The Role of Printing and the Public Sphere in the Development of Modern Society

Based on Luhmann’s social theory, the paper aims at interpreting the role of writing and printing as media of dissemination in changing society’s structure of communication. Arguing against the position of communication technological determinism the main point of the article is, that media of dissemination have a pivotal role in increasing society’s complexity. But the development of modern society can only be understood in the bigger context of European social transformation. The fundaments for this transformation were laid down long before printing by preexisting structures, without which printing could not have rearrange the structure of communication. The paper also examines the characteristics of the public sphere and argues that although the new social discourse has an ambition to gain power and build hierarchies, it also is in large part responsible for deconstructing the monocontextual organisation of stratified society.

Released: Replika 95, 13–30.