Jurgen Habermas's Concept of Public Sphere

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Jurgen Habermas's concept of Public Sphere

Jurgen Habermas developed the concept of Public Sphere, an open network to facilitate exchanges, as a part of a larger project dealing with the paradoxical consequences of rational western capitalism.
The project is deeply rooted in Weber's reflections on the role of religion (Calvinism) in the development of capitalism in the North-Atlantic Rim, and the Marxist critique of such reflections as laid out by the members of the Frankfurt School (Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer).
Adorno and Horkheimer, however, found themselves at a deadend when they were unable to de-reify their own concept of culture. It is precisely there where Habermas breaks away from the concerns of the Frankfurt School and begins his own reflection that, on the one hand, de-reifies the concept of culture (culture uiltimately is a product of institutions and human interaction and not a variable with life of its own, as Adorno and Horkheimer assumed at some point).
Habermas stand on the development of capitalism leads him to recapture an insight from the old Marx: capitalism, with all its contradictions and fallacies, has the seed of its own transformation (destruction for Marx) in the form of the exchanges that it encourages, but mostly because of its very need of rational domination. If rational domination is required (as opposed to traditional or charismatic), then it is necessary to discoursevely build the agreements that the law embodies.
If so, then institutions like the Parliament are unavoidable and with it some discussion of public issues and concerns.
Habermas finds the origin of such discussions and concerns in the emergence of coffee-houses all over Europe during the Enlightenment era. Of course, participation in such activities was heavily restricted by class and in some cases (the European Jewish populations are a perfect example of it) by race and/or ethnicity.
Habermas finds that even if such restrictions exist, the drive of the Enlightenment project will be enough to allow for progressive openings, that over time will prevent against discrimination.
Habermas is well aware of the limitations of his model.
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