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The internet is the world’s only functioning transformation but it could soon become a major tool for democracy. By allowing anyone, everywhere access to the information and opinions of anyone else, anywhere else, a fragment is being given to mankind with one instruction ;
‘Eat me, so that we may grow.’
According to Jurgen Habermas, “By ‘the public sphere’ we mean first of all realm of our social life in which something approaching public opinion can be formed.”(Habermas,1744)
Access is definite to all citizens. A section of the public sphere comes into being in every discussion in which private individuals assemble to form a public body. They then behave neither like business or professional people transacting private affairs, nor like members of a legitimate order subject to the legal constraints of a state bureaucracy. Citizens behave like a public body when they talk in an unobstructed fashion - that is, with the guarantee of freedom of assembly, and the association and the freedom to express and publish their opinions - about matters of general interest. In a large public body, this kind of communication requires specific means of transmitting information and influencing those who receive it. Today newspapers and magazines, radio and television are the media of the public sphere.
For Habermas, a public sphere is a collection of private individuals who get together to discuss matters of common concern.
As a result of Habermas’s theory on the public sphere, a number of rules have been developed by R. Alexy. He says, every subject capable of sharing opinion and action may take part in discussion, everyone may challenge any point of view stated, everyone may participate by introducing and stating their point of views and no subject may be prevented, by internal or external forces, from doing so.
All of which sounds like a formula for the participatory democracy which the enthusiasts claim the internet can offer.
In Habermas’s accounts, he not only dealt with this normative concept, but also with what he claimed were its historical manifestations. He identified the physical site of the bourgeois public sphere as newspapers, salons and coffee houses in the eighteenth century. As modern capitalism developed, after the first half of the nineteenth century, this public sphere was destroyed. On one hand, the transformation of the printed press into a large-scale commercial undertaking meant that it was profit, rather than public enlightenment, that dominated the thinking of media producers. On the other hand, the growth of large scale firms and parties meant that debate was no longer concerned with the rational discussion of issues of public concern, but with wrangling over the interests of different powerful political actors. This decline called ‘ re-feudalization’, since it represented a retreat to an earlier form of public life in which its only function was to act as an arena for the display of power.
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