The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere


The book was reprinted many times in German and other languages, and has been enormously influential, especially since its translation into English, for scholars of political science, media studies, and rhetoric.[1] It is also an important work for historians of philosophy and scholars of intellectual history. After publication, Habermas was identified as an important philosopher of the twentieth century.

Since publication, the Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere has been critiqued for Habermas’s formulation of the concept of a public sphere which he claimed "stood or fell with the principle of universal access ... A public sphere from which specific groups would be eo ipso excluded was less than merely incomplete; it was not a public sphere at all." (Habermas 1962:85) However, the bourgeois public sphere required as preconditions of entry an excellent education and property ownership – which correlated to membership of the upper classes. Critics have argued that the bourgeois public sphere cannot be considered an ideal form of politics, since the public sphere was limited to upper-class strata of society and did not represent most of the citizens in these emerging nation-states.

Some critics claim the public sphere, as such, never existed, or existed only in the sense of excluding many important groups, such as the poor, women, slaves, migrants, and criminals. They maintain that the public sphere remains an idealized conception, little changed since Kant, since the ideal is still to a great extent what Habermas might call an unfinished project of modernity. (Cubitt 2005:93)

Similar critiques regarding the exclusivity of the bourgeois public sphere have been made by feminist and post-colonial authors.

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