1st Edition

A Theory of Communication and Justice

By Klaus Bruhn Jensen Copyright 2021
    318 Pages 11 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    318 Pages 11 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Continue Shopping

    This book outlines a theory of communication and justice for the digital age, updating classic positions in political philosophy and ethics, and engaging thinkers from Aristotle through Immanuel Kant and the American pragmatists to John Rawls, Jürgen Habermas, and Amartya Sen.

    In communication seeking to define justice and call out injustice, there is such a thing as the last word. The chapters in this book trace the historical emergence of communication as a human right; specify the technological resources and institutional frameworks necessary for exercising that right; and address some of the challenges following from digitalization that currently confront citizens, national regulators, and international agencies. Among the issues covered are public access to information archives past and present; local and global networks of communication as sources of personal identities and imagined communities; the ongoing reconfiguration of the press as a fourth branch of governance; and privacy as a precondition for individuals and collectives to live their lives according to plans, and to make their own histories.

    The book will be of interest to students and researchers in media and communication studies, cultural studies, political philosophy and ethics, and interdisciplinary fields examining the ethical and political implications of new information and communication infrastructures.



    1 The end of communication

    What is, what ought to be, and what could be

    Turns of philosophy

    Theories of communication

    Justice – an essentially contested concept

    Communication as action

    The chapters of the volume


    2 A brief history of justice

    Between chance and necessity

    The prehistory of justice

    Three traditions of justice

    Do good – virtue ethics

    Do the right thing – deontology

    Do the math – consequentialism

    The global futures of justice

    Migration as communication

    Communication as migration

    Does the world still need a theory of justice?


    3 The structural transformation of Jürgen Habermas

    From the coffeehouse to the internet

    The rise and fall of the bourgeois public sphere

    Historical norms

    Retrospective systematics

    Reconstructed interests

    Interested knowledge

    Disinterested communication

    From the categorical imperative to communicative action

    "A third, somewhat less demanding way"

    How to do things with other people’s words

    Laws of communication

    The power of communication

    Speaking of ideals

    Communicative action in the public sphere

    Religious communication

    Global communication

    Remember Habermas!


    4 John Rawls behind the veil of communication

    Habermas v. Rawls

    Justice as fairness

    Principles and consequences

    Procedures and communications

    An overlapping consensus

    The rational and the reasonable

    The public uses of reason

    The laws of the lands

    The veil of communication



    5 The long legacy of pragmatism

    Erro, ergo sum

    Theoretical, practical, and productive sciences

    The modern inversion of theory and practice

    The American revival of pragmatism

    The pragmatic maxim

    Communication as representation and resource

    Individual beliefs and collective actions

    Priests, prophets, and heirs of pragmatism

    Cambridge pragmatisms

    Postmodernist pragmatism

    Transcendental pragmatism

    Pragmatism, communication, and justice



    6 Media of justice

    Medium theory

    The in-formation of justice

    Saying, writing, and printing it

    Mediated modernity

    Media of discovery, justification, application, and dissemination

    Communication flows

    One-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many communications

    Information flows, user flows, and context flows

    Many-to-one communication

    Performing justice

    Positive and negative freedoms

    Branches of governance

    The mediation of agency and structure



    7 The communicative position

    The right to communicate

    The capability of communication

    Principles of communication and justice

    Justice as representativity

    Rights of information

    Rights of communication

    Rights of participation

    Rights of privacy

    Communication as condition and constituent of justice


    8 Justice – measure for measure

    Measures and meanings

    The reality of justice

    The empirical, the actual, and the real

    Institutional, technological, and discursive mechanisms

    The empirical goods of justice

    Information goods

    Communication goods

    Participation goods

    Privacy goods

    Monitoring injustice

    Inferring justice

    Identifying injustice

    Practicing justice


    9 The future of justice

    What is, what has been, and what will be

    Not enough

    Justice in time

    Agricultural, industrial, and informational goods

    The silk roads

    Capital and ideology

    Timing communications

    Unknown knowns


    Klaus Bruhn Jensen is Professor, Department of Communication, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. His research centers on communication theories and research methodologies regarding digital media. Previous publications include Media Convergence: The Three Degrees of Network, Mass, and Interpersonal Communication (2010), International Encyclopedia of Communication Theory and Philosophy (2016, coedited with Robert T. Craig), and A Handbook of Media and Communication Research: Qualitative and Quantitative Methodologies, 3rd ed. (2021). He is Life Member for Service of the Association of Internet Researchers and a Fellow of the International Communicology Institute.

    A timely and scholarly work that focuses attention on the imperative to deepen the normative turn in communication studies and the communicative turn in philosophy, with focus on the articulation and practice of the contested concept of justice. Drawing on a diverse range of philosophical traditions and thinkers through a communications lens, Jensen succeeds in bringing together philosophy and communications research to propose a seminal theory of justice that speaks to our contemporary global dilemmas.

    Anjali Monteiro, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

    In a world seemingly dominated by polarization and disinformation, Klaus Bruhn Jensen’s impressive mastery of both classic philosophy and modern communication science gives his readers a new perspective on how human communication and social justice are fundamentally intertwined.

    W. Russell Neuman, New York University

    How can communication research and theory advance the cause of justice in the world? Klaus Bruhn Jensen’s theory of communication and justice illuminates many possibilities in the spaces between what is, what ought to be, and what could be.

    Robert T. Craig, University of Colorado Boulder

    Grounded in a compelling narrative arc from Charles Sanders Peirce to John Rawls, Klaus Bruhn Jensen provides us with a fresh pragmatist philosophy that recognizes communication and its accompanying goods not only as human rights but as engines of civilizational growth.

    John Durham Peters, Yale University

    In an era marked by disturbing shifts towards populism, nativism, identity politics and cancel culture, justice must be done and seen to be done. Communication on and of justice are therefore key. Drawing deeply on philosophical theories and the core foundations of the discipline of communication, Klaus Bruhn Jensen provides us with a reflective and provocative exposition of how justice and communication are deeply intertwined.

    Sun Sun Lim, Singapore University of Technology and Design

    Klaus Bruhn Jensen presents a timely deliberation on communication and justice that links philosophy and communication studies to explore theories and practices pertaining to this crucially important matter. Drawing on ethics and pragmatist inquiry, Jensen considers communication as action and suggests a communicative turn that may help us to better understand various forms of justice, including essential environmental concerns. This insightful book should to be taken very seriously by academics, policy-makers and the public. 

    Janet Wasko, University of Oregon

    Jensen offers us a normative theory of communication informed by an historically informed analysis of philosophy and communication theory. His goal is to understand how human communication can better contribute to fairness and justice. Treating communication both as a condition of being and becoming and as deliberative action, its potentials and limitations are critically weighed to assess how communication might make a practical difference. An inspiring and provocative foundation is provided for assessing entitlements to reflection and deliberation in a way that also will spark novel empirical research agendas.

    Robin Mansell, London School of Economics and Political Science

    In this timely volume Klaus Bruhn Jensen proposes nothing less than a theory of communication and justice. The volume travels through the history of ideas to explore the meeting points and different avenues of communication research and classic philosophy, as they relate to justice. In a theory-rich, yet practice-oriented, manner, Klaus Bruhn Jensen convincingly argues that the study of communication can and should engage with debates about justice.

    Rikke Frank Jørgensen, The Danish Institute for Human Rights