Triple contingency: The theoretical problem of the public in communication societies

Philosophy and Social Criticism 25 (2):1-25 (1999)
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Abstract

This paper seeks to show that the proposition of 'double contingency' introduced by Parsons and defended by Luhmann and Habermas is insufficient under the conditions of contemporary communication societies. In the latter context, the increasing differentiation and organization of communication processes eventuated in the recognition of the epistemic authority of the public, which in turn compels us to conceptualize a new level of contingency. A first step is therefore taken to capture the role of the public in communication societies theoretically by what may be called 'triple contingency'. Since the process of the definition of reality and its outcome, to which the response of the public is central, is best seen in constructivist terms, attention is also paid to relevant methodological and epistemological questions. Key Words: cognitive turn • communication • constructivism • double contingency • Habermas • Luhmann • observation • Parsons • situationalism • the third point of view.

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