Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Habermas, intellectuals and the internet

Note: Bringing forward due to new comments

An Austrian paper has printed the first part (second part is here)of an acceptance speech by German philosopher Jürgen Habermas for the Bruno Kreisky Prize for promoting human rights (part II will follow tomorrow). Habermas discusses the declining prominence of intellectuals through television and the Internet: "On the one hand, the communication shift from books and the printed press to the television and the Internet has brought about an unimagined broadening of the media sphere, and an unprecedented consolidation of communication networks. Intellectuals used to swim around in the public sphere like fish in water, but this environment has become ever more inclusive, while the exchange of ideas has become more intensive than ever. But on the other hand the intellectuals seem to be suffocating from the excess of this vitalising element, as if they were overdosing. The blessing seems to have become a curse. I see the reasons for that in the de-formalisation of the public sphere, and in the de-differentiation of the respective roles."

from here


Anonymous said...

Gary Davis started a discussion of this 2 days ago: "blogosphere got you down, Jürgen?" Maybe that will continue.

Piotr Konieczny said...

Not strictly OT, but you may want to update your video link (moved, so it is now 404) to

And you can add the mms://
too that section, too.

Ali Rizvi said...


Bryan Thompson said...

This is really interesting. If you consider what quality of publication is on the internet and television, it seems that things are getting worse. If you consider this as the product of inclusiveness, aka, more ideas means more bad ideas while good ideas are smothered by the bad. It is the mass amounts that obscures what is worth looking at. It's really a tragedy. So Habermas is making a great point.

Peter Kandlbinder said...

This is consistent with Habermas views about public relations expressed in the 1950s. In short, anything that limits debate decreases the public sphere.

Along the same lines Gadamer (1994) said "It is opinion that suppresses questions... Only a person who has questions can have understanding." (pp. 364-367).

Andrew Montin said...

I think Habermas is taking a pretty Eurocentric view on this one. He fails to consider the possibility that the internet affords the left a chance at countering the "foxification" of public discourse in the mainstream media. Contrast Habermas' assesment with that of Philip Weiss:

"Self-publishing on the web, whether through blogs or by posting articles in web-journals, is rapidly eclipsing traditional academic venues in its ability to serve the public and popularize knowledge.... If my relatively modest, country-specific site is having an impact, Juan Cole's is many times larger. He was getting a quarter million readers a month at the height of the Iraq war. Web-publishing and blogging is reconnecting academics to main-stream intellectual discourse."

Anonymous said...

Is this really consistant with Habermas's conception of the public sphere?

As Thomas McCarthy notes: "Independent public forums, distinct from both the economic system and the state administration, having their locus rather in voluntary associations, social movements, and other networks and processes of communication in civil society - including the mass media - are for Habermas the basis of popular sovereignty." (49)

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