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How a Facebook Comment turned into a Discussion Session on Nietzsche

February 2, 2011

In Habermas’ book, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, he argued that salons (European conception of the American coffee shops) were places in which private individuals could gather and engage in critical-rational discourse on matters of public concern. The public sphere, Habermas argued, served as a counterweight to governmental rulings since dissent was birthed in coffee houses.

Habermas was also a vociferous critic of Mill whose philosophy of liberalism was what he regarded as a force (together with industrialization) that has destroyed the bourgeoisie public sphere. Case-in-point: Most of the media outlets are dominated by a few corporations who, by virtue of their extensive broadcasting abilities, have tremendous political power. Time Warner, for instance owns CNN, the CW (a joint venture with CBS), HBO, Cinemax, Cartoon Network, TBS, TNT, America Online, MapQuest, Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema, as well as more than 150 magazines including TimeSports IllustratedFortuneMarie Claire and People.

Ergo, Habermas lamented how commercialization and economic liberalism have undermined the public sphere which, he argued, is a necessary agent for a functioning democracy.

Still, Habermas’ argument might well be rendered anachronistic with the rise of the Internet which has great potential to become a public sphere in which rational-critical debates can circulate.

Here’s why:

(Note: The discussion about Nietzsche becomes more relevant towards the end of the comments but I chose to keep the beginning because I feel that it’s an interesting progression. Please pardon the poor alignment and the truncated comments; I removed some segments that were irrelevant to the varying interpretations of what we felt Nietzsche was saying. Also, partly because I didn’t want the post to be too long.

– Please feel free to continue commenting on the Facebook post/share your insights on Nietzsche, or engage directly with the WordPress entry which is my attempt to succinctly summarize the importance of the public sphere in a functioning democracy and how the Internet represents a mediated platform through which multiple public spheres can exist.







One Comment
  1. August 1, 2011 12:39 AM

    Alas, I’m writing a thesis on this subject–whether or not Habermasian discussions can happen on Facebook–and I don’t find too many of these examples online to make Facebook seem anything like the salons of the 18th century. Surely, the pervasiveness of the medium suggests it should yield a few more of these discussions to be discovered!

    In analyzing the way things are, rather than as they could or should be–as you prefer to do–we see that, though social networking sites have the potential to connect diverse populations, that’s not what’s really happening. Facebook much more often brings like minds together, which precludes the kind of real, powerful discussion that comes from folks of different backgrounds and interests–as were convening in Habermas’ salons.

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