No contest? Assessing the agonistic critiques of Jürgen habermas’s theory of the public sphere

Philosophy and Social Criticism 30 (3):331-354 (2004)
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Would democratic theory in its empirical and normative guises be in a better position without the theory of the deliberative public sphere? In this paper I explore recent theories of agonistic democracy that have answered this question in the affirmative. I question their assertionthat the theory of the public sphere should be abandoned in favor of a model of democratic politics based on political contestation. Furthermore, I explore one of the fundamental assumptionsat work in the debate about the theory of the public sphere’s status, namely the assumed opposition between consensus and contestation. Questioning the rigid nature of the opposition, I go on to argue that the deliberative theory of the public sphere actually facilitates the development of the agonistic approach to democratic theory and practice. Key Words: agonistic democracy • deliberative democracy • democratic theory • Habermas • theory of the public sphere.



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