Jurgen Habermas Sees the Task

142). Another particular structural transformation (i.e. industrialization) led to the objectification of labor where a separate existence of the world of work from the private and public sphere lead to the deviation from the then-autonomous sphere of the owner and the means of production. Even the family has now turned into consumers of income and leisure time (pp.152-156). These events led to the drifting away of public spheres critical stance and movement towards the direction of the passive, cultural consumers. This passivity of the public in turn leads to what Habermas calls “legitimation crisis” where the “crisis tendencies generated in the economic sphere, would be displaced into the cultural sphere. This in turn creates problems of social integration… In particular it creates the possibility of a large-scale loss of legitimacy for government institutions” (Heath, p.1).

In crude terms, the seemingly disconnected social machinery of the society and state – both undergoing structural transformation because of distinct socio-historical circumstances, should functionally be greased by the public sphere.

But the present character of the bourgeois public sphere where, “publicity is achieved with the help of secret politics of interest groups; it earns public prestige for a person or issue and thereby renders it ready for acclamatory assent in a climate of nonpublic opinion” (Habermas, p. 201) simply fails to do that. The present bourgeois public sphere which serves its class-based interest fails to accommodate the opinion of those beyond this cluster. Hence the legitimacy of the structurally transformed public sphere and state power is put into question and into an eventual crisis.


Habermas, J. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. MIT Press: Cambridge.

Heath, J. Legitimation Crisis in the later work of Jurgen Habermas. Retrieved from http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~jheath/legitimation.pdfon November 6, 2008..


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