Tom Zelinka


Re-evaluating the Spatio-temporal Relationships of Habermas’ “public sphere”, Bourdieu’s “field”, and McLuhan’s “medium”: Implications for Media Theory.



My thesis will be a contemporary re-evaluation of the works of Jurgen Habermas, Pierre Bourdieu and Marshall McLuhan with regard to their positions on spatio-temporal relationships. The focus of my analysis is on the conjunction, intersection, and/or confrontation between conceptual schemas exhibited in Habermas’ “public sphere”, Bourdieu’s “field”, and McLuhan’s “medium”.

Habermas, Bourdieu and McLuhan have been chosen by many as individual subjects for a thesis because of their pervasiveness and explanatory power in communications and media theory. Yet their biographical differences are more apparent than any theoretical commonalities. For example, notoriously, McLuhan, an English poetry scholar and teaching professor in Toronto, began a fascination with emergent Canadian media in the 30s and 40s, Habermas had a delayed 1989 English translation of his major work from 1962 when he was a participant in the so-called Frankfurt school of sociology in Germany, and Bourdieu had a shocked response to the then recent arrival of commercial television in France in 1975.

The thesis explores common interests in Habermas, Bourdieu and McLuhan at the intersection of the discourses of (social) science and philosophy and considers implications for media theory. For example, all three theorists have separately made reference to the role of ‘reflexivity’, and an object of ‘publics’ as being necessary components of any media theory.