I will admit, the selection process for the reading these blogs are based on usually begins at around 9 PM the night they are "due" for me. Opening a book, I skim through the table of contents looking for something that is both short and meaningful, a combination that has yielded somewhat successful results for me as of yet. I haven't really hit a home run yet, but I have produced a string of interconnected thoughts that have documented my journey into academia and this fine year of service. Analyzing Jürgen Habermas' "The Public Sphere" is no different, as it is a strange essay on the power of the public and the press that doesn't really relate to Media Studies much at all. There are some interesting moments certainly, such as the introduction of "public sphere" as "a domain of our social life in which such thing as a public opinion can be formed" (92). Seeing as I'm about sick of the strange, skewed social life Facebook has led me to develop, I took a lot of joy in the harsh words that public opinion "can be formed only if a public that engages in rational discussions exists" (93). I'm not sure that we are headed that way as a society, to be honest.
Despite a short interlude into history (which is in its own right fascinating, but not what my brain has ever really wanted) Habermas picks up his thread soon with the observation that political press "can be observed especially in revolutionary periods" (96). I find this interesting because, arguably, we are in a state of revolution or near to civil war as a nation, and the continued polarization of the press on both sides is like the pounding of war drums in my ears. Our author even addresses the rearing head of neoliberalism, noting the "'refeudalization' of the public sphere" that comes with growing influence of corporations in the press and a simultaneous "singular weakening of [the public opinion's] critical functions" (97).
I suppose what I see Habermas driving at is that we can live in a world where corporations control the media which in turn controls the public opinion which in turn controls the political outcomes, and we end up with a hulking, uncritical mass of strong-minded opinions. Divide that nation in two, and it is no wonder that we are inaugurating a Feudal Lord on Friday.