'A parcel of muddling muckworms': Revisiting Habermas and the English coffee-houses

Eric Laurier*, Chris Philo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the context of a research project concerned with contemporary cafés, the authors have revisited Habermas's famous 1962/1989 work on the transformation of the 'public sphere', wherein the figure of the early-modern English coffee-house holds considerable significance. The outlines of Habermas's claims are inspected, and three lines of critique - to do with spatiality, sociability and practices - are held up against his depiction of coffee-houses as contained and egalitarian spaces of calm rational-critical debate. Theoretical work is combined with a re-reading of Habermas's fragmentary notes on the coffee-house, together with borrowings from both secondary texts and republished primary sources. The chief aim is to develop critical materials to inform further inquiry into coffee-houses and similar establishments, past and present, as sites for the practical conduct of public life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-281
Number of pages23
JournalSocial and Cultural Geography
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2007


  • Coffee-houses
  • Habermas
  • Practices
  • Sociability
  • Spatiality

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