Habermas place in the contemporary society where public

Habermas tries to bring our attention
to the contemporary major problem of capturing the rational and critical sphere
by the economic advertisement, which in many ways threatens the function of
public sphere. Today, newspapers, television, radio and social networking sites
have become the place in the contemporary society where public opinion is
shaped by the discussion of the issues related to societal and political
problems. However, public sphere is being regulated, to the extent even in the
democratic countries, by the political and economic elites. In the age of mass
media and internet, it has become an important instrument to disseminate and
manipulate the opinion of the masses and propagate the ideology of political
and economic elites.For the “culture” propagated by the
mass media is a culture of integration…..The public sphere assumes advertising
functions. The more it can be deployed as a vehicle for political and economic
propaganda, the more it becomes unpolitical as a whole and
pseudo-priviataized…..To the extent that the public and private became
intermeshed realms, this model became inapplicable (habermas 1962)  The public sphere, in the age of market
economy and commodification, has become trivialized and no longer controls or
resists state’s policies; on the contrary, it is dominated by trashy films,
simplified music, and commercial advertising and other products of culture
industry. These concerns are extremely relevant to Russia as it has witnessed a
transition from a state-controlled economy to a market-driven economic
structure. Public sphere is an integral part of
modern liberal-democratic setup, where rational-critical debate can be carried
out to resist and pressurize the state. The evolution of Public sphere in
Russian context, in this article, can be analysed in two phases: Soviet and
post soviet contexts. During Soviet time the demarcation between
authority and society didn`t exist, while that is the precondition for a vibrant
and rational public sphere, as formulated by the Habermas. For the Bolsheviks,
no autonomy was allowed in the private sphere because everything- including
intimacy- had to be placed under the vigilant eye of the collectivity.1
The Public Sphere is supposed to be a critical-rational debate to pressurize
the authority to consider the issues of public importance; which was obviously
not allowed during the Soviet time. But there are considerable work has been
done on the public opinion of the citizens by the “Authoritarian School”. This
school tries to understand the formulation of public opinion in a country where
communication was associated above all with the propaganda.2
What was public designated in the terms of the Habermas was common or
collective during Soviet time. Some scholars of the “Totalitarion school” thus
concluded that in the case of the USSR, propaganda and public opinion were
The Public opinion in the Soviet time was systematically and structurally
formed, which ideal was to build the great communist state. This public opinion
was propagated by the vertical political communication, rather than from the
horizontal-critical debate. During soviet time, radio has been used to educate
the illiterate masses with the social and political life of the country. Soviet
Union, being a multiethnic and multinational union, used radio as an instrument
to propagate its own ideology and shape the public opinion of the masses in the
huge country as Soviet Union. As rightly put by, ‘…..while the second part of
the 20th century, characterized by the inclusion of the countries of
central and eastern Europe in the Soviet sphere of influence, by changes in the
official Soviet discourse, as well as by the inflow of new information and
language resources (notably via foreign radio stations beginning to diffuse
programs in Russian on Soviet territory and that the authorities did not manage
to scramble completely)’4.Russia, after the disintegration of
the USSR, has chosen a capitalist and liberal democratic institutional setup.
Although these liberal political and economic institutions are envisaged on the
basis of the western-style, but peculiar characteristics of these institutions
were modified in the favor of ruling elites. However, merely presence of these
institutions impacted the behavioral patterns of individual, particularly
youth, who grew up in Post-soviet time. The western type of economic and political
structure created the western-style development trajectory with the touch of
nostalgic socio-historic features. Moreover, advent of capitalist economy and
culture industry, there is a strong nexus has been created between political
and economic elite’s i.e a sort of agreement between state and market to
manipulate and to deviate the masses form real and immediate needs. In his speeches at different forums
Viktor Pelevin has raised some vital questions regarding to the nature of
public authority. He questions the modern PR firm, the strong nexus of oligarchs
and the commodification of literary production in the Post-soviet liberalized
Russia. This process has depoliticized and commodified the soul of mass. The
rise of mass culture and commodification affected the psychology of citizens
(read consumer), provided them with unauthentic and irrelevant ideas and
stories which will never satisfy their urge, in the contrary will make them
more unsatisfied and intimated. The nature of readership has drastically
changed in the post-soviet Russia. The market is flooded with the trivial and
trashy magazines, sports, health, motorcar magazines which don`t talk about the
political and economic policies bringing by the public authority which have
direct bearing on their lives. The research shows that, instead of literary and
sociopolitical books, Russians read “female” stories (28 percent of the 2008
poll respondents), romantic novels (19 percent), detective stories (24
percent), and adventures and fiction (23 percent). Some venture outside of this
to cooking, health and beauty books, encyclopedias, or tour guides. The most
popular journals involve female fashion (35 percent); television programs (28
percent); crosswords (19 percent), cars, hunting, gardening and home
improvement (16 percent); and humor (11 percent).5
These stories don`t consider or discuss things critically, but discuss those
things which are irrelevant to the need, but stimulating to the mind of masses.
The Post-Soviet public sphere characterizes by the uses of internet and the
selective and targeted censorship. Internet has democratized and decentralized
the public sphere and became the space for rational-critical debate, if not
blinded by the ideology, for the masses. Rise of internet produced the mass
media and in particularly social media has significantly transformed the public
sphere.The contemporary and modern
understanding of the primary function of the democratic-liberal state is
considered welfare of masses. But in the Russia, state has lost its public
character and has become private in the hands of few powerful and influential
corporations. They control and manage the flow and legitimacy of news and news
channels. News channel`s popularity is determined by the ratings and TRP.
Process of creating TRP is obscure for the audiences and created a virtual race
among all internet sites and news channels to get better ratings at the cost of
anything, because earning profit is the sole motive. Since, they are not
interested in broadcasting news which can invite authority`s ire, they turn to
news which are according to government propaganda lines. Media corporate have
already abandoned the rational and critical attitude towards the public
authority. Viktor Pelevin also questions the democratic setup of the modern
Russia and criticizes the influence of mass media in the shaping the public
opinion.  In one of the essays Pelevin raises
ten questions related to the reality and image. With the rise of mass media in
the Post-Soviet Russia particularly and, in world generally, the production of
image has become a commercial activity. As he defines Image in the economic sense – “??? ???????????? ???????, ???????
???????????? ?????????, ?????? ????????? ??? ????, ??? ???? ????????????? ?????
??????.”6 These images are considered true by
the masses just because of blind trust in omnipresent and malevolent
Information Technology. Public opinion in the present time is constructed,
deconstructed and reconstructed by the mass media. Public opinion during the Soviet time
was characterisized by the high moral critique of the society directed towards
the communism. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union the public opinion in
Russia produce and consume by the mass media. Here Viktor Pelevin raises very fundamental questions- ‘?? ??? ?? ????????? ?? ????? ????, ?????
??????? ????????? ???????????? ??????, ? ????? ???????, ??? ????????? ?? ?????’7 This situation is created when public
opinion is not generated by the rational-critical debate and consensus, but
consent is manufactured and engineered. The problem arises when media is
controlled and manipulated by economic and political elites in order the spread
its own propaganda and create a counter public opinion which is definitely not
critical but based on the narrow interests of some elites. Pelevin compares and states that- “?? ???????? ??
??????????? ?????????? ????????? ????????? ???????? ????????? ??????????
?????????????? ? ?????????? ???????????”8His essays deals with the various
issues ranging from the commodification of literature, market oriented PR who
makes and destroys image. In his essay, ‘????? ????????? ?? ????? ??????’ he virtually divided all Russian
land among the eleven oligarchs. It shows the amount of power and influence
Russian oligarchs have in the Russia. In his other essays ‘??? ????’ and ‘?????????? ????’ he talks about the achievements of the Soviet time
and its effect on the ideology and opinion of masses. As Soviet Russia has
strictly monitored and controlled the public opinion, So has scarified their
representative publicness for the sake of rapid economic, political and
military power. Most of the people, according to the revisionist’s school,
started supporting the Soviet Propaganda for the sake of their own narrow
interest. The public opinion in Soviet time was not shaped by the
rational-critical debate but by the set of socialist state`s ideals and values.
Monument, building, art, literature, music everything were the ideal
manifestation of the Soviet ideas and ideology, which was flowing from top of
the heirarchy. We can take the example of metro, which was not merely carried
the people but also were the carrier of Soviet ideals. As quoted by the Viktor Pelevin, “???????? ????? ?? ? ???? ???? ?? ?????????
?????????? ???????, ??? ?????? ????? ???????? ?? ??????? ????????????
Striking thing was observed
by the Pelevin, was the rise of commercial advertisements on the metro. In the
contrary to Soviet time, this space is determined and dictated by the pure
commercial profit making ideology. Old people are really felt alienated and
strange in the new consumer culture. From the conscious citizens of socialist
state, transformation in the new social, political and economic condition
turned them unconscious consumer of the market economy.The achievement of the Soviet Union
in the field of space was shown as the triumph of socialist ideals and
propagated as the achievement of the state. These achievements and policies are
circulated with the help of media, radio in the early phase of Soviet time and
TV in later phase, to construct the public opinion which must align with the
state line. The ideals of socialist society were painted everywhere, as pointed
out in the text. As rightly put by the Pelevin- “?????? ??? ?????. ? ?????????????????, ??
?????? ????? ? ?? ???????? ??????????? ?????.” 10In the modern Russia, the selected
censorship is used to muzzle the opposition. All counter narrative and voices
have been silenced either by selective censorship or extra constitutional
methods. Biktor Pelevin raises very subtle question regarding the public
opinion shaped by the manufactured image of the corporations and companies.
They have a PR team which takes care of the image of the particular company. He asks the basic question- ??? ????? ??????????? ???????? ? ?????
?????? PR-??????????
? ??? ????? ??????? ????????????? ??????????????? ??.11 In the information age, image is the
commercial project that is created with particular purpose and in specific
manner with the help of advanced technology. PR relations create the figure and
provide the information between an individual or an organization. He also
questions the public strategist group and demanded that they should be more
transparent. These strategist works in obscurity, in the most private manner. The analysis of Soviet and vis-à-vis
post soviet public sphere through the speeches of Viktor Pelevin has given the
contemporary picture of public sphere in the contemporary Russia. The economic
transformation has truly affected the all aspects of modern Russian lifestyle
and rational critical sphere. In the modern time TV, Internet, and mass media
has pushed critical political debate to the periphery in Russian modern public

1 Zakharova,
Larissa. Soviet Public Spheres. Maitresse de conferences (EHESS-CERCEC)
(Accessed on- 24/10/2017)

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2 Ibid

3 Ibid

4 Ibid

5 Ibid

6 ???? ?????????? ??????? ????????


7 Ibid

8 Ibid

9 Ibid

10 Ibid

11 Ibid


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