I spent the better part of the day reading up on The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. Its been years since I read it. Whilst reading literature on it I had two thoughts:
1) Habermas is the source of the dreadful reading of Marx seen in nearly all the commentators on critical theory. Someone with more patience than I should write an essay showing how Habermas’ interpretation of Marxian categories through the prism of ‘ideology criticism’ etc. distorts Marx’s theory whilst providing a productive basis for Habermas.
2) Someone should compare Gerstenberger’s history of the state with Habermas’ history of the public sphere. Yet my quick search did not uncover anything on this topic. However, Gerstenberger herself makes two important critical points. The first has to do with the context in which the liberal public sphere arose:
One of the structural contradictions of any kind of politics aiming to stabilise the results of the Revolution was contained in this assertion. For a structure of the public sphere that ascribed reason to ‘all’ – though for the lumières themselves, as is well known, it went without saying that those ‘without a will of their own’, the economically dependent, and thus women, were provisionally excluded – and thus allowed ‘all’ to participate in the public processes of opinion formation, contained a revolutionary moment. Taken to its logical conclusion, it led at the very least to Thomas Jefferson’s postulate of the right of each generation to its own revolution – thus to the constant potential instability of the order to be newly established. The public was indispensable as an instance of legitimisation, once the divine legitimisation of personal rule had been challenged by revolution, but it still had to be made into an instance of order. Today this is effected, as Jürgen Habermas has shown,37 by the public sphere that has acquired this legitimising character being, to a large extent, reduced to the form of existence of a legal fiction. In the process of constituting a new political order in France, on the other hand, the dispute over concrete forms of public was unavoidable, because this new order owed its existence to a temporary coincidence between the reality and the theory of the bourgeois public.
Already at this time, however, the fundamental contradiction between emancipation and order was contained both in conceptions of the public and in its practical forms. For this reason, all struggles over the further development of the Revolution and the new society were, at the same time, struggles over the structure and function of the public. The political strategies developed in this context were partly formulated in these terms and reflected theoretically, and partly developed as forms of collective practice; their strategic character cannot be deduced from formulations of conscious intention, as it was brought into being by collective practice and completely contained within this. 537-38
The second has to do with Habermas’ source material:
Habermas’s research is almost exclusively oriented to the literary public, which cannot appear as socially non-exclusive, since its very form contains social exclusion. 766