Reflections and Hypotheses on a Further Structural Transformation of the Political Public Sphere

Habermas, Jürgen
Theory, Culture & Society

This article contains reflections on the further structural transformation of the public sphere, building on the author?s widely-discussed social-historical study, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, which originally appeared in German in 1962 (English translation 1989). The first three sections contain preliminary theoretical reflections on the relationship between normative and empirical theory, the deliberative understanding of democracy, and the demanding preconditions of the stability of democratic societies under conditions of capitalism. The fourth section turns to the implications of digitalisation for the account of the role of the media in the public sphere developed in the original work, specifically to how it is leading to the expansion and fragmentation of the public sphere and is turning all participants into potential authors. The following section presents empirical data from German studies which shows that the rapid expansion of digital media is leading to a marked diminution of the role of the classical print media. The article concludes with observations on the threats that these developments pose for the traditional role of the public sphere in discursive opinion and will formation in democracies.