The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere

The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere Study Guide

The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere was published in 1962 in German. It began as Habermas’s doctoral dissertation. It was a major work, but it was not translated into English in 1989. By that point, Habermas had already systemized his sociological thinking into the more massive Theory of Communicative Action, whose two volumes were published in Germany in 1981.

Although his first book and written while still young, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere remains Habermas’s most influential work, especially in the English-speaking world. In particular, thinkers on the political left have found useful the combination of history and theory in the book, as Habermas both describes a historical transformation and develops of a theory of democratic society. After the publication of the book, Habermas became considered the leading voice of the second generation of the Frankfurt School. Originally, this school of philosophy had emerged in the 1930s to critique Western society through a Marxist lens. In his writing, Habermas carried forward this project of critique with new resources and new concepts.

In part because of this original work, combined with later texts he published through the 1970s and 1980s, Habermas has received a number of prestigious prizes. These include the Sigmund Freud Prize (1976), the Theodor W. Adorno Award (1980), the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize (1986), and the Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy (2004), often considered the “Nobel Prize of Philosophy.” Although the first prizes Habermas won demonstrate his profound impact on the German academy, more recent international prizes from the 1990s to the present indicate the increasingly global reach of his ideas.