Habermas' Discourse Theory and the Concept of Public Sphere

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 5:45 PM
Room: 304
Oral Presentation
Tadashi ISOZAKI , Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan
The aim of this paper is to clarify the concept of Jürgen Habermas’ public sphere in his book, Between Facts and Norms, especially focusing on his perspective and method.

In this book, discourse theory is formulated with “D: Just those action norms are valid to which all possibly affected persons could agree as participants in rational discourses.” However, especially in American context, there is a lot of criticism that the discourse theory is not so effective for the analysis of an actual problem because it is too formalistic. Responding to this criticism, Habermas elaborates a process model of rational political will-formation about realistic problem. Habermas has taken up the public sphere as a concept to support such political will-formation. According to Habermas, the public sphere “is a warning system with sensors that, though unspecialized, are sensitive throughout society” and “can best be described as a network for communicating information and points of view.”

Some existing discussion found that Habermas succeeds to use a theoretical technique, called conversion of perspective and shift the level of a reference in The Theory of Communicative Action. However this paper points out that Habermas already uses similar techniques in Between Facts and Norms. Habermas moves to more concrete level of discussion based on his theoretical understanding of a modern democratic constitutional state. Dealing with experimental problems, such as politics and law, one of focusing point is a public sphere. Finally, we think on the feasibility of the concept of Habermas’ public sphere as an analytical tool of actual problems.