Deliberative public sphere: The rereading of Habermass theory in Brazil and its significance for a public theology

Enaida Jacobsen


With the democratization process in Brazil, legal guarantees were obtained for political mobilizations and organizations. At the societal level, the emergence of new social actors helped expand the boundaries of the political and consolidate a politically influential public sphere. Although communication between the public sphere and the political system occurs under many limitations, new experiences at the local level such as the Participatory Budget enable a clearer link between society and state. In theoretical terms, this means a complement to a discursive conception of the public sphere as developed by Jgen Habermas, as a deliberative function is assigned to it. In this paper, after considering the social and theoretical context of reception and rereading of the concept of public sphere in sociological studies in Brazil, we engage the question about a public theology that can be developed in a dialogue with Habermass theory. Resorting to the criticism of South African theologians James Cochrane and Tinyiko Maluleke against public theologies that based on Habermas reject the democratic potential of liberation theologies, we affirm that criticism and resistance are constitutive elements of democratic dialogue. This affirmation is not inconsistent with the political theory of Habermas; rather, his theory allows to identify the relevance of a public theology precisely in its connection with spheres of life in which the suffering caused by the social problems to be denounced and discussed in the public sphere are more directly perceived. Besides the link between lifeworld and public sphere, as well as between public sphere and political system, other themes of Habermass political theory regarded in this article as relevant to be considered in discussions of public theology are the creative potential of language and the presence of religion in the public sphere.


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