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September 27, 2011
The Public Sphere - Nancy Fraser and Habermas’s Critics
Jurgen Habermas (1974) “The Public Sphere”
“... a realm of our social life in which something approaching public opinion
can be formed.” (49)
Nancy Fraser (1992) “Rethinking the Public Sphere”
“... an ideal of unrestricted rational discussion on public matters” (113)
“... it is not an arena of market relations but rather one of discursive
relations, a theatre for debating...” (111)
Time line: History of European Printing
1350 - Renaissance
1455 - Movable type first books
1600s - emergence of public sphere
1650 - newspapers
1700 - enlightenment
late 1800s - magazines
1900 - Mod.
Nancy Fraser - Professor of Political and Social Science. New School for
Social Research, New York.
-key idea: “A politics of redistribution and recognition must be joined to a
politics of representation, oriented to decision-making processes and
Criticisms of the Concept of the Public Sphere
-Joan Landes (1988). Women and the Public Sphere in the Age of the French
-In France, women and visible minorities were always excluded from the
forums associated with the public sphere.
-Geoff Eley (1992). “Nations, Publics, and Political Cultures” Habermas and
the Public Sphere
-In Britain and elsewhere, men of means formed associations to discuss their
common interests. They were not inclusive or open to debate.
Objection 1: Status is never “bracketed” or set aside
Habermas: in its ideal form, the public sphere pays no attention to status.
The background of every contributor to public discussion should be
irrelevant. The only thing which should be considered is the persuasiveness
of his or her ideas.
-Landes and Eley both point out that this never happened.
Objection 2: There is more than one public sphere