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Enhancing Habermas with Ray Oldenburg

  • Jack Fong
Chapter

Abstract

This chapter attends to Habermas’s notion of the public sphere as where communicative action takes place. Habermas takes great pains to outline how the dynamics of communicative action indicate a healthy democratic space for mutual consensus and intersubjective accommodations that build solidarity. Containing much utility for Death Café analysis, Habermas actually discusses cafés as public sphere sites where news and information about the economy, trade, finances, and the state intertwine, but at the price of excluding a grassroots community. The notion of a public sphere renders it useful for conceptualizing death talk as a means of democratic expression, one that can contest narratives from social institutions and the state. This chapter also provides an analogous rendering of a public sphere environment through Ray Oldenburg’s notion of the “third place”: pubs, coffee shops, bookstores, and even hair salons, which function to promote community interaction and civic engagement. As a useful concept for looking at communities that are formed in spite of the presupposed alienation among urban dwellers, Oldenburg emphasizes how such environments are vital for democracy. For Oldenburg, the converse is also hauntingly true: totalitarian systems would never tolerate public and informal gatherings of citizens critical of the government. This chapter also demonstrates how Oldenburg takes his ideas to the same horizons as Habermas’s in that public spheres are ideal environments for communicative action dynamics. Indeed, the formulation that will close this chapter is that Death Cafés are primarily third place or public sphere phenomena.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jack Fong
    • 1
  1. 1.Associate Professor of SociologyDepartment of Psychology & Sociology California State Polytechnic UniversityPomona CAUSA

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