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The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere – An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society (Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought) Paperback – Import, 1 Oct 1991
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"Why is this such a vital study? Its significance rests in its analysis of one of the central notions on which both our political life and our political theories rests: 'public opinion.' Presidential candidates worry about it, the press talks about it, political scientists try to measure it, but Habermas is one of the few people to have actually sat down and tried to think about it to ask what it means to have an 'opinion that is not private, not idiosyncratic, but rather 'public.'" James Schmidt , Boston University "The most significant modern work on its subject... Habermas offers perhaps the richest, best developed conceptualization available of the social nature and foundations of public life. As scholars set out to make sense of the growing wealth of empirical research on the topics related to this theme, this book will form an indispensable point of theoretical departure... We should be grateful that it has finally appeared in English." Craig J. Calhoun , Contemporary Sociology
About the Author
Jurgen Habermas is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Frankfurt and Professor of Philosophy at Northwestern University. He was recently awarded the 2004 Kyoto Prize for Arts and Philosophy by the Inamori Foundation. The Kyoto Prize is an international award to honor those who have contributed significantly to the scientific, cultural, and spiritual betterment of mankind.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Today, in contrast, there is little public debate, no public forums. We have the illusion of a public sphere. It's been transformed. Habermas tries to show how this happened. I think his work is stronger in showing the before and after effects of the transformation. But when he tries to show how this happened, his writing is often confusing, with sentences you can reread several times and still shake your head. Make no mistake: this is a difficult book to read. It's slow going, but worth it.
I think Habermas is right in the overall conclusion about the transformation of the public sphere. For example, real news (ie news we need as free people to stay informed and which helps keep us free) is being elbowed out by advice, entertainment, soft-porn, catchy garbage and celebrity antics. News is being transformed from rational-critical information to a commodity forced to compete in a giant entertainment market. It's a consumer good. It doesn't matter whether it's right or wrong, important or irrelevant. Rather, news must be entertaining. And, we're no longer real citizens but rather consumers, investors, members in a society who participate very little in government.
I highly recommend this book for serious students of politics and democracy. It is difficult reading. For the casual reader, it may be best to read a simpler overview book or treatment first, or to approach this under the guidance of a professor as part of a course, otherwise much of the text may appear incomprehensible. But his conclusions are on target, particularly the before and after comparison.
Thomas W. Sulcer
author of "The Second Constitution of the United States"
(free on web -- google title above + sulcer)