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Koselleck, Politics and Discourse

In West German political theory of the mid-1950s, notes Niklas Olsen in his History in the Plural (2012), the public sphere – die Öffentlichkeit – emerged as ‘ das akademische Thema der Stunde ’: the academic theme of the hour. [i] Probably the two most important resulting West German studies considering the public sphere were Reinhart Koselleck’s Critique and Crisis [ Kritik und Krise (1959)], and Jürgen Habermas’s The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere [ Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit (1962)]. The relationship between these two texts was already apparent in terms of their reception history: in 1960, before publishing his own book, Habermas produced a double review of Critique and Crisis alongside a dissertation by Hanno Kesting. As Olsen writes, in fact Habermas’s subsequent book offered an interpretation of the Enlightenment project and the status of the modern European public sphere that ‘simultaneously overlapped and conflicted’ with the interpretation in Koselleck

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