The public sphere stands at the center of much of the philosophical, sociological, political science, and media theory discourse on the organization and legitimation of society. Although the latest German-speaking public sphere theories, in particular from Jürgen Habermas, Kurt Imhof, and Volker Gerhardt, agree on the normative function of the public sphere in democratic theory, the scope of their determinations of this sphere varies from sociological transformation to anthropological structure. All theories, however, lack an adequate theorizing of the recent media transformation of the public sphere, which calls into question the very distinction between private and public. This article presents these theories in their different scopes, points to their blind spot concerning the blurring of the private-public distinction, and offers some normative desiderata for a future public sphere theory.

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