CS203 Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: Ideal Speech Situation, Jürgen Habermas, Liberal Democracy

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October 26th
The Public Sphere The Critical Theory
of Jurgen Habermas
- The public sphere is an area in social life where people can get together and freely discuss and
identify societal problems, and, through that discussion, influence political action
- The place where we can see how it is we have come to naturalize democracy is in the history of
the public sphere
- We must situate historically the origins of some of the basic assumptions we make about
ourselves and our political system
- The shifts in the ways in which we organize ourselves economically includes a move away from
feudalism toward an economic system that is more democratized
- The middle class start to become franchised and have concerns about the way things are
organized they are both limited and educated, intent on educating themselves about the
issues of the day
- People recognize themselves as private agents agents in their own right, recognize they are
masters of their own realm (the intimate/private sphere) and begin to demand their own rights
of a new economic and therefore political order, and autonomy from the State and the Church
- The public sphere emerges when private people come together to form a public; through
talking, debating, demanding access to information (publicity)
- Habermas refers to publicity as the making public of ideas
- The public sphere is formed out of particular interest in order to influence political changes,
organizational changes, etc.
- In the development of the public sphere is the development of ideas of:
o Liberty freedom of choice, expression, to gather together, to debate, liberty to engage
in ideas and participate in democratic systems
o Equality equal rights relative to the political system
o Fraternity recognition of common concerns
- these ideas are built on certain assumptions about who we are, what the system is that we are
engaging with, and what our rights and responsibilities are within it
- presumes the idea of the individual who is able to freely and critically think and argue
- liberal democracy - the citizen/bourgeois subject has the following characteristics:
o the ability to own property
o more educated than previous times, no longer illiterate, no longer reliant upon the king,
prince, clergy, etc. to explain the world to them
o independent, can think independently
o not a subject that will not be necessarily coerced
o a person who is able to fully able to exercise critical thinking
- not everyone had access to a public life and therefore did not get to be a participant in political
and economic public life
- in the 17th and 18th centuries, those not included would be women, therefore Habermas is
idealized a masculine subject citizen
- liberal democracy is founded on certain principles the bourgeois public sphere
o “the bourgeois public sphere may be conceived above all as the sphere of private
people come together as a public; they soon claimed the public sphere regulated from
above against the public authorities themselves, to engage them in a debate over the
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