[EM] language/framing quibble

Fred Gohlke fredgohlke at verizon.net
Sun Mar 8 15:42:23 PDT 2009

Good Afternoon, Michael

Thank you for the Habermas reference.  As you say, his thought is 
central to the discussion on this thread.  I have not read 'The 
Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere', but a couple of years 
ago, my younger brother found considerable material about him for me. 
What I've read of Habermas' work 'light's my fire'.  I would like to 
cite a section from

    Jurgen Habermas and the Public Sphere
    by Marshall Soules, PhD

   "A public sphere began to emerge in the 18th C. through the
    growth of coffee houses, literary and other societies,
    voluntary associations, and the growth of the press. In their
    efforts to discipline the state, parliament and other agencies
    of representative government sought to manage this public
    sphere. The success of the public sphere depends upon:

    * the extent of access (as close to universal as possible),
    * the degree of autonomy (the citizens must be free of coercion),
    * the rejection of hierarchy (so that each might participate on
        an equal footing),
    * the rule of law (particularly the subordination of the state),
    * and the quality of participation (the common commitment to the
        ways of logic).

    For Habermas, the success of the public sphere was founded on
    rational-critical discourse where everyone has the ability for
    equal participation and the supreme communication skill is the
    power of argument.

    This ideal of the public sphere has never been fully achieved
    by most accounts. As ethnic, gender, and class exclusions were
    removed through the 19th and 20th centuries, and the public
    sphere approached its ideal more closely, Habermas identifies
    a concurrent deformation of the public sphere through the
    advance of social welfare, the growth of culture industries,
    and the evolution of large private interests. Large newspapers
    devoted to profit, for example, turned the press into an agent
    of manipulation: "It became the gate through which privileged
    private interests invaded the public sphere".

    Habermas writes of a refeudalization of power whereby the
    illusions of the public sphere are maintained only to give
    sanction to the decisions of leaders.

    Behind Habermas' analysis lies an oral bias: he believes the
    public sphere can be most effectively constituted and
    maintained through dialogue, acts of speech, through debate
    and discussion. In "Further Reflections," Habermas claims that
    public debate can be animated by "opinion-forming
    associations" -- voluntary associations, social organizations,
    churches, sports clubs, groups of concerned citizens,
    grassroots movements, trade unions -- to counter or refashion
    the messages of authority.

    For Habermas, the misuse of publicity undermines the public
    sphere.  "Manipulative publicity" has become common: "Even
    arguments are translated into symbols to which again one
    cannot respond by arguing but only by identifying with them".
    Such propaganda manages views, fosters political theatre, and
    conveys "authorized opinions". Visual display -- "showy pomp"
    and "staged display" -- are used by those in authority to
    assert dominance or entitlement.

You will find Dr. Soules essay at:


If I had the means, I would highlight several passages in the foregoing 
because they so beautifully describe my attitudes.

One of the reasons Habermas' work (and the work of Dr. Alasdair 
MacIntyre at Notre Dame) seem so important to me is that they establish 
a basis for additional academic work in the field.  I am not an 
academic, and I have no idea whether any such work is underway.  I 
subscribe to the Political Science Network, which is part of the Social 
Science Research Network, and watch for any reference to such efforts, 
but, so far, the most pertinent work I've seen is the work of Dr. Jane 
Mansbridge at Harvard.  Early last year, Dr. Mansbridge published a 
Kennedy School of Government Working Paper (No. RWP08-010) entitled "A 
'Selection Model' of Political Representation", which I think worthy of 
consideration.  You can find an abstract of her paper at:


Fred Gohlke

More information about the Election-Methods mailing list