Beyond the Public Sphere

Opinions, Publics, Spaces in Early Modern Europe

Massimo Rospocher (ed)

Series: Contributi/Beiträge
Number: 27
Publisher: il Mulino - Duncker&Humblot
Place of publication: Bologna - Berlin
Year: 2012
Pages: 303


Price: € 30.00



Half a century ago Jürgen Habermas published his seminal work Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit (1962 - 2012), in which he formalized his ideal-typical model of the public sphere.
The influence of the habermasian paradigm in the following decades has been such that it has given rise to an autonomous interdisciplinary field of study, bringing together historians, literary scholars, political scientists, and philosophers.
For fifty years Habermas’s theory has been the catalyst for the historiographical debate about public opinion and has been recognized as an interpretative paradigm of the development of Western modernity.
Despite the heralding of a post-Habermas era; despite the fact that some historians have mused over a possible—and in the minds of a few even desirable—total eclipse of the Habermasian doctrine; Habermas’s model still boasts a significant scholarly vitality. Many answers that the German philosopher supplied have turned out to be inaccurate, but for historians the bigger questions that he posed remain relevant: how—and when—was the critical power of public discussion born? How are ‘the public’ and ‘public spaces’ defined? What is the relationship between public discourse and authority? What, ultimately, is the power of communication?
Inspired by the fundamental question of the relationship between power and communication, the current research paths explored by historians of the Ancien régime have consolidated the critical dialectic with this analytical paradigm, but at the same time have led in a direction that goes beyond the public sphere.
This volume combines empirical research on early modern Europe with the most recent theoretical approaches in the historiography of political communication. Leading North American and European scholars in the field engage critically with this fundamental concept of political modernity and present a new way of thinking about early modern politics.


I. Introduction
Massimo Rospocher - Beyond the Public Sphere: A Historiographical Transition

II. Theory and Practices
Andreas Gestrich - The Early-Modern State and the Rise of the Public Sphere. A Systems-Theory Approach
Francesco Benigno - Absolutism and the Birth of the Public Sphere. A Critical View of a Model
Angela De Benedictis - The Richness of History and the Multiplicity of Experiences in Early Modern Societies. The Self- Description of «Alteuropa» by Luhmann

III. Spaces, Voices, Humors 
Massimo Rospocher, Rosa Salzberg - An Evanescent Public Sphere. Voices, Spaces, and Publics in Venice during the Italian Wars
Filippo De Vivo - Public Sphere or Communication Triangle? Information and Politics in Early Modern Europe
Sandro Landi - «Fama», Humors, and Conflicts. A Re-reading of Machiavelli's «Florentine Histories»

IV. Publics 
Shankar Raman - Constructing Selves, Making Publics: Geometry and Poetry in Descartes and Sidney
Silvana Seidel Menchi - 1514, 1516, 1517: The Public Space and its Limits
Bronwen Wilson - Social Networking. The «Album amicorum» and Early Modern Public Making

V. Opinions 
Antonio Castillo Gomez - «There are lots of papers going around and it'd be better if there weren't». Broadsides and Public Opinion in the Spanish Monarchy in the Seventeenth Century
Arjan van Dixhoorn - The Making of a Public Issue in Early Modern Europe. The Spanish Inquisition and Public Opinion in the Netherlands
Charles Walton - Public Opinion and Free-market Morality in Old Regime and Revolutionary France
Edoardo Tortarolo - Public/Secret: Eighteenth-Century Hesitations about «Public Opinion»


  • Politische Kommunikation
  • Frühneuzeitliches Europa
  • Early modern Europe
  • Political communication
  • Public sphere


- "Ce riche volume offre donc une belle image du renouvellement que connaissent les sciences humaines autour de la théorie habermassienne et des prises de distance avec le modéle." - Héloïse Hermant, in "Revue d'histoire moderne et contemporaine", 2013/2 n°60-2;
- "This collection certainly offers the latest thought on the public sphere and will be useful to scholars of public opinion, news and newsmaking, and communication." - John M. Hunt, in "Renaissance Quarterly", Vol. 66 No. 2 (Summer 2013);
- "This interdisciplinary approach provides a depth of understanding that enables this collection to advance both the empirical and theoretical debates on this subject, providing rich food thought for postgraduate researchers and academics alike." - Sarah Fox, in "European Review of History: Revue europeenne d'histoire", 20 may 2013;
- "Ce riche volume offre donc une belle image du renouvellement que connaissent les sciences humaines autour de la thèorie habermassienne et des prises de distance avec le modèle..." - Hèloïse Hermant, in "Revue d'histoire moderne et contemporaine", n° 60 - 2, 2013;
- "…this book is particularly remarkable because of the awareness, emerging form every contribution and form the vhole, that in historical scholarship all progress depends on a tradition, which must be renewed respectufully but without any sense of subjection. In this sense, the purpose of the volume, that is to go "beyond the pubblic sphere", as conceived by Habermas, is brilliantly fulfilled. " - Lucio Biasiori, in "Cromohs", 18 / 2013;
- "…l'indicazione teorica contenuta nel volume è particolarmente fertile…" - Paola Rudan, in "Storicamente", art. 15, vol. 9-2013;

- "Massimo Rospochers Band gibt einen guten Überblick über neuere Forschungen zur frühneuzeitlichen Öffentlichkeit gerade im südeuropäischen Raum...eine konstruktive Weiterentwicklung des Konzepts der Öffentlichkeit, die immer mehr in verschiedene Öffentlickhkeiten aufgegliedert wird." - Justus Nipperdey,  in "Francia-Recensio", 2014/1;
- "Die vorgenommene Momentaufnahme des historiographischen Übergangs in der Erforschung des Phänomens "Öffentlichkeit" gelingt dem Sammelband in löblicher Manier." - Daniel Bellingradt,  in "Neue Historische Literatur", Band 298 / 2014;
- "...this volume will give any reader food for thought and in surely a must for anone working on realated issues." - Robert von Friedeburg, in "Journal of Early Modern History", 18 (2014) 523-534;

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