Biography[ edit ] Calhoun was born in Watseka , Illinois , on June 16, He received his doctorate in sociology and modern social and economic history from Oxford University in , a student of J. Mitchell, Angus MacIntyre , and R. He left for Columbia in but returned to NYU as Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge IPK , which promotes collaborations among academics from diverse disciplinary backgrounds and between academics and working professionals. Special Representative for Migration. His conversations with Paul Price have received wide circulation, podcast as Societas.

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Definitions[ edit ] What does it mean that something is "public"? Access is guaranteed to all citizens". They are opposed to the notions of private health, private education, private opinion, and private ownership.

The notion of the public is intrinsically connected to the notion of the private. Habermas [16] stresses that the notion of the public is related to the notion of the common. For Hannah Arendt , [17] the public sphere is therefore "the common world" that "gathers us together and yet prevents our falling over each other". Habermas defines the public sphere as a "society engaged in critical public debate". Conference in unrestricted fashion based on the freedom of assembly, the freedom of association, the freedom to expression and publication of opinions about matters of general interest, which implies freedom from economic and political control.

Debate over the general rules governing relations. The bourgeois public sphere may be conceived above all as the sphere of private people come together as a public; they soon claimed the public sphere regulated from above against the public authorities themselves, to engage them in a debate over the general rules governing relations in the basically privatized but publicly relevant sphere of commodity exchange and social labor.

Driven by a need for open commercial arenas where news and matters of common concern could be freely exchanged and discussed—accompanied by growing rates of literacy, accessibility to literature, and a new kind of critical journalism—a separate domain from ruling authorities started to evolve across Europe.

Not that this idea of the public was actually realized in earnest in the coffee houses, salons, and the societies; but as an idea, it had become institutionalized and thereby stated as an objective claim. If not realized, it was at least consequential. Domain of common concern: " The private people for whom the cultural product became available as a commodity profaned it inasmuch as they had to determine its meaning on their own by way of rational communication with one another , verbalize it, and thus state explicitly what precisely in its implicitness for so long could assert its authority.

Inclusivity: However exclusive the public might be in any given instance, it could never close itself off entirely and become consolidated as a clique; for it always understood and found itself immersed within a more inclusive public of all private people, persons who — insofar as they were propertied and educated — as readers, listeners, and spectators could avail themselves via the market of the objects that were subject to discussion.

Wherever the public established itself institutionally as a stable group of discussants, it did not equate itself with the public but at most claimed to act as its mouthpiece, in its name, perhaps even as its educator — the new form of bourgeois representation" loc.

Habermas argued that the bourgeois society cultivated and upheld these criteria. The public sphere was well established in various locations including coffee shops and salons, areas of society where various people could gather and discuss matters that concerned them.

The coffee houses in London society at this time became the centers of art and literary criticism, which gradually widened to include even the economic and the political disputes as matters of discussion. In French salons, as Habermas says, "opinion became emancipated from the bonds of economic dependence".

Parliamentary action under Charles VII of France The emergence of a bourgeois public sphere was particularly supported by the 18th-century liberal democracy making resources available to this new political class to establish a network of institutions like publishing enterprises, newspapers and discussion forums, and the democratic press was the main tool to execute this. The key feature of this public sphere was its separation from the power of both the church and the government due to its access to a variety of resources, both economic and social.

As Habermas argues, in due course, this sphere of rational and universalistic politics , free from both the economy and the State, was destroyed by the same forces that initially established it. This collapse was due to the consumeristic drive that infiltrated society, so citizens became more concerned about consumption than political actions.

Furthermore, the growth of capitalistic economy led to an uneven distribution of wealth, thus widening economic polarity. Suddenly the media became a tool of political forces and a medium for advertising rather than the medium from which the public got their information on political matters. This resulted in limiting access to the public sphere and the political control of the public sphere was inevitable for the modern capitalistic forces to operate and thrive in the competitive economy.

Therewith emerged a new sort of influence, i. The public sphere, simultaneously restructured and dominated by the mass media, developed into an arena infiltrated by power in which, by means of topic selection and topical contributions, a battle is fought not only over influence but over the control of communication flows that affect behavior while their strategic intentions are kept hidden as much as possible. Ryan and Geoff Eley , when she argues that the bourgeois public sphere was in fact constituted by a "number of significant exclusions.

Bracketing of inequalities: Fraser makes us recall that "the bourgeois conception of the public sphere requires bracketing inequalities of status". The "public sphere was to be an arena in which interlocutors would set aside such characteristics as a difference in birth and fortune and speak to one another as if they were social and economic peers".

Fraser refers to feminist research by Jane Mansbridge , which notes several relevant "ways in which deliberation can serve as a mask for domination". Consequently, she argues that "such bracketing usually works to the advantage of dominant groups in society and to the disadvantage of subordinates. The problematic definition of "common concern": Nancy Fraser points out that "there are no naturally given, a priori boundaries" between matters that are generally conceived as private, and ones we typically label as public i.

As an example, she refers to the historic shift in the general conception of domestic violence, from previously being a matter of primarily private concern, to now generally being accepted as a common one: "Eventually, after sustained discursive contestation we succeeded in making it a common concern". However, she claimed that marginalized groups formed their own public spheres, and termed this concept a subaltern counter public or counter-public.

To deal with this hegemonic domination, Fraser argues that repressed groups form "Subaltern counter-publics" that are "parallel discursive arenas where members of subordinated social groups invent and circulate counterdiscourses to formulate oppositional interpretations of their identities, interests, and needs". She argues that if the public sphere is to be open to any discussion that affects the population, there cannot be distinctions between "what is" and "what is not" discussed.

Michael Warner made the observation that the idea of an inclusive public sphere makes the assumption that we are all the same without judgments about our fellows. He argues that we must achieve some sort of disembodied state in order to participate in a universal public sphere without being judged. His observations point to a homosexual counter public, and offers the idea that homosexuals must otherwise remain "closeted" in order to participate in the larger public discourse.

He foregrounds the rhetorical nature of public spheres, suggesting that public spheres form around "the ongoing dialogue on public issues" rather than the identity of the group engaged in the discourse. The discussion itself would reproduce itself across the spectrum of interested publics "even though we lack personal acquaintance with all but a few of its participants and are seldom in contexts where we and they directly interact, we join these exchanges because they are discussing the same matters".

Taking a universal reasonableness out of the picture, arguments are judged by how well they resonate with the population that is discussing the issue. Rather than a conversation that goes on across a population as a whole, the public sphere is composed of many intermediate dialogs that merge later on in the discussion.

How well the public sphere adheres to these norms determine the effectiveness of the public sphere under the rhetorical model. Those norms are: permeable boundaries: Although a public sphere may have a specific membership as with any social movement or deliberative assembly, people outside the group can participate in the discussion.

They do not just hear the issue and applaud, but rather they actively engage the issue and the publics surrounding the issue. Its rhetorical exchanges are the bases for shared awareness of common issues, shared interests, tendencies of extent and strength of difference and agreement, and self-constitution as a public whose opinions bear on the organization of society. The lava of the public which holds together the public arguments is the public conversation.

Media[ edit ] Habermas argues that the public sphere requires "specific means for transmitting information and influencing those who receive it". Discussions about the media have therefore been of particular importance in public sphere theory.

Edgerly et al. The researchers examined a large sample of video comments using the California Proposition 8 as an example. The authors argue that some scholars think the online public sphere is a space where a wide range of voices can be expressed due to the "low barrier of entry" [56] and interactivity.

However, they also point at a number of limitations. The authors mention critiques that say YouTube is built around the popularity of videos with sensationalist content. The research by Edgerly, et al. They argue that this is a possible indicator that YouTube provides space for public discussion. The findings of the work suggest that YouTube is a public sphere platform. Limitations of media and the internet[ edit ] Some, like Colin Sparks, note that a new global public sphere ought to be created in the wake of increasing globalization and global institutions, which operate at the supranational level.

The traditional media, he notes, are close to the public sphere in this true sense. Nevertheless, limitations are imposed by the market and concentration of ownership. At present, the global media fail to constitute the basis of a public sphere for at least three reasons. Similarly, he notes that the internet, for all its potential, does not meet the criteria for a public sphere and that unless these are "overcome, there will be no sign of a global public sphere".

They analyzed how the issue of human genome research was portrayed between and in popular quality newspapers in both Germany and the United States in comparison to the way it appeared on search engines at the time of their research.

Their intention was to analyze what actors and what sort of opinions the subject generated in both print and the Internet and verify whether the online space proved to be a more democratic public sphere, with a wider range of sources and views. The Guardian columnist George Manbiot said that Astroturfing software, "has the potential to destroy the internet as a forum for constructive debate. It jeopardizes the notion of online democracy".

The sociologists Brian Loader and Dan Mercea give an overview of this discussion. Additionally, new forms of political participation and information sources for the users emerge with the Internet that can be used, for example, in online campaigns.

Loader and Mercea point out that "individual preferences reveal an unequal spread of social ties with a few giant nodes such as Google , Yahoo , Facebook and YouTube attracting the majority of users". Moreover, lines between professional media coverage and user-generated content would blur on social media.

The authors conclude that social media provides new opportunities for political participation; however, they warn users of the risks of accessing unreliable sources. The Internet impacts the virtual public sphere in many ways, but is not a free utopian platform as some observers argued at the beginning of its history.

Mediated publicness[ edit ] John Thompson criticises the traditional idea of public sphere by Habermas, as it is centred mainly in face-to-face interactions. People can see more things, as they do not need to share the same physical location, but this extended vision always has an angle, which people do not have control over.

Non dialogical unidirectional. For example, presenters on TV are not able to adapt their discourse to the reactions of the audience, since they are visible to a wide audience but that audience is not directly visible to them.

However, internet allows a bigger interactivity. Wider and more diverse audiences. The same message can reach people with different education, different social class, different values and beliefs, and so on. This mediated publicness has altered the power relations in a way in which not only the many are visible to the few but the few can also now see the many: "Whereas the Panopticon renders many people visible to a few and enables power to be exercised over the many by subjecting them to a state of permanent visibility, the development of communication media provides a means by which many people can gather information about a few and, at the same time, a few can appear before many; thanks to the media, it is primarily those who exercise power, rather than those over whom power is exercised, who are subjected to a certain kind of visibility".

Mistakes, gaffes or scandals are now recorded therefore they are harder to deny, as they can be replayed by the media. The political function and effect of modes of public communication has traditionally continued with the dichotomy between Hegelian State and civil society.

The dominant theory of this mode includes the liberal theory of the free press. However, the public service, state-regulated model, whether publicly or privately funded, has always been seen not as a positive good but as an unfortunate necessity imposed by the technical limitations of frequency scarcity.

On the other hand, this concept challenges the liberal free press tradition form the grounds of its materiality, and it challenges the Marxist critique of that tradition from the grounds of the specificity of politics as well. Firstly, it focuses on the indissoluble like between the institutions and practices of mass public communication and the institutions and practices of democratic politics. Its third virtue is to escape from the simple dichotomy of free market versus state control that dominates so much thinking about media policy.

The proletarian public sphere is rather to be conceived of as the "excluded", vague, unarticulated impulses of resistance or resentment. The proletarian public sphere carries the subjective feelings, the egocentric malaise with the common public narrative, interests that are not socially valorized "As extraeconomic interests, they exist—precisely in the forbidden zones of fantasy beneath the surface of taboos—as stereotypes of a proletarian context of living that is organized in a merely rudimentary form.

As long as capital is dependent on living labor as a source of wealth, this element of the proletarian context of living cannot be extinguished through repression. The public spheres of production collect the impulses of resentment and instrumentalizes them in the productive spheres. The public spheres of production are wholly instrumental and have no critical impulse unlike the bourgeois and proletarian spheres.

The interests that are incorporated in the public sphere of production are given capitalist shape, and questions of their legitimately are thus neutralized. Traditionally the public spheres had been contemplated as to how free agents transgress the private spheres.


Craig Calhoun



Public sphere



Habermas and the Public Sphere




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