Human discourse and communicativeaction can work "to limit the destructiveeffects of the attacks on the public sphere,civil society, and the lifeworld." (p. 247)
Habermas defined the public sphere as being "made up of private people gathered together as a public and articulating the needs of society with the state" (1991).
Through acts of assembly and dialogue, the public sphere generates opinions and attitudes which serve to affirm or challenge--therefore, to guide--the affairs of state. In ideal terms, the public sphere is the source of public opinion needed to "legitimate authority in any functioning democracy" (Rutherford, 2000).
Discussion What do you think are examples of the public sphere? Is there a private sphere, and if so what are some examples and how are the two related?
Habermas did define the public sphere as a virtual or imaginary community which does not necessarily exist in any identifiable space.
DeLuca and Peeples look at the transitioning of the concept of public sphere with the onset of new media. The transition is that public opinion is formed out of a new, pseudo- physical “public screen.” They talk about how the way information is shared nowadays, that you can’t really distinguish between public and private spheres. The separation between public and private is slimmer because of the mobility of our technology, as you can carry the “screens” with you. This new way of information transfer is based around the inception of new media.
Discussion What are the implications of a blurred line between (or an overlap of) the private and public spheres?
The idea of the Lifeworld was first established by Edmund Husserl in 1936 The lifeworld can be thought of as the horizon of all our experiences, in the sense that it is that background on which all things appear as themselves and meaningful. The lifeworld cannot, however, be understood in a purely static manner; it isnt an unchangeable background, but rather a dynamic horizon in which we live, and which "lives with us" in the sense that nothing can appear in our lifeworld except as lived (1936).
For Habermas, the lifeworld is more or less the "background" environment of competences, practices, and attitudes representable in terms of ones cognitive horizon.
Habermas says that the lifeworld consists of social and cultural linguistic meanings. It is the lived realm of informal, culturally- grounded understandings and mutual accommodations. This understanding of the Lifeworld is a reflection of Habermas’ social theory which is grounded in communication
Discussion What do you think is the relationship between the Lifeworld and the Public/Private sphere?
Subjects capable of speech and action can not help but learn (p. 252) We learn in communities as social beings, and our development of knowledge depends on our ability to understand what others are telling and showing us (p. 251)
When we act communicatively, we try to step out of our normal frames of reference to see the world as others see it (p. 253) What we agree to or decide on in a conversation is based on our acknowledging that what others say has merit (p. 253)
Communicative action [occurs] when two or more people trying to come to an agreement is premised on good faith effort of those involved to speak in the most truthful, best informed way they can (p. 254) Discussion: Is this realistic? On what levels? What communication issues would help/hurt?
Democracy resides in adults’ capacity to learn, in particular to learn how to recognize and expand the democratic process inherent in human communication (p. 247)
The ideal rules of discourse, embedded as they are in the universal process of speech, offer the best hope of keeping democratic forces alive (p. 266)
Habermas specifies the following rules(p. 265) 1. all relevant voices are heard 2. the best of all available arguments, given the present state of knowledge, are accepted 3. only the non-coercive coercion of the better argument determines the affirmations and negations of the participants.
In other words, good discussion, and therefore good democratic process, depends on everyone contributing, on everyone having the fullest possible knowledge of different perspectives, and on everyone being ready to give up their position if a better argument is presented to them (pg. 265) Problems???
Judgments as to which voices are relevant , how relevance itself is determined, how we decide which are the best arguments , and who estimates exactly what is the present state of our knowledge are all highly contentious. If we are not careful, we end up asking those in authority to decide those things (p. 266)
As societies grow ever larger and more complex, a domination-free consensus arrived at through town meetings or other inclusive community conversations becomes increasingly impossible to achieve (p. 267)
Contemporary political and economic systems , and their various steering media, attempt to foreclose the possibility of any learning that challenges systematic imperatives. Since learning involves asking “why?” it is potentially very threatening to the system and must be controlled (p. 247)
System problems (affecting democracy) are either caused by the actions of people in a system run for economic profit or are naturally occurring but are exacerbated to crisis level by the desire of some for profit or the refusal of those in power to admit the problem exists.
Habermas believes that we can not talk about critically reflective learning until uncritical, unreflective learning has occurred, usually at earlier stages of life. (p. 271)
Non-Reflexive Learning is learning to submitwithout resistance to rules of debate, argumentassessment, and decision-making process that thedominant culture favors (p. 248)
Reflexive Learning is when we learn to questionand challenge everyday practices or socialarrangements by discussing with others the extentto which these should be justified (p. 249)
Without a capacity for critical reflection, we are unable to separate our identity from the steering mechanisms of money and power that have invaded [colonized] the lifeworld. Adult learning is the most important hope that we have for creating a just society.
Learning democracy is a matter of learning to live with ambiguity and contingency as much as it is learning to apply deliberative decision- making procedures (p. 268)
People need to experience the contradictions and tensions of democracy, and to learn how to navigate through these while also learning the truth that they are often unnavigable (p.268)
Adult education must give plenty of opportunity for people to learn about the technical aspects of democratic procedures and the typical predictable diversions and blockages that arise when working within these (p. 269)
Adult education as part of a civil society could constitute a mini-laboratory in which people could learn and practice democratic dispositions that could then be transferred to the public sphere (p. 269)
Everyday conversations represent [another ] avenue for learning the democratic process. Seeing things from another point of view, taking different perspectives, suspending judgment about something contentious- these are all acts we engage in during conversations about apparently nonpolitical matters.
Habermas sees reflexive learning as the overall lever for societal development (p. 249) Learning is the fundamental mechanism for social evolution in general (p. 249) Without a socially sanctioned engagement in learning, society remains in stasis [not evolving] (p. 249)
[Habermas’s] dream is clearly bound up with the possibility of adults learning to speak to each other in honest and informed ways so that they can hold democratic conversations about important issues in the revised public sphere. (p. 256)
Habermas, Jürgen. The Structural Transformation of thePublic Sphere: An Inquiry into a category of BourgeoisSociety. Trans. Thomas Burger with FrederickLawrence. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991.Rutherford, Paul. Endless Propaganda: The Advertisingof Public Goods. Toronto: University of Toronto Press,2000.Deluca and Peeples. “From Public Sphere to PublicScreen: Democracy, Activism, and the Lessons ofSeattle”. 2002.