23 November 2020

Joachim Schmidt Wiewiura defended his PhD-thesis

On November 20th 2020 Joachim Schmidt Wiewiura successfully defended his thesis The Ground of Legitimacy - An Investigation of the Public Sphere as Political Semantics.

Joachim has been a PhD student at Center for Information and Bubble Studies. We all wish Joachim a hearty congratulation and all the best in the years to come.



The central theme of this thesis is the concept of the public sphere. The thesis defends the claim that the public sphere constitutes the foundation for the creation of legitimacy throughout society. The argument for this claim is that the basic activity of the public sphere expresses political meanings (which I call ‘political semantics’) that produce notions of political order, which correspond to perceptions of legitimacy from the perspective of political realism.


Chapter 1 introduces the argument, method, and structure of the thesis, while Chapters 2–5 comprise analyses of Kant, Habermas, Hegel, and deliberative democracy. I argue that, with the exception of Hegel, these theories understand the public sphere through a communicative framework of rational-political legitimacy. In contrast, I show that the Hegelian public sphere is an aspect of modern, rational freedom—which, however, is separated from legitimacy. Hegel is thus the basis from which I argue that the public sphere may produce public opinions without rational content.


In Chapter 6 I suggest that the basic activity of public-making without rational presuppositions is ‘signalling’. I use this category to analyse the contemporary category of the networked public sphere, and I show how it differs from the earlier, mass-mediated public sphere by indicating new facets in three dimensions of signalling. I develop the last part of the argument in Chapter 7, showing that the production of public opinion (political semantics) also implies specific notions of political order that can be understood as forms of legitimisation. I defend a noninstitutionalist view of the public sphere, and analyse political realism with regard to both legitimacy and the public sphere. I then analyse three cases that demonstrate what I mean by political semantics, and I show how they generate particular notions of political order that foster strategies of legitimisation. Ultimately, I propose a new model of the public sphere as political semantics that creates a horizon of legitimacies and is thus the ground of legitimacy.

Assessment Committee

  • Professor Dan Zahavi, chair (University of Copenhagen)
  • Professor Erik J. Olsson (Lund University) (participated online) 
  • Professor Judith Simon (Universität Hamburg) (participated online)

Moderator of defence

  • Associate Professor Thor Grünbaum (University of Copenhagen)

Pictures from the defence

Joachim Schmidt Wiewiura with professor Vincent F. Hendricks and professor Frederik Stjernfeldt
Joachim Schmidt Wiewiura with his two supervisors professor Vincent F. Hendricks and professor Frederik Stjernfelt
Joachim Schmidt Wiewiura presents his thesis
Joachim Schmidt Wiewiura presents his thesis