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The Internet is the New Public Sphere

            In my discussion of the above statement I will first of all examine the basic concept of the "public sphere- as understood by Jurgen Habermas. Then I will point out a few of the discrepancies between his ideal and the practice of the "old public sphere-. Finally I will attempt to show to what extent the Internet may or may not be closer to the ideals outlined by Habermas. I have felt that in the course of this scrutiny it would be appropriate to rely almost exclusively on sources available from the Internet (as well as my lecture notes).
             Habermas sees the public sphere as the essential vehicle for the furtherment of democracy. In his approach he combines the liberal view of democracy (i.e. to keep the state in check) and the participatory view that has been laid out by many philosophers and philosophies, from the driving ideals of the Greek polis, to Jean Jacques Rousseau and even Alasdair MacIntyre. The public sphere is a realm where a consensus-building discussion occurs among the participants, who overcome their at first subjectively biased views in favor of a rationally motivated agreement- (Habermas, quoted by Bass).
             "The bourgeois public sphere may be conceived above all as the sphere of private people come together as a public; they soon claimed the public sphere regulated from above against the public authorities themselves, to engage them in a debate over the general rules governing relations in the basically privatized but publicly relevant sphere of commodity exchange and social labor. The medium of this political confrontation was peculiar and without historical precedent: people's public use of their reason."" (Habermas, quoted by Mandell).
             Habermas saw the rise of the public sphere in the 18th century coffee houses where the middle-class gathered, debated the state, read and conducted discussions. He also believed that this public sphere declined and politics was re-feudalised from the late 19th century and even more so in the 20th.

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