Beyond the Public Sphere
Half a century ago Jürgen Habermas published his seminal work Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit (1962–2012), in which he formalized his ideal-typical model of the public sphere.
The influence of the Habermasian paradigm in the following decades has been such that it has given rise to an autonomous interdisciplinary field of study, bringing together historians, literary scholars, political scientists, and philosophers.
For fifty years Habermas's theory has been the catalyst for the historiographical debate about public opinion and has been recognized as an interpretative paradigm of the development of Western modernity.
Despite the heralding of a post-Habermas era; despite the fact that some historians have mused over a possible – and in the minds of a few even desirable – total eclipse of the Habermasian doctrine; Habermas's model still boasts a significant scholarly vitality. Many answers that the German philosopher supplied have turned out to be inaccurate, but for historians the bigger questions that he posed remain relevant: how – and when – was the critical power of public discussion born? How are 'the public' and 'public spaces' defined? What is the relationship between public discourse and authority? What, ultimately, is the power of communication?
Inspired by the fundamental question of the relationship between power and communication, the current research paths explored by historians of the Ancien régime have consolidated the critical dialectic with this analytical paradigm, but at the same time have led in a direction that goes beyond the public sphere.
This volume combines empirical research on early modern Europe with the most recent theoretical approaches in the historiography of political communication. Leading North American and European scholars in the field engage critically with this fundamental concept of political modernity and present a new way of thinking about early modern politics.