F is for Forum

| February 13, 2014

In Habermas’ essay, “The Public Sphere,” Habermas defines the “public sphere” as “a domain of our social life in which such a thing as public opinion can be formed” (143). All citizens have access to the public sphere, and part of it is apparent in all conversations between private people as they come together to form the public sphere itself. Citizens become the public when they discuss matters important to all of them. An important aspect of the public sphere that Habermas discusses is that the citizens cannot be coerced; this ensures that the people can “express and publicize their opinions freely” and “assemble and unite freely” (143). The media of the public sphere includes newspapers, periodicals, radio, and television. Habermas then distinguishes the public sphere from “public opinion.” Habermas defines public opinion as “the functions of criticism and control of organized state authority that the public exercises informally, as well as formally during periodic elections” (144). The public uses public opinion within the public sphere as it mediates between state and society. The principle of publicness has allowed for the democratic control of state activity. However, this publicness contrasts to the past secret politics of monarchs. The public sphere has an important and necessary part of society as a whole as it allows rival organizations a way to discuss their internal structure, dealings with the state, and dealings with each other. If the public sphere did not exist, people would remain isolated, private beings without a forum for discussion.

Meagher, Sharon M., ed. Philosophy and the City: Classic to Contemporary Writings. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2008. Print.