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Evaluating Communication in the British Parliamentary Public Sphere

By Aeron Davis


This article begins with a re-evaluation of political communication research based on Habermas' original theory of the public sphere. It presents Habermas' alternative framework for assessing communication in contemporary ‘actually existing democracies’. The model is then tested with a case study of the UK parliamentary public sphere based on 95 semi-structured interviews with political actors (politicians, journalists and officials). It concludes that parliament today operates rather better, according to public sphere norms, than the public sphere described in Habermas' accounts of 18th and 19th-century England. Such a finding, on its own, is clearly at odds with public perception. The research accordingly offers two explanations for this disparity and the (perceived) crisis of political legitimacy in UK politics

Topics: L220, L380, P300
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing
Year: 2009
OAI identifier:

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