Jurgen Habermas has contributed at least three ideas:
In the Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, Habermas argues that England in the 1700's saw the emergence of a new
'public sphere ... which mediates between society and state, in which the public organises itself as the bearer of public opinion'. The greatest contribution to the development of the public sphere was the emergence of its institutional base, the organisational structures that allowed these 'webs of social development' to exist. It links the growth of an urban culture (metropolitan, provincial, imperial), as the new arena of public life (theatres, museums, opera houses, meeting rooms, coffeehouses), to a new infrastructure for social communication (the press, publishing ventures, circulating libraies, improved trasnportation (canals, carriages), increasing reading public, and centers of sociability like coffeehouses and taverns), and the new philanthropic movement of voluntary association. As Craig Calhoun argues, the model allows of print culture and architecture as well as organisations: but the prime example is the coffeehouse, and stresses how 'the conversation of these little circles branched out into affairs of state administration and politics' (p. 12). In these circles or webs, there were several crucial features, Habermas argues: 'a kind of social intercourse that, far from presupposing equality of status, disregarded status altogether' (Habermas, p. 37). There was also a general trust in discursivity and reason. And the emerging public web was established as inclusive by principle: anyone with access to cultural technology like novels, journals, plays, had the potential to claim the attention of the 'culture-debating public'. 'However exclusive the public might be in any given instance, it could never close itself off entirely and become consolidated as a clique; for it always understood and found itself immersed within a more inclusive public of private people, persons who-insofar as they were propertied and educated-as readers, listeners, and spectators could avail themselves via the market of the objects that were subject to discussion.'Further reading:
Craig Calhoun, 'Introduction', Habermas and the Public Sphere,
ed. Craig Calhoun, Cambridge Mass. and London: MIT Press, 1992.
(Thanks to Markman Ellis http://www.qmw.ac.uk/~english/MEllisHome.html for the coffee-Habermas connection.)
Another Habermas derived argument has to do with the current state of disaffected citizens in most Western democracies, even, especially those that have provided wealth to their citizens. It has to do with technocratic problem solving as a form of government...