganizational public sphere communicates with an external one formed in the publicist interchange, via the mass media, between societal organizations and state institutions.178 This concession by no means resolves the problem concerning the nature of discourse in the public sphere, but it does acknowledge the importance of media publicity and thereby opens up the theoretical space for us to look more deeply into the institutional as well as cultural implications of the notion of openness.

Habermas does not define the public in terms of openness, but, as Ku notes in her article,179 the idea of openness assumes a two-fold significance in his historical account that has yet to be more adequately theorized-in terms of the meanings of general accessibility and visibility. In the first place, he lays down general
Calhoun, Community without Propinquity Revisited: Communications Technology and the Transformation of the Urban Public Space, Sociological Inquiry 68, no. 3 (1998): pp. 373-397, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO, Miguel de Benevides Library, Manila, PH, 15 Jul. 2007 <http://search.ebscohost.com>. 178 Habermas, loc. cit., p. 248. 179 Agnes S. Ku, The Boundary Politics in the Public Sphere: Openness, Secrecy and Leakage, Sociological Theory 16, no. 2 (1998): pp. 172ff, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO, Miguel de Benevides Library, Manila, PH, 15 Jul. 2007 <http://search.ebscohost.com>.


accessibility as one of the institutional criteria of the bourgeois public sphere. In the second place, his analysis shows how political struggles for and through publicity (of state secrecy) has helped bring about democratic reformation of the state. Yet in spite of an awareness of the existence of an ideal public that extends beyond the immediate locale of face-to-face debate, and in spite of an awareness of the democratic norm of openness being itself an object of citizen struggles, his theoretical framework falls short of confronting the notion of public in such terms.

On the institutional level, the intermediate associations that Habermas discusses approximate but do not fit well with the institutional property of openness. Salons and coffeehouses are in theory open to anyone but are limited in public accommodation and hence accessibility.180 Parties and pressure groups often have (material or ideological) restriction in membership and will have their in-house discussions restricted exclusively to their group members. These organizations may have a public orientation, but insofar as it is not their defining feature, they are not adequately public in themselves. Yet neither are they the same as the private spheres of close friends and families. As such, they will best be conceived as the subsidiary public spheres in civil society, distinct from but related to both the intimate spheres and the larger public sphere.


Habermas, STPS, p. 14. 112

To be sure, general accessibility is a matter of principle that is made possible through institutional openness rather than face-to-face interaction or particular organizational membership. Institutional openness entails both inclusive

participation and visibility. In other words, the defining institutional feature of public sphere is its being an arena that allows a citizen to participate in any legitimate form of public discourse that is at the same time accessible to all other citizens. The mass media, due to their publicist character, are in principle most able to involve the whole community as an ideal public participating therefore in political discourse. For one thing, to argue for the centrality of publicity/openness as a defining feature of public sphere is not to surrender to a nave understanding of the mass media as a neutral agent or institution. Nor is it to risk overlooking the existence of the multiple arenas of political discourse and association in society as well as the unequal power relationships among them. Rather, the purpose is to decipher the form, internal structure, and dynamics of political contestation as it is instituted in the publicist arena (e.g. media) or at the interface between the publicist and the nonpublicist domains. Indeed the notion of publicity-as-openness carries far-reaching cultural and political implications. As Zarets historical analysis has shown, with the rise of print capitalism in Europe printed petitions gradually took over the previous courteous practice of nonpublic petitions to the monarchical


state.181 Ku further proposes that struggles through and struggles for publicity have not only compelled continual appeal to an imagined public as a source of moral, even legitimate, authority but also consolidated the democratic code of openness as a competing, if not overriding, norm in modern politics. 182 Along this line of thought, it is perhaps worth further pursuing how and how far publicity could be a rallying point for political mobilization, cultural revitalization, and meaning reconstruction within civil society.

Habermas theory, without theorizing the cultural significance of institutional openness on its own terms, has taken openness only as subsidiary to the idealized norm of rational-critical discourse. Given this focus on the idealized norm, his later works on communicative action even register a shift from his earlier concern with the institutional basis of public sphere to a search for some universal validity claims in all speech acts. The notion of rational-critical discourse is meant to lay down a normative principle whereby disputes may be arbitrated in a nonauthoritarian wayby means of the force of the better argument.183 Yet rather ironically, as a number of scholars have pointed out, the notion in his formulation is acultural and even counter-democratic in that it presumes as ideal a mode of discourse that is represented predominantly by white, male elites. On this issue, my contention with

Zaret, Petitions and the Invention of Public Opinion in the English Revolution, pp. 1450ff. Ku, op. cit., p. 181. 183 Habermas, MCCA, p. 198.
181 182


Habermas is that the problem of undemocratic practice in the public sphere lies not so much in irrationality in his sense as in the underlying codes of privilege, discrimination, exclusion, and control that are often discursively displaced in the public sphere. It would seem that Habermas has been too preoccupied with the problematic of rational-critical discourse to be able to tease out and deconstruct the democratic, nondemocratic or counter-democratic meanings implied in the public sphere. The notion of public-as-openness is deeply linked with the category of citizenship and bears critical relevance to the question of democracy.

To sum up, Habermas theory of public sphere has incorporated all the three interpretations of the public-public versus private, public versus mass, and openness versus secrecy/privacyand has variously discussed them on the structural, institutional, and discursive levels. However, in theoretical construction, his interpretation of the notion becomes inconsistent and ambiguous on the structural and institutional levels insofar as public-private duality is concerned; it remains deeply tied with the problematic public-mass distinction on the cultural level; and it does not theorize the full significance of openness on the institutional and cultural levels. In the following paragraphs, to work out a conception of the public that can be consistently explained on these different levels, I assert that the defining basis of the public lies in the notion of citizenship or, more precisely, citizen membership.


D. The State-Civil Society Nexus

To begin with, the public is not a realist category about people or structure. Rather, it is a nominal construction about boundary and membership. What, then, is the public that bears so much on our collective identity today? I agree with Calhoun that the public is an influential mode, among others, of claiming a broader political community.184 In modern society, I presume that the notion constitutes, more precisely, a claim about a community of citizens. Citizenship, or citizen membership, entails both the formal definition of citizen status and the more informal moment of belonging to a community of citizens. The public sphere underlines the existence of a realm of political life where citizens of a particular community come openly to define and contest the cultural and moral meanings of politics, public life, and citizenship. Especially in the next chapter, I will redefine the notion of public in terms of citizenship while broadening the domain of citizenship to include both state and civil society. In this connection, I will introduce a notion of public credibility to discuss the issues of legitimacy, meanings, and boundaries within the citizenship domain.

The public-private dichotomy in terms of the state-nonstate distinction is unsatisfactory in that it does not sufficiently specify the defining characteristics of
Calhoun, Nationalism and Difference: The Politics of Identity Writ Large, in Critical Social Theory: Culture, History, and the Challenge of Difference (Cambridge: Blackwell, 2000), pp. 231-282.


the public. It fails to see how the modern state and the nonstate domain of civil society are both deeply tied to the notion of the public. On the structural level, the state belongs to the public domain, but it is not the defining feature of the latter. Rather, it is in being a specific membership organizationcitizenship

organizationthat the state is conceived as such. I borrow the term membership organization from Brubaker185, but I employ it with certain connotations that are quite absent from his definition. In his book, Brubaker argues that the modern nation-state forms not only a territorial organization but also a membership organization with a set of formal membership criteria as well as institutional practices differentiating a citizen (insider) from a noncitizen (outsider). Brubaker has focused on the formal or state-endorsed aspect of membership; nevertheless, from both conceptual and historical points of view, citizenship originates not only in the modern state but also in the domain of civil society, which refers to the community side of the nation-state construction. In modern democracies, state authority can no longer be taken for granted but has to be established by continually soliciting the consent of the people, otherwise it loses its legitimacy. As Calhoun has pointed out, in modern society, the state no longer defines the political community directly, but perhaps interactively, for its own legitimacy depended on the

Roger Brubaker, Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992), p. 24.


acquiescence or support of an already existing political community. 186 In one sense, a political community is of course always in the making rather than simply already existing. Yet, to the extent that state legitimacy cannot be taken for granted in civil society, a state-centered approach to citizenship would seem rather lacking.

Both state and civil society belong to the public domain of citizen membership; it is within this public domain, then, that state and civil society are to be distinguished from each other in terms of the state-nonstate dichotomy. The state, with its massive bureaucratic, legal, and political machinery, has monopolized the institutional power to define the formal boundary of citizen membership. Unlike the state, the civil society of discourse and association is not a formal membership organization. Nevertheless, it constitutes an indispensable form of political community from which one derives and to which one attaches a sense of informal membership as citizen, giving rise to differential moments of participation, association, network, interaction, contestation, and solidarity among the citizens. As a concept associated with the state, citizenship is primarily about institutionalized or legalized rights and status. However, as a concept associated with civil society, it is at once about practices, identities, and struggles among the people.187 Apparently, the membership boundary of civil society is more fluid and

186 187

Calhoun, op. cit., p. 239. Loc. cit., p. 245. 118

open than that of state-defined citizenship, for the former group would include people who are not yet granted formal citizenship but are struggling for it. (One good example is the current protest for the right of abode in Hong Kong among people who were born in Mainland China and whose fathers or mothers are now Hong Kong citizens.188) Though both are public domains, state and civil society constitute two quite different political institutions that underscore possible tensions and dynamism in the relationship between the people and the state over the meaning, form, and scope of political leadership and citizenship.

The public sphere is a sphere of discursive practices and struggles among general citizens. As such, it should be conceptualized as a communicative institution belonging generally to the public domain of citizenship or, more particularly, to civil society. In the public sphere, just as the meaning of citizenship is always liable to conflicting interpretations in political struggle, the substantive boundary of the public versus the nonpublic is also subject to political conflicts. 189 To define public sphere in terms of citizenship is therefore to delineate a realm of the political that renders the substantive meaning of the public-nonpublic divide very much an object

Hong Kong was once a British colony and is now a city under Chinas sovereignty. Owing to its peculiar history, Hong Kong has its own mini-constitution under the principle of One Country Two Systems which includes a legal definition of who the Hong Kong residents are. Recently. there are controversies over the interpretation of the definition. 189 See Habermas, BFN, pp. 65ff.


of political struggles.190 Such struggles include, for example, definition of the sphere of activities justifying public scrutiny, debates over the norms and bounds of paparazzi (privacy), demands for disclosure/withholding of information in the name of public interest, protests against undue state intervention into the mass media as a public sphere, protests against privatization of welfare services as a claim to citizenship entitlements (or conversely, support for privatization of welfare services in the name of public interest/cost-effectiveness), demands for proper legal regulation of the market economy for protection of public rights or public arbitration of private disputes, and conflicting interpretations over the public-personal, publicdomestic, or state-market boundary in other domains.191 Underlying these different forms of struggles is an assertion of the rights and demands of the people on the common ground of citizenship.

In maintaining that the public signifies a domain of citizenship attached to both state and civil society, we have already abandoned the Enlightenment dichotomy between public/state and private/market/civil society. Indeed, only when we establish the analytical distinctions among public sphere, state, market, and civil society can we look into the interrelationships or tensions among them. The public sphere belongs neither to the state nor to the economy but may get intertwined with

190 191

Ibid., p. 67. Habermas, LC, p. 130. 120

them in various ways. On the positive side, the market may provide the necessary socio-economic infrastructure for the development of a politically autonomous communicative network among the citizens.192 A liberal-democratic state may provide certain constitutional safeguards for the effective operation of the public sphere (for example, freedom of association and freedom of speech). Despite its connection with the market, the public sphere remains public because participation in it is ultimately signified in terms of citizenship, both formal and informal. On the negative side, however, the market economy under patriarchal capitalism would generate a class of male property-owners who seek to establish hegemonic domination through the public sphere.193 At the same time, the state would, for the most part, form part of the hegemonic force in alliance with the dominant groups in society through specific institutional mechanisms and ideological discourses Thus, in the public sphere, political struggles would take place not only between state and civil society but also between the dominant alliance and the subordinate groups in civil society. At this point, a question perhaps arises: In what ways does the notion of public remain an important normative and theoretical concept that would have a critical bearing on the question of democracy or democratic citizenship?

192 193

Ibid., p. 132. Fraser, op. cit., p. 119. 121

Let us explore a bit further the distinction and the connection between civil society and public sphere. Alexander conceptualizes civil society as both social realm and normative ideal: a solidarity sphere in which a certain kind of universalizing community comes gradually to be defined and to some degree enforced.194 Institutionally, civil society consists of a network of free and intentional associations among citizens such as trade unions, political parties, and informal networks. Normatively, however, the ideals of inclusion and solidarity associated with civil society may or may not be actualized. Indeed, as I have pointed out earlier, the free associations in civil society are usually limited in membership and exclusionary in operation, and they may have their own private interests to take care of. In contrast, the public sphere of civil society is in principle accessible to or inclusive of all members. It delineates a specific communicative arena within civil society in which members of a political community can join together to raise and discuss political and communal issues.195 In the public sphere, as required by publicity, participants need to assert themselves as legitimate and credible actors by representing themselves as belonging to the public. Publicity constitutes the very

Alexander, IntroductionCivil Society I, II, III: Constructing an Empirical Concept from Normative Controversies and Historical Transformations, in Real Civil Societies: Dilemmas of Institutionalization (London: Sage, 1998), p. 7. 195 Here, I have followed Calhouns useful distinction between the two notions except that I am dissociating the Habermasian idea of rational-critical discourse from the notion of public sphere. See Calhoun, Civil Society and the Public Sphere, Public Culture 5, no. 2 (1993): pp. 267-80, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO, Miguel de Benevides Library, Manila, PH, 15 Jul. 2007 <http://search.ebscohost.com>.


meeting point between civil society and public sphere in two ways. First, insofar as the public sphere signifies a sphere of inclusive membership, publicity becomes an indispensable site of interaction and struggle within civil society where actors and groups, when entering into it, would need to make constant reference to a general public. Secondly, in some instances, publicity could itself become a basis for mobilizing unrelated or minimally related people into impromptu networks of interaction and political action, for example, demonstrations, joint statements, radio phone-in programs (talk-radios), public commentaries, and counter-commentaries. In short, within civil society, while there are preexisting groups and organizations which could opt for the strategy of publicity, there are people who only form into loose associations and impromptu networks through publicist appeal or publicist action. In either case, public sphere would become the central stage for open struggles among actors who target or are required to seek the allegiance of the general citizens.

For democracy to prosper, it is not enough that a civil society grows strong; it is also necessary that a truly democratic culture be established in the public sphere in such a way that it could become a moral force regulating both state and civil


society.196 Conventional approaches to democracy and politics have taken culture as given, focusing on the various kinds of social, economic, and political forces and consequences associated with it without probing the form, structure, and process of public culture. Recent developments in cultural sociology have, in contrast, underlined a need to open up the black box of symbolic formation in political life197 so as to theorize the linkage among culture structure, meaning, and action. Frankfurt scholars, in incorporating semiotic insights into their analyses of hegemonic relationships, highlight the ideological constitution of politics and identity Drawing on these ideas, yet without either underpoliticizing or overpoliticizing the notion and significance of culture, I propose that the central question about discursive practices in the public sphere should concern the meanings, values, and power relationships embedded in discursive practices. From the point of democracy, we need to decipher the multiple forms of representation of the public, the internal structure of democratic discourse, and also their interplay with power, politics, and nondemocratic discourses. This is an issue that I am going to discuss in the next part.

A strong civil society does not necessarily entail a strong democratic culture in the public sphere, although the strengthening of civil society would affect the development of democracy and public sphere. 197 Alexander, op. cit., p. 12.



In defining the public as a claim about a community of citizens, it follows logically and coherently that on the cultural and/or discursive level, the public is often invoked as a symbolic construct about the collective state of being of the citizenry in specific contexts and at specific times, for example, the reference to public opinion, public interest, or public concern. The public implies the existence of a community of citizens, but the reverse is not necessarily true. As a claim, it comes into being only through a common interactional or communicative space in the political community. Borrowing Andersons idea of imagined community 198 and following Calhouns elaboration of the idea, I maintain that the public is inherently an imagined public which is made possible and necessary through media publicity and cultural representations in the context of modern political life.

In the public sphere, while citizens are equally eligible for participation in terms of ground rules, what different people publicly do and say does not necessarily carry cultural and political weight to the same extent. It depends on the moral and symbolic power they can lay claim to and the sociopolitical positions they

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 1983), p. 14. 125

are in.199 We shall first focus on the issue of culture. In the public sphere, actors must necessarily call forth the public as the prime reference whereby they may establish moral or symbolic power through their words and actions. Analytically, the public refers to a realm of symbolic reference to what is regarded as publicly relevant, reasonable, and respectable. The public here comes close to what Warner has called the imaginary of a mass public, 200 which means that publicity necessarily entails a process of symbolization that has wide cultural significance in society. It is in essence a moral and discursive force: Under the power of the symbolic public as such, it is required that actors be able to conduct public discourses and shape their course of action in line with the moral and discursive boundary of publicness.201 This form of cultural power in the public sphere would present itself as a matter of public credibility.

Public credibility is an evaluative claim, by the public of citizens, of the moral status or moral authority of particular actors, institutions, or the whole government, on the basis of their public presentations and performances at specific times. 202 On the level of discursive practice, it is an evaluative claim that is established through a discourse of community that consists of a set of sacred codes, values, beliefs, and

Habermas, IO, p. 87. Warner, The Mass Public and the Mass Subject, in Calhoun, op. cit, p. 388. 201 Habermas, BFN, p. 25. 202 The conception of politics as public performance is based on a dramaturgical understanding of culture.
199 200


narratives peculiar to the community concerned. In this light, just as public credibility is established through a discourse of community, it can be undermined through a discourse of anticommunity that represents the profane side of collective representation. In the public sphere, a large part of the discourse of community includes the more specific symbolic representations of public opinion and public interest as part and parcel of the community as opposed to the anticommunity. In public representations, the community is usually constructed in a more or less eternalized form, in terms of origin, history, and destiny.203 In contrast, public opinion is often seen as elastic and volatile in dispositions and sentiments. 204 In this regard, we may say that public opinion is a more time-conscious instantiation or representation of the community at specific times that changes from moment to moment. Public interest lies somewhere between the sedimented and the fluid forms of representation of, respectively, the community and public opinion. This is because it has its defining basis partly in the political tradition (or law) and partly in the sphere of public discourse. In sum, community, public opinion, and public interest constitute the primary forms of representation of the public in the public sphere. It is often through reference to communal values and narratives, interpretation of public interest, and/or appeal to public opinion that the public is invoked as a source of moral authority in politics.
203 204

Habermas, op. cit., p. 41. Loc. cit., p. 40 127

Empirically, the public, nonetheless, does not simply denote a symbolic realm where cultural meanings remain politically innocent, uncontested, and unchanging. First, hegemonic or undemocratic relationships are often reproduced through narrative displacement of democratic codes. This is an issue which I will explain later. Secondly, despite hegemonic domination, the diverse or even conflicting meanings by different actors are interwoven into a web of publicly coded discourses which makes public contestations both possible and necessary. Calhoun points out that generalized appeal to the community through the mass media tends to submerge differences, conflicts, and complex relationships within the community.

This is true to a certain extent. However, to underline the forms of representation

of the public through publicity is not to argue that there exist only consensual or uncontested representations. In fact, communal values, such as democracy and freedom, are never already settled values. Very often they are subject to conflicting and changing interpretations by different actors. Moreover, the fact that multiple communal values could co-exist would make cultural tensions and conflicts all the more likely. Just as communal values and narratives could be interpreted in different ways, public opinion and public interest are often represented in different

Calhoun, Community without Propinquity Revisited, Sociological Inquiry 68, no. 3 (1998): pp. 379ff, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO, Miguel de Benevides Library, Manila, PH, 18 Jul 2007 <http://search.ebscohost.com>.


lights in relation to particular values and narratives. 206 For example, over the issue of political secrecy, while some believe that a certain degree of confidentiality is necessary to protect public or national interest, others may think state secrecy in most instances serves to undermine public trust in the government. Likewise, over the issue of the rights of particular minority groups, while some would draw on majority views to indicate public opinion against their inclusion, others may invoke the values of human rights, equality, and pluralism as the normative bases for a claim to long-term public interest. In this light, the apparently generalized form of representation of the public should not deaden us to the fact of multiple, competing, or overlapping discourses on the community, public interest, and public opinion.

The public lays out a dynamic and often contested field of values, codes, representations, and discourses which actors could draw on to establish their public credibility or undermine that of their opponents at particular political moments. This is what I call politics of public credibility. In the process of hegemonic conflict, meanings may nonetheless be reconstructed through interpretation. In other words, the public realm both shapes and is shaped by political struggles and practices. 207 This form of politics has been essential to contemporary democracy where meanings, values, legitimacy, or moral authority can no longer be taken for granted

206 207

Ibid., p. 388. Habermas, STPS, p. 179. 129

and where media publicity makes continual reference to the imagined public both possible and necessary. Put together, we may understand the public sphere today as the shared communicative space within a community where politics as politics of public credibility is conducted.

For one thing, struggles against state power and political privilege are democratic in substance whereas invocation of the public is democratic in form. 208 Here a question arises as to whether the symbolic reference to the public that is democratic in form necessarily entails a democratic content or result in political struggles through the public sphere. In theory, with an increasing democratic consciousness of the right and power of citizenship in the globalized world, it is highly likely that the discourse of community would incorporate a democratic discourse of the public.209 In reality, however, the public of a political community may be represented through democratic, nondemocratic, or even counterdemocratic discourses and practices, depending on the cultural and political contexts in the particular community.210 In most instances, democratic struggles involverather than a straightforward process of replacement of traditional values

Ibid., p. 192. Habermas, BFN, p. 86. 210 Ibid.

208 209


with democratic codesmultifarious forms of articulation between democratic and nondemocratic discourses in the political process.211

Building on the idea of the public as an imagined community of citizens, I have conceptualized the symbolic public as signifying a realm of imagined or cultural reference tied to an open communicative space in a political community. This theoretical position does not amount to a simplistic argument for a single public sphere through the medium of publicity. Rather, it seeks to take up the challenge of theorizing the conflicting interaction of different discourses through the larger public sphere without losing sight of the specific cultural logics of publicness in it.

A. Boundary Politics in the Public Sphere: Openness, Secrecy, and Leak

Moral purity is associated with high public credibility, which is usually achieved by means of a symbolic process of purification or self-purification. In contrast, moral danger and impurity are associated with low public credibility, which bears the mark of pollution for want of purification.212 (Incompetence is also associated with low public credibility; it is not a moral issue in itself but it may sometimes become dangerous to the sacred values.) The media, as clarified in the
211 212

Ibid., p. 87. Rosen, op. cit., p. 371. 131

previous chapters, help put into continuous operation the force of the public in the political process by means of publicity. Public does not suggest that meanings are uncontested and unchanging; rather, the diverse meanings are interwoven into a web of public discourses that lays out a field of discursive conflict and predominance.213 In day-to-day struggles, the media become the battleground on which the politics of openness/secrecy are staged as part and parcel of the politics of public credibility.

Openness, secrecy, and leak represent three different political and cultural moments of boundary creation in the political process.214 On the one hand, they are three media strategies used by the state actors that govern the interaction between the state and the members of civil society over state affairs in the public sphere. On the other hand, openness/secrecy forms a set of codes in a discourse of democracy that, in their interaction with other discourses, informs, constitutes, and regulates the politics of openness, leak, and secrecy in the public sphere. In a community of multiple discourses, different actors may draw on different codes or interpret the same codes in different ways in defining the meanings of certain public action. 215

Fraser, Sex, Lies, and the Public Sphere: Some Reflections on the Confirmation of Clarence Thomas, in Legal Studies as Cultural Studies, ed. Jerry Leonard (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995), p. 213. 214 I borrowed these categorizations from Thompson. See loc. cit. pp. 50ff. 215 Thompson, Ideology and Modern Culture, p. 50.


Open politics wins public support and shapes public opinion by attracting attention; at the same time, it is amenable to the test of public credibility. In the play of open politics, while the actors seek to present themselves and their actions as publicly credible, the chance is that their performance may backfire or, rather paradoxically, arouse suspicion of deeper secrecy. On the discursive level, openness (as opposed to secrecy) signifies a code that, in a discourse of democracy, goes hand in hand with the codes of clean, honest, and publicly accountable politics in opposition to the undemocratic codes of dirty, dishonest, and unaccountable politics. In the public sphere, once the political actors are associated with the democratic cause, the force of the symbolic public that holds them accountable to the practice of clean and open politics will hardly prevail. With such a force at work, a trace of dishonesty or a retreat from their open commitment is easily taken as a mark of pollution that could cost them their public credibility. Yet in other thematic discourses, openness or particular forms of openness may nonetheless be negatively evaluated or be taken as a faade. The different political and discursive responses to the strategy of open politics among different fragments of the public result in relatively unstable and conflicting articulations of the moral and political boundaries of publicness in the public sphere.


Secrecy is a strategy used for purposes that may be legitimate or illegitimate.216 It may take the form of official secrets, which forbids publicity in the name of national security or public interest. It may take the form of secret dealings behind closed doors or cover-up of wrongdoing (i.e., lying), which, when discovered through the media, will likely cause public outrage. It may take the form of confidential exchange with the publics awareness of it but without them being given any direct access to the content of the exchange. On the part of the public, however, confidentiality and the actors effort at confusion may not stop them from speculating about what is discussed behind closed doors. Secrecy in the form of private deal or lie may or may not be detected or disclosed, but without adequate openness in the system, public actors are always susceptible to the suspicion of secretive acts. Similarly, secrecy in the form confidential exchanges or official secrets, despite the publics knowledge of their existence, could generate doubts of veracity. In many instances, the more secretive politics are, the more public speculation will likely be aroused. As speculation easily gives rise to suspicion, secrecy becomes a mark of pollution that will demand purification through the public sphere.217 Moreover, insofar as its boundary is not strictly defined and policed, secrecy is always liable to the possibility of leak and full publicity, which

216 217

Ibid., p. 54. Ibid., p. 60. 134

will then turn secret politics into open politics. 218 Secrecy is also a discursive code that performs an evaluative and regulative function in the public sphere. In a democratic discourse, secrecy as opposed to openness takes on a negative meaning in itself. In other thematic discourses, however, it may take on a different meaning that counteracts the democratic discourse. That is, secrecy could be opposed by people drawing on a discourse of democracy and it could be justified by others drawing on other discourses, such as diplomatic necessity. Nonetheless, when secrecy breeds suspicions of treachery, the justification for it will stand on weak ground.

Finally, a leak is an intentional disclosure of information by an insider who makes public something that has been kept secret and, if made known to the public, may give rise to controversies or scandals.219 A leak will likely be produced when the elites cannot resolve their internal conflicts and opt instead for an open discrediting of their opponent. In such cases, it is intended as a disclosure of scandal that will subject ones enemies to the pollution effect. The leak itself may or may not be legitimate, but once it is made, the suspicion of scandal will become an interpenetrating concern in the public sphere, which demands the polluted actors be engaged in a process of purification. In the public sphere, a leak may give rise to

218 219

Ibid., p. 55. Ibid., p. 56. 135

greater disclosure and unexpected revelation, yet it may also result in more acts of cover-up.220 In the course of struggle, the leak may or may not develop in accordance with its initial intent, but it will certainly become a dramatic political moment in which the conflicting elites together with the public join in a battle of disclosure versus cover-up, and of purification versus pollution.

B. The Public as a Site of Convergence/Divergence between Democratic and Communal Discourses

In light of the possible discrepancy between democratic form and democratic substance in public claims, it is theorized that in the public sphere of politics the reference to the public has its sources of imagery in two different yet possibly overlapped sets of discourseone on the modern democratic form of the public, and the other on the communal bounds of collective experiences, cultural narratives, and moral values peculiar to a society.221 In the public sphere, the discourse of community often does not form a coherent whole but is constituted through the interweaving of multiple themes and narratives at different historical junctures. The set of discursive elements may be democratic, nondemocratic, or even counterdemocratic in substance, depending on the cultural traditions in a particular society. Nondemocratic discourse of the community may involve visions of collective
220 221

Ibid., p. 57. Ibid., pp. 81-2. 136

strength, growth, unity, autonomy, or order. Today these are often framed in terms of the modern ideological languages of ethnic nationalism 222 and managerialism that have been developed into different forms of control, power, and exclusion in society. These modern discourses are not essentially antidemocratic, but could be interpreted in ways that counteract, constrain, dilute, or get intertwined with democratic claims and practices.

Democratic discourse of the community juxtaposes a set of sacred democratic codes against a set of profane counter-democratic codes. The stronger the democratic tradition in a society, the higher the political-moral status of the public of citizens in the public sphere. The discourse of the democratic public consists of three major sets of opposing codes, namely, inclusion versus exclusion, openness versus secrecy, and public accountability versus elite/state domination.223 Inclusion stresses equality in rights as opposed to elitist or exclusive privileges based on gender, race, ethnicity, age, class, occupation, religion, and so on. Openness and inclusion reinforce each other; the form of openness based on a principle of democratic accountability to the citizenry nonetheless is to be distinguished from that of authoritarian display before the subjects.224 The norm of public accountability

Calhoun, Nationalism and Difference: The Politics of Identity Writ Large, in Critical Social Theory, pp. 240-45. 223 Ibid., pp. 248-50. 224 Thompsons discussion of the interplay between state forms and visibility of power in different historical contexts.


stresses the right and power of the general citizens vis--vis a small circle of privileged elites, decision-makers and power-holders who are not answerable to the citizens or who act as if they were not answerable to the people. The struggle for democracy always entails an emphasis of the political status of the citizen in terms of the idea of public accountability that defines the ultimate scope of legitimate political authority in the citizenry. In contemporary society, while the authority of the citizenry may be honored in name, it could be undermined in practice through structural and institutional mechanisms that preserve elite interests or that foster administrative and bureaucratic power.225 In this regard, the struggle for democratic accountability would be expressed through the discursive codes of citizen right, citizen power, and public monitorship, as opposed to elitist privilege, paternalistic rule, executive/bureaucratic domination, and so forth. These are some examples illustrative of the overarching structure in a democratic discourse of public accountability that could be specified, modified, and elaborated in different ways in different contexts.

In an undemocratic or partially democratic society, articulation by the dominant groups would undermine democracy not so much by direct opposition as by narrative displacement.226 Narrative displacement of democracy is a strategy of

225 226

Calhoun, op. cit., p. 253. Loc. cit., p. 256. 138

concealing the undemocratic practices of exclusion, privilege, discrimination, and control by making democratic codes out of place, irrelevant, or peripheral in a narrative construction centered on a different set of communal codes such as stability, economic growth, world peace, or nationalism.227 In a society, the discourse that serves to reproduce unequal power relationships usually builds upon specific narratives of glory, success, or development that displace the democratic codes. Democratic values would be easily displaced in a public sphere where the culture of democracy has not been solidly established and where other communal values have remained strong and tenacious. Still, despite domination, culture could open up the space for political conflict and meaning reconstruction. In particular, in times of conflict or crisis, ironic narration may generate a process of discursive change wherein a particular symbol that represents virtue is transformed or reversed into one of shame, hypocrisy, or vice, and is disconnected from the other communal symbols of virtue.228 In such times of public challenges, the discourse of democracy and/or community will be given new meaning and added moral-political force that may help undermine the moral basis of the power structure.










articulation/disarticulation between two sets of discoursesthose of community and

227 228

Ibid., p. 260-1. Ibid., p. 264. 139

those of democracy.229 The two sets of discourses are analytically distinct but may overlap with each other in empirical situations. In the event that they overlap, public accountability and public accessibility will form the bases for a claim to public credibility. However, in the event of a discrepancy between them, other communal discourses will compete with, override, or intertwine with the value codes of public accountability and public accessibility as the bases for credibility claims. 230 In the public sphere of politics, while democratic and counter-democratic codes form two opposing sets of terms in democratic discourse whereby actors locate themselves and others, the nondemocratic discourse of community may be articulated with the democratic and counter-democratic codes in different ways in different discursive representations. Through interpretation, the nondemocratic discourse of community not only shapes the particular way democratic claims are formulated within a specific society, it may also serve to lend added moral force to, undermine, or transform the meanings of the democratic codes.

C. Inclusion and Abstraction: Towards Public Credibility Conceptions of the public sphere that take into account the facts of pluralism and differentiation seem to founder on a dilemma. Whereas Guttman and

229 230

Ibid., p. 265. Ibid., p. 270. 140

Thompson231 provide too many restrictions upon the public reason, anonymity provides too little: here no one will have the reasonable expectation of access to influence or effective inclusion in political deliberation even if the public sphere of this type were functioning well in supplying a rich pool of public reasons. Under current social circumstances, then, civil society alone cannot bear the weight of pluralism; indeed, members of civil society cannot be anonymous/secret, but must enter the public sphere with all their identities and roles intact in order to solve the problems of inclusive democracy.232

This dilemma of abstractness and inclusion might make us think that the norm of publicity has lost its usefulness in solving problems in such a space for politics. But rather than leading to such skepticism, these social circumstances give the public use of reason a new task: it now must navigate across these same social and cultural boundaries.233 After examining the variety of forms of publicity and their uses in problem solving and political criticism, I turn to two specific examples of public spheres. First, the social differences in the distribution of knowledge make it unavoidable that participants in the public sphere enter into public debate with their epistemic roles and location intact.234 Publicity now serves to regulate exchanges across the expert/lay and agent/principal division that are typical in
Read further Gutman and Thompson, Democracy and Disagreement, pp. 43ff. Habermas, IO, p. 133. 233 Ibid., p. 135. 234 Ibid., p. 138.
231 232


functionally differentiated societies. Next, the problem of cultural difference demands the always difficult task of negotiating the moral boundaries that divide groups from each other.235 In both cases, the public use of reason is no longer dependent on the successful abstraction of each group within their particular identity, but with the capacities of each to engage the other from within its own cultural perspectives, epistemic resources, and social positions. The distinctive force of such cosmopolitan publicity dwells in the creation of new conditions of responsiveness and accountability: emerging from a different set of social problems, new and emergent forms of publicity are successful insofar as they establish new forms of cooperation that solve problems in ways that are agreeable and amenable to each of the parties from its own perspective as broadened by its interaction with others in the public sphere.236 Different forms of publicity unpack what it means to communicate solution to a problem that all may accept. Whereas for abstract publicity this means what all may accept (qua citizen and member of the public sphere), for thick publicity it means what each may accept (and thus is answerable to after a process of free and open discussion).237 In this way, thicker forms of publicity create the conditions where the force of public communication creates the reasonable expected responsiveness amongst the citizens, thus opening up new

Ibid. See James Bohman, Public Deliberation: Pluralism, Complexity and Democracy (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996), chap. 1. 237 On this criticism of Habermas, see op. cit., pp. 178 ff.
235 236


practical possibilities of cooperative action. The problem for deliberative democracy is now to elaborate and open possibilities for a new form of wide publicity. In the final section, I will show how the problem of pluralism becomes more tractable with a wide conception of the public sphere that allows for many different forms of publicity, each with its own normative force in establishing cooperation and solving problems.


The Plurality of Forms of Publicity: The Variety of Realizations of an Ideal Public

The appeal of the abstract notion of publicity is that it bases the effects of publicity on the institutional force of universal norms.238 At the same time, these norms have been criticized for their cultural and historical specificity. It is often claimed that the very conception of the public sphere is by nature European and modern and thus culturally limited in its application. 239 Indeed, Habermas historical analysis of the emergence and development of the modern public sphere seems to support such a claim to historical uniqueness. However, he carefully distinguishes the modern and bourgeois public made up of private persons from the premodern

238 239

Habermas, STPS, p. 27. Ibid., p. 28. 143

form of a representative public.240 But the significance of the modern public sphere consists neither of its membership nor of the historical process of its emergence. Rather, its normative distinctiveness lies in its realization of two conditions. It is a location for social and cultural criticism and a form of communication aimed at an indefinite audience across many dimensions of social difference. 241 While this description favors wider over narrower membership conditions, Thompson notes that it does not decide in advance how reason may be publicly used or exactly what possible forms of communication and interaction fit this description. 242 Such communication, however indefinite its audience, might only include representatives in either the modern or the absolutist sense; it could be a bourgeois public sphere of private persons, or it could be a public sphere of educated and literate persons or scholars, or it could be participants within the public spheres of representative institutions or transnational civil society.243

For all their differences, the variant forms of the public sphere must have some minimal features in common for the term publicity to have any normative significance. The audience implied by each variant, however defined, must be an
See ibid., for the variants of the genesis of the European literary public spheres; but what they all have in common is that they are spheres in which private persons come together as a public (p. 27). Habermas also concedes that there are many other possible variants, including a plebeian public sphere (p. xviii). Furthermore, while representative publicness does not have the presupposition of universal accessibility (p. 5 ff.), it is still characterized as a form of publicness. 241 See ibid., pp. 160ff. 242 See Thompson, op. cit., pp. 65-72. 243 Habermas, BFN, p. 360.


indefinite one; and the interaction and communication that goes on in it should be such that it enables social and cultural criticism in the context of those institutions and social relations that help make up the public. We may develop the contours of a specific conception of the public sphere relative to a purpose, or even defend a specific type of public sphere as best approximating the normative ideal of publicity. However, Bohman notes that only if the conception of the public sphere is rid of the residue of historical specificity can it be broad enough to be empirically general and culturally inclusive.244

Recent transcultural research confirms a wide variety of forms of publicity in various societies and historical periods. I shall here only cite a few examples. Very much like Kants peculiar educated and literate public who simultaneously Criticize but obey! Confucian scholars in late imperial China were committed to the ideal of pure discussion and free discourse, and exercised both by publishing a newspaper in which pureminded scholars could criticize the royal court.245 Similarly, in some Islamic societies, a public sphere emerged from the separation of religious and political authority: religious authorities exercising their public role

On the possibility of a transnational public sphere, see James Bohman, The Public Spheres of the World Citizen, in Perpetual Peace, ed. Bohman and Matthias Lutz-Bachmann (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997), pp. 179-200. 245 See Wang Hui, Lee Ou-fan Lee, with Michael Fisher, Is the Public Sphere Unspeakable in Chinese? Public Culture 6 (1994): pp. 603-4, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO, Miguel de Benevides Library, Manila, PH, 18 Jul 2007 <http://search.ebscohost.com>.


could criticize decisions of the monarch by addressing him as a fellow Muslim. 246 Moreover, recent modifications of Islamic law and the specific circumstances of Indonesian culture took the form of an inclusive process of public deliberation based on the ideal of consensus among the scholarly community. These and other nonWestern public spheres meet the requirements of the general conception of the public sphere: they create a public space and form of communication addressed to an indefinite (albeit limited) and literate audience, in which participants are able to engage in social, cultural, and political criticism and to challenge authority so as to make it accountable to public opinion and needs.247 They solve particular problems of accountability in the presence of particular hierarchical relations of power and authority. While the general conditions of publicity do not make possible direct political control by members of a public over decisions that affect them, the open communication of criticism at least establishes the possibility that the reasons for such decisions must be ones that could be addressed across such social boundaries.

However, it must also be said that not every society has a specific location or space for social and cultural criticism, even if communication in that society may be

Often such phenomena indicate the presence of what John Rawls calls consultation hierarchies rather than genuine public spheres in my broader sense of the term. Consultation hierarchies characterize well-ordered hierarchical societies. 247 Cf. Habermas, STPS, pp. 125-144.


public in certain contexts.248 The norm of publicity thus may be applied at different levels. Recognizing these different levels broadens its range of applicability and delimits the room for cultural specificity and variability in each of them. In what follows, I organize these levels in an ascending order from a lesser to a greater degree of cultural specificity and thus from a greater to a lesser degree of empirical generality. At the same time, according to Thompson, the greater cultural specificity permits a more normatively structured public space.249

How can we develop a conception of the public sphere that can accommodate as much pluralism as possible? First of all, the conception of publicity has to be generalized to such an extent that it becomes an elementary and pervasive form of social action that is found in every culture. Such a generalization avoids an immediate difficulty of empirical application: too demanding a conception of publicity leaves us with the stark contrast between cultures that have it and those without it, and thus a dichotomy that divides along the lines of European and nonEuropean cultures. Publicity at the level of social action is most basic, in the sense that all other forms of publicity presuppose it. Social acts are public only if they meet two basic requirements. First, they are not only directed to an indefinite audience but also offered with some expectation of a response, especially with regard to

See Jodi Dean, Publicitys Secret, Political Theory 29, no. 5 (Oct., 2001): pp. 624-650, JSTOR, 15 Jun. 2007 <http://www.jstor.org>. 249 Thompson, loc. cit., pp. 95-7.


interpretability and justifiability.250 The description of the second general feature of publicity is dominated by spatial metaphors: public actions constitute a common and open space for interaction with indefinite others.251 Or, as Habermas puts it, publicity in this broadest sense is simply the social space generated by communicative action.252 However, at this level, we may speak only of a public space (rather than a public sphere), which can be broader or narrower in comparison with others in terms of topics, available social roles, forms of expression, requirements of equal standing, and so on. Entering into any such social space may be more or less difficult, depending on the requirements of background knowledge or the presence or absence of egalitarian norms and styles of social interaction. Some argue that we may call this aspect of basic publicity a public culture, which might include a wide variety of practices from performances to demonstrations to writing in which participation is open to those who have mastered some basic conventions.253

Beyond this general and elementary level of publicity as a feature of some social actions and the space generated by them, higher levels of publicity require two further nested features: first, not just the expectation of a response, but actual
Ibid., p. 99. Ibid., p. 101. 252 Habermas, BFN, p. 360. 253 The term public culture usually denotes those aspects of cultural identity and symbols that become the subject matter for public debate and opinion; the public sphere denotes a social space that emerges out of civil society and is outside of state control.
250 251


responsiveness and accountability to others; and second, the context of a more socially structured and often institutional setting than is available by means of communicative action alone. With respect to responsiveness, higher levels of publicity must do more than presuppose that one is addressing an indefinite audience. The space of mutual accountability that is opened up has a more egalitarian structure: in a public sphere, communicative exchanges suspend the sharp distinction of audience and participants and allow exchange of speaker and hearer roles across all social positions and identities. This reciprocity of roles introduces further egalitarian features to audience-oriented communication: participation in the public sphere now means that one must be responsive to others; besides speaking to an indefinite audience, one is now accountable to their objections and answerable to demands to recognize their concern.254 The recognition of equal standing as citizens in a political community is one form that egalitarian publicity has taken.

Expanding and structuring such a social space for communication requires embedding it in a wider social context. A specifically egalitarian expansion of the public sphere requires a more elaborated institutional structure to support it (such

Such mutual responsiveness or answerability to others is crucial to the justificatory force of public agreements. For an elaboration of this form of justification in relation to making ones actions answerable to others, see Samuel Freeman, Contractualism, Moral Motivation, and Practical Reason, Journal of Philosophy 88 (1991): pp. 281-303, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO, Miguel de Benevides Library, Manila, PH, 18 Jul 2007 <http://search.ebscohost.com>.


as that achieved by the modern democratic state), as the social contexts of communication are enlarged with the number of relevant speakers and audience. When such contexts increase the scale of public interaction and include more participants, communicative action alone cannot fully constitute or control the contours of the social space which it generates. In societies characterized by social differentiation, the political space for publicity is delimited in relation to other social domains and institutions. It is with the differentiation of society that we begin to see the emergence of what is specifically the public sphere.255 Continuing the spatial metaphor that dominates thinking about publicity, the public sphere becomes a space in between the state and civil society. Thus, the very existence of a distinct public sphere requires a certain degree of social complexity, typically in the differentiation of social spheres. Modern European societies with public spheres have been characterized by a specific type of social differentiation: centralized administrative institutions (the state), on the one hand, and a separate sphere of autonomous associations and economic activity (or civil society), on the other.256 In differentiated societies (in whatever institutional form), one role of the distinctive communication that goes on in the public sphere is to raise topics or express concerns that cut across social spheres: it not only circulates information about the state and the economy but also establishes a forum for criticism in which the
255 256

Habermas, op. cit., p. 288-290. Loc. cit., p. 302. 150

boundaries of these spheres are crossed, primarily in citizens demands for mutual accountability.

As public spheres emerge and develop, they become more structured and thus more, rather than less, culturally specific. For example, the public sphere in which citizenship is exercised depends on a framework of particular principles, rights, and procedures established in a specific constitution. Such a public sphere not only emerges out of some differentiated social space analogous to civil society, it also develops by interacting with other, larger social structures such as the state and the market. First of all, a developing public sphere responds to and changes various institutional and social supporting structures and cannot exist without them 257: coffeehouses, universities, publishing houses, and newspapers are some of the supporting institutions of a literary public sphere. Second, it requires that participants become conscious of themselves as a public who develops and extends existing forms of publicity.258 Thus, a public sphere requires not only a social space for communication to an indefinite audience but also that diverse members of a society interact in distinctive ways and thereby come to regard themselves as a public which is concerned with each others opinions and endorses some explicit norms of publicity. The publics self-identification as a public concerned with free

257 258

Habermas, STPS, p. 51. Habermas, BFN, p. 341. 151

and open communication pushes the public sphere toward an egalitarian plateau of inclusive and generalized forms of publicity. But the other side of this generalization has to be recognized as well: such a generalization is necessary precisely because the public sphere has become less socially and culturally homogeneous and more internally differentiated into diverse normative perspectives and social positions. It is now no longer a flat and abstract space, but one with more apparent social and cultural contours and boundaries that need to be crossed to maintain the sense of self-identification and standing in a public.259 Such a public now develops in new social contexts, some of which may even be transnational.

Even given such a public supported by sufficient institutional structures, internal differentiation requires even more of the public: engaging in such complex acts of reflexive communication requires the development of a complex set of critical abilities and practices, which, however egalitarian and wide in scope, have certain entry requirements best fulfilled by participation in a particular background public culture.260 This specificity consists not only in general and common cultural knowledge but also in the capacity to employ a variety of conventions, institutions, and media for communicative purposes. Such entry requirements place new and more demanding epistemic and normative constraints on participation in the

259 260

Ibid., 359. Ibid., p. 316. 152

existing public sphere. Besides the normative constraints of reciprocity (which include accountability to all other members in the public), a functioning public sphere makes epistemic demands on the reflexivity of participants.261 Given these increased epistemic demands, participants also know that reflexive forms of public communication require complex institutional mediation (such as legal protections), which in turn demands greater knowledge of such background conditions, as well as highly developed abilities among public sphere participants that are needed to cross the many boundaries of such a complex social world. While cultural specificity does not disappear, it is mitigated by protections of speakers from cultural biases and restrictions that affect their participation. In this way, actors are forced to acquire abilities for communication and translation that expand the scope of public reason. Rather than becoming a more abstract and neutral space, the public sphere becomes more mapped with cultural identities, social roles, and the epistemic division of labor beyond the roles of private person and citizen. These roles (such as scientist, patient, cultural minority) may, however, introduce asymmetries in public communication that seem to undermine the equal standing of all to initiate and test contributions to public debate, the core democratic norm of abstract publicity.

For empirical confirmation of the explicit awareness among citizens of the operative distinctions between private and public forms of discourse, see William Gamson, Talking Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 19ff.



A. Summary

Chapter II traced the development of the public sphere as laid out in Habermas Strukturwandel der ffentlichkeit. It analyzed Habermas notion of the public sphere through media, viz. public service broadcasting, television, and internet, as its locus of investigation insofar as the media has the highest capacity for publicity. A discursive theory was also explained as a model for Habermas public sphere. In this model speakers are included from the periphery, which thereby contributes to an active dialogue between center and periphery and foster more deliberative speech. In addition, distinctions between public and private rooted from Marx critique of legal ideology were drawn.

The problem of difference in Habermas theoretical construction of the Offentlichkeit was explicated in Chapter III. It posited the cultural and political dynamics involved in the public sphere in modern society vis--vis the practice of open/secret politics by the state. It addressed the question of state openness/secrecy from the vantage point of the public sphere. It also reworked some of the ideas in the current interpretations of the public/private distinction. In particular, parts of











reinterpreted, reformulated, expanded and integrated into an alternative notion of the public sphere as a sphere of the public straddling the domains of secrecy and publicness. In reviewing Habermas work on the public sphere, it has been argued that within the context of civil society, the media embodies two related elements of publicness that are distinctive, namely openness versus restrictedness and openness versus secrecy. This then leads to the postulation that the development of the media has been concomitant with a democratic struggle against state secrecy and that politics through the media would need to make constant references to the symbolic public.

Struggles against state secrecy do not end with the formal institutionalization of the democratic state in modern society, for secret practices by the state exist in different ways under different state forms. Thompsons discussion of the changing meanings and forms of publicness vis--vis state secrecy in different historical epochs has made this point clear, thereby making manifest the problem of difference of open/secret or private/public boundary that has often been taken for granted in political sociology. Building on this framework, I asserted that boundary politics of secrecy/openness in the public sphere are both political and symbolic in nature, seeking to maintain or transform the state-enforced boundary of political openness/secrecy by giving cultural and moral meanings to it. In this regard,

Habermas approach to the public sphere has been found wanting. With respect to the question of the interplay between culture and politics, it has attended neither to the changeable character of the kind of boundary politics involved at the interface between secrecy and openness, nor to the symbolic structure and processes that accompany and constitute such boundary struggles.

In Chapter IV, Habermas public-private distinction was reconstructed with a view to positing public credibility as an alternative view. More specifically, in going beyond the simple state-nonstate distinction as the defining basis of the public, it has attempted (a) to establish the claim that the category of citizenship is central to the definition as well as operation of the public sphere, (b) to conceptualize the public sphere as a sphere of the public in terms of the distinctive institutional and cultural property of publicness, and (c) to introduce a theory of politics of public credibility to capture the cultural and political dynamics of the public sphere. Public credibility is an evaluative claim, by the public of citizens, of moral status and moral authority about particular actors, institutions, or the whole government on the basis of their public presentations and performances. There are two underlying assumptions here. First, politics does not just entail a process of naked struggle for material interests at the back of the people; it also involves the competition for moral status and authority in the public sphere. This applies not only to the developed democratic states where politicians are required to be accountable to the public, but also to the

many quasi-democratic and authoritarian states that have been entangled in democratic struggles in their local settings in one form or another. In the modern context, the common thread behind these different forms of state lies in that state authority can no longer be taken for granted but could be challenged by the forces in civil society. This can be seen in numerous examples in the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa, and so on, in terms of replacement of the president, prime minister, ministers, or even the whole regime. Secondly, the notion of public credibility signifies the process of evaluation of moral status that may be attached to the public actors in varying degrees. As such, it underlines the dynamics involved in the process of political struggles that, often, unfolds itself through continuous interaction rather than revolutionary transformation. In the process, not only are public actors culturally (and politically) positioned and repositioned, the cultural parameters would also be defined and redefined.

In this chapter, too, I offered that in public struggles over state secrecy/openness, actors must make reference to a force of the public that delineates the boundary between the sacred and the profane in public life. In particular, openness/secrecy constitutes one set of democratic codes in public discourse that has become central to political conflicts in modern society. In the context of conflicts these codes, in conjunction with nondemocratic codes, help create multifarious symbolic processes of purification/ pollution.

B. Conclusion

Publicity has long been a primary means for political problem solving in modern societies, and I have argued that the problems to be solved are different for the abstract, inclusive civic public spheres than they are for cosmopolitan public spheres. With the emergence of a society differentiated around state and civic institutions, the public sphere offered an attractive ideal of a unity of opinions in a sphere of political discussion free from the growing power of the state. Inclusion offered much the same ideal centered on diverse citizenry unifying themselves in a common public sphere. The historical changes that I have indicated do not mean that these civic norms of publicity have lost their problem-solving ability in many contexts. Rather, the practical consequences of increasing division of labor, functional differentiation, and globalization create problems that these forms of publicity cannot easily solve. In new culturally diverse and socially mapped public spheres, participants work out new norms of publicity and forms of communication as they solve these new problems and thereby change the nature of citizenship. These solutions are based on establishing and maintaining new forms of cooperation, across various cultural boundaries in various forms of publicity, in negotiating the conditions of cooperation in the division of labor in the emergence of accessible and accountable international regimes. The signs of success for these new forms of publicity will be found in eventual changes in scientific, economic, and

political institutions around which more richly textured, socially and culturally diverse, and normatively differentiated publics emerge and create new forms, styles, and locations for egalitarian and deliberative politics.

Public sphere becomes an excellent starting point for thinking again about what politics is, about where it takes place, and about how it can function as a space available to ordinary people and not just to official or professional politicians. It allows one to imaginemodestly and realisticallyhow a sense of citizenship might be re-engaged, whether in the public sphere of particular institutions like a university or a profession; in some local setting like a school board, a workplace, or a community campaign; or in the new political communities of the cyberspace. Such a renewed concept of citizenship may even infiltrate the political process more conventionally understood, in relation to parties and elections, the articulation of interests, and the presentation of demands in government. This is clearly linked to notions of civil society as well, as the ground on and from which political actions arise. So the public sphere makes more sense as a structured setting in which contestation and negotiation can occur.

The overlapping of the private-public distinction can be resolved through a politics of public credibility established through a discourse of community that consists of a set of sacred codes, values, beliefs, and narratives peculiar to the


community concerned. Just as public credibility is established through a discourse of community, it can be undermined through a discourse of anti-community that represents the conception of politics as public performance is based on a dramaturgical understanding of culture.

C. Recommendation The following researches on Habermasian philosophy are recommended to be undertaken: a) A Feminist Critique of Habermas notion of the public sphere b) Habermas legal theory and the normative foundations of the law c) The Problem of Justification in Contemporary Critical Social Theory d) Habermas contra Foucault on Civil Society and the Public Sphere e) Religious Inclusion in Habermas Notion of the Public Sphere f) Gender in Enlightenment Conception of the Public Sphere.


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. Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and

Democracy. Translated by William Rehg. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1996.

. Communication and the Evolution of Society. Translated by Thomas McCarthy.

Cambridge: Polity Press, 1984.

. The Inclusion of the Other: Studies in Political Theory. Edited by Ciaran Cronin
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. Justification and Application: Remarks on Discourse Ethics. Cambridge: MIT

Press, 1993.

. Legitimation Crisis. Translated by Thomas McCarthy. Boston: Beacon Press,


. Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action. Translated by Christian

Lenhardt and Shierry Weber Nicholsen. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990.

. On the Pragmatics of Communication. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998. . On the Pragmatics of Social Interaction: Preliminary Studies in the Theory of
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. On Society and Politics: A Reader. Edited by Steven Seidman. Boston, 1989. . The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT
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. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of

Bourgeois Society. Translated by Thomas Burger. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991.

. The Theory of Communicative Action. Translated by Thomas McCarthy. 2

vols. Boston: Beacon Press, 1984-1987.

. Toward a Rational Society: Student Protest, Science, and Politics. Translated by

Jeremy J. Shapiro. Boston: Beacon Press, 1970.

2. Secondary Sources Alejandro, Roberto. Hermeneutics, Citizenship and the Public Sphere. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 1993. Alexander, Jeffrey. IntroductionCivil Society I, II, III: Constructing an Empirical Concept from Normative Controversies and Historical Transformations. In Real Civil Societies: Dilemmas of Institutionalization. London: Sage, 1998. Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. London: Verso, 1983. Arato, Andrew and Michel Rosenfeld, eds. Habermas on Law and Democracy: Critical Exchanges. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. Baker, Keith Michael. Public Opinion as Political Invention. In Inventing the French Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Bell, Daniel. The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism. New York: Basic Books, 1976. Bohman, James. Public Deliberation: Pluralism, Complexity and Democracy. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996.

. The Public Spheres of the World Citizen. In Perpetual Peace. Edited by J.

Bohman and Matthias Lutz-Bachmann. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997. Bronner, Stephen Eric and Douglas Mackay Kellner, eds. Critical Theory and Society: A Reader. New York: Routledge, 1989.


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