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Javnost - The Public, Vol. 16 - 2009, No. 2

Habermas VS.Noelle-Neumann: The Impact of Habitus on Theoretical Construction of the Public Sphere

, , pages: 25-40

The idea of the public sphere represents an important fundament of modern western self-images and is topic of communication theory. Habermas and Noelle-Neumann are two of the most renowned representatives in this field. Both developed their approaches in the same context, during the post-war era of 1960s West Germany. Nevertheless, fundamental differences exist between the two conceptualisations of the public sphere. This article seeks to make sense of these differences by comparing the authors’ biographies and suggesting that a strong connection exists between author’s life experience and his or her theory. We employed a category system based mainly on the habitus-concept of Bourdieu and complemented it with the generation-approaches developed in sociology of knowledge. Our findings show that the differences in theory between Habermas and Noelle-Neumann can be understood in terms of differences in their milieu of origin and their academic socialisation. Ultimately, even more important seem to be opposite experiences of the authors with the public on the one hand and the generational gap between them on the other.

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