Jürgen Habermas

Jürgen Habermas: The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere

Instructor: Timothy Brownlee
This is an online course (Eastern Time)

Is a public sphere possible? Our social and political life is marked by deep divisions: The social fabric is fraying. Economic and political polarization are on the rise. Many citizens feel their voices are not heard in arenas from the government to the marketplace. Yet many of our public institutions depend on a space in which we come together as equals to consider questions concerning the common good. The internet and smartphones seem to give us faster and ever more convenient access to communication. But can this constitute a meaningful public sphere?

In this course, we will pursue these questions through a close reading of seminal German philosopher and social theorist Jürgen Habermas. Habermas is one of the most widely respected contemporary theorists of society and democracy in both the United States and Europe. In his classic book, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, Habermas marshals the resources of philosophy, political theory, history, sociology, and economics to provide a unified account of the complex evolution of the public sphere. Students will consider: What is the public sphere? How did it emerge? Why did it emerge when and where it did? What were its limitations? And what keeps it from flourishing today? We will also discuss what it might mean to renew the public sphere in a world where the public and private are no longer strictly separated, where the market rules, where we experience politics only through public relations, and where the news media chases ratings. Reading Habermas in our own contemporary contexts, we will explore the possibility of a politics free of domination and founded on our common humanity and ask how this ideal remains relevant in 21st century society.


Course Schedule

Monday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
July 08 — July 29, 2024
4 weeks


Registration Open

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