The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere

The public sphere

The notion of the "public sphere" began evolving during the Renaissance in Western Europe. Brought on partially by merchants' need for accurate information about distant markets as well as by the growth of democracy and individual liberty and popular sovereignty, the public sphere was a place between private individuals and government authorities in which people could meet and have critical debates about public matters. Such discussions served as a counterweight to political authority and happened physically in face-to-face meetings in coffee houses and cafes and public squares as well as in the media in letters, books, drama, and art.[2] Habermas saw a vibrant public sphere as a positive force keeping authorities within bounds lest their rulings be ridiculed. According to David Randall, "In Habermasian theory, the bourgeois public sphere was preceded by a literary public sphere whose favored genres revealed the interiority of the self and emphasized an audience-oriented subjectivity."[2]


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