Coffeehouses/public sphere

[Xposted to my blog]

A couple of weeks ago Henry Farrell posted about Brian Cowan’s The Social Life of Coffee: The Emergence of the English Coffee House. Fascinating review and illuminating discussion (in more ways than one) in the comments. Quibble, and not having read the book: I think Farrell overstates when he describes “the typical academic view of the coffeehouse” “as the empirical manifestation of Jurgen Habermas’s ‘public sphere’.” Surely anyone with a passing knowledge of the period knows that the ideals of rationality and civility were more honoured in the breach? I wonder just to what extent the Habermasian ideal has been taken literally, at least with regards to coffeehouses?

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