Greg Moore

Professor School of Business @ University of Notre Dame Australia

The Habermasian Distant Mirror: Leslie Stephen on Post-Restoration Coffeehouses and the Implications for Economics


Leslie Stephen was a pioneer of intellectual history and literary criticism in the Victorian era, but is perhaps better known today for the way that his daughter, Virginia Woolf, portrayed him as an elderly, self-absorbed paterfamilias, Mr Ramsey, in To the Lighthouse. In his youth, however, Stephen was a spritely Radical-Liberal who actively participated in the fraternal associations that met at the Radical end of London’s clubland in the 1860s. Stephen indirectly drew upon these experiences in his literary-critical studies to emphasize the literary and political importance of the fraternal associations that met in the Post-Restoration coffeehouses of the early 1700s. I contend that Jürgen Habermas’s use of the Post-Restoration coffeehouses to illustrate his famous model of the ‘transformation of the public sphere’ was actually drawn from Stephen’s writings and hence that his model indirectly reflects Stephen’s experiences in London clubland. I also contend that both Habermas’s model and Stephen’s experiences may be used to explain how the cultural norms of the fraternal associations that met in mid-Victorian clubland shaped the written products in the field of political economy in unusual ways.


Gregory Moore is a professor of economics at the University of Notre Dame, Australia. He publishes mainly in the sub-discipline of the history of economic thought, but regards himself as a generalist who specializes in teaching at an undergraduate level. Moore has published in a range of a range of international economic journals and was co-editor of the History of Economics Review from 2007 to 2011. He is also the recipient of the W. E. G. Salter Prize (University of Western Australia), the HETSA Award for the Best PhD in the History of Economic Thought in Australasia, and the 2011 Groenewegen Prize for the best article to appear in the History of Economics Review over the period 2009-10. He taught at Duke University in 2001 as a visiting fellow.