“The social psychology of the type of privacy that evolved during the eighteenth century out of the experiential context of the conjugal family’s audience-oriented intimate sphere provides a key both to the development of a literary public sphere and to certain conditions of its collapse. The public sphere in the world of letters was replaced by the pseudo-public or sham-private world of cultural consumption. At that time, when private people were considered conscious of their double role as bourgeois and homme and simultaneously asserted the essential identity of property owner with ‘human being,’ they owed this self-image to the fact that a public sphere evolved from the very heart of the private sphere itself. Although, in regard to its function, it was only preliminary to a public sphere in the political realm, nevertheless this public sphere in the world of letters itself already had the kind of ‘political’ character by virtue of which it was removed from the sphere of social reproduction.
Bourgeois culture was not mere ideology. The rational-critical debate of private people in the salons, clubs, and reading societies was not directly subject to the cycle of production and consumption, that is, to the dictates of life’s necessities. Even in its merely literary form (of self-elucidation of the novel experiences of subjectivity) it possessed instead a ‘political’ character in the Greek sense of being emancipated from the constraints of survival requirements. It was for these reasons alone the idea that later generated into mere ideology (namely: humanity) could develop at all. The identification of the property owner with the natural person, with the human being as such, presupposed a separation inside the private realm between, on the one hand, affairs that private people pursued individually each in the interests of the reproduction of his own life and, on the other hand, the sort of interaction that united private people into a public. But as soon as and to the degree that the public sphere in the world of letters spread into the realm of consumption, this threshold became levelled. So-called leisure behavior, once it had become part of the cycle of production and consumption, was already apolitical, if for no other reason than its incapacity to constitute a world emancipated from the immediate constraints of survival needs. When leisure was nothing but a complement to time spent on the job, it could be no more than a different arena for the pursuit of private affairs that were not transformed into a public communication between private people” (Habermas 1991:159-160).
1991 The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Thomas Burger, trans. Frederick Lawrence, asst. trans. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press
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