Posted by: Richard Chennault | December 28, 2008

Inquiry into Supercapatilism through the lens of the public sphere

Nice title.   Anyway.

In the book The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere Jurgen Habermas writes of the mid 17th European culture with respect to the ability of the non-ruling classes to congregate and discourse on things other than a life of servitude.  These groups of people were freed from economic servitude from their royal masters but still bound to the same masters decree.   This contradiction of positions created a space in which individuals could coalesce and form opinions representative not of the royal public court but that of the economically independent common man.

Habermas summarises the point by writing,

“In the salon the mind was no longer in the service of a patron [prince, king, etc.]; “opinion” became emancipated from the bonds of economic dependence.”

To restate the common man was free to form and announce an opinion without fear of reprisal as the opinions were not explicitly created for or by the patron.   The effects of this “opinion” on that of the official public opinion led and generated by the representation of public proclamation by the royal class was ultimately calamitous for the feudal system.   Feudalism would give way to mercantilism which reduce royal control to no further than the physical walls of the castle.

However as many critics of Habermas have stated this rise of a new public sphere that was not appointed by royalty is romanticism.  The position of authority and publicness was only exchanged and disseminated to a different class of people.  Serfs will still serfs, slaves still slaves and the uneducated still doomed to a life of mind numbing repetitive servitude.

The only benefactors were the bourgeois which represented a fraction of the populace.  Granted the bourgeois numbered greater than the royals but combined the wealth concentration and culture manufactured for consumption was still created by a relatively small percentage of the populace.

Fast forward to modern times and we the royals have resurged.   They are no longer titled king, emperor or queen but instead have mantled themselves with other titles like CEO, President and Chairman of the Board.  Note that Chairman of the Board is a direct and not so subtle reminder to the past royal life.

More later…

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