The bourgeois public sphere arose together with a society separated from the state. But by the mid nineteenth century, you could see that this public sphere would come under the control of groups with no interest in society as a private sphere. The public sphere also presumed to be able to realize what is promised - the subjection of political domination to reason. The development of a socialist society would lead to the end of political power, which requires the power of men over men. The class relationships of private to public sphere would be reversed. Criticism and control by the public would be extended to a private part of civil society. Private persons became private persons of a public. The informal and personal interaction of human beings became freed from labor constraints and became really private. An intimate sphere free of economic functions was created.

The dialectic of the bourgeois public sphere was not completed as in early socialist expectations. It proved possible to widen the public sphere within the framework of class society. But criticism of the public sphere was so obviously correct that its socio-philosophical representatives were forced to deny the principle of civil society even as they celebrated it. Liberalism had an ambivalent conception of the public sphere. Eighteenth-century bourgeois consciousness conceived of the idea of making political domination rational within the framework of the philosophy of history. Liberals examined the idea that a rational basis for the public sphere could exist. The outward appearance of the public sphere changed in response to revolts on the continent. Once the public sphere expanded, coherence and consensus ended. The public sphere became the arena of competing interests and violent conflict. Laws passed according to public pressure did not embody rational consensus.

Mill and Tocqueville approved of extending the franchise. The competitive order no longer lent credibility to the idea that it maintained open access to the political public sphere. The topic of the nineteenth century was the enlargement of the public sphere. But Mill and Tocqueville devalued the broadened public opinion. They saw public opinion as a force that could limit power, but that must itself be limited. The demand for tolerance was now directed at public opinion.

The political public sphere became a mere limit on power, rather than its dissolution. Independent citizens were needed to purify mass public opinion. Elements of representative publicity were needed to save the principle of publicity from opinion itself. Tocqueville, like Montesquieu, wanted new intermediary powers, but he also analysed the tyranny of the increasingly bureaucratised state. Citizens had slipped into a new kind of tutelage. Marx too became concerned about the power of the state apparatus. In the 100 years after the heyday of liberalism, the original relationship of public and private spheres dissolved. The contours of the bourgeois public sphere eroded, but neither liberalism nor socialism could diagnose the problems. While the public sphere penetrated into more spheres of society, it lost its political function.


Part of this section - the discussion of Kant, Hegel and Marx - was missing from the original manuscript of the Structural Transformation. Habermas wrote it only when he revised his thesis for publication.

Habermas has already analyzed the social structures of the public sphere. He now considers its theoretical and intellectual foundations. Essentially, this involves trying to trace the development of a theory of the public sphere in various writers. This project leads Habermas into an interpretation of modern intellectual history from the viewpoint of the public sphere, but also into the history of political terms themselves.

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