It is fitting that Argumentation and Advocacy be the journal in communication studies that celebrates the 50th anniversary of Jurgen Habermas's Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. It was in 1979 that Argumentation and Advocacy (then called the Journal of the American Forensics Association) devoted its fall issue entirely to the implications of Habermas's work for communication studies. The issue was a landmark, pulling together scholars like Jim Aune, Thomas Farrell, Joseph Wenzel, Susan Kline and others. This special issue set the paradigm for the reception of Habermas--other journals (including Rhetoric Society Quarterly) took note, and scholars across communication studies quickly recognized the value of Habermas for not just argumentation and debate, but rhetorical theory and criticism broadly conceived.
In 2012, it is fair to ask: Has Habermas, like Kuhn and Toulmin in many ways, been so thoroughly integrated into the life and work of the discipline that he has become invisible? The public sphere is no longer a novel construction, but the status quo against which models for counter-publics are proposed. Discourse ethics are no longer a novel reinterpretation of philosophical ethical theory, but a paradigm to be revisited, revised, and rejected. The discipline of communication studies has slowly chewed and digested Habermasian insights, and our disciplinary metabolism is still converting those insights into energy.
This Forum captures some of that energy and refocuses it on Habermas himself-both the particular monograph whose anniversary calls us together and the larger body of his work. Like many scholarly discussions, there is a diverse set of perspectives here. Some (Pfau, especially) strive to reread Habermas-to correct his mistakes and to recover what can be valuable in the wake of his work. Some in this Forum (notably Gross) strive to defend Habermas--to identify those misreadings of Habermas that might dilute the value of the Habermasian program. Most, however, strive to do what scholars often do: extend Habermas in directions he would not normally travel or elaborate on Habermas within a disciplinary trajectory.
Michael Pfau, who specializes in the history of public address, takes us back to the text of the Structural Transformation. Building on the particular historical criticisms of that work (ground already well-covered in the years since its publication), Pfau is intent to recover an insight into the public sphere that...