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COMS101: The Public Sphere

A 100-level lecture on the media and the public sphere.

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COMS101: The Public Sphere

  1. 1. L2: The Public Sphere Overview<br />Habermas and TSTotPS<br />History/ies of the PS<br />Structural Decline/Refeudalisation<br />Critiques of the Habermasian PS<br />Beyond TSTotPS<br />The modern media and the PS<br />The internet and PS<br />
  2. 2. Jürgen Habermas<br />German political philosopher/sociologist<br />A student of the Frankfurt School of critical theory, Institut für Sozialforschung<br />
  3. 3. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (TSTotPS)<br />Ancient Greeks<br />Deliberative democracy<br />“that realm of social life where the exchange of information and views on questions of common concern can take place so that public opinion can be formed.”<br />
  4. 4. History/ies of the Public Sphere<br />Feudal society<br />Representative publicity<br />the royalty and aristocracy “represented their lordship not for but “before” the people” (1989: 7)<br />
  5. 5. History/ies of the Public Sphere<br />The rise of the bourgeois public sphere in Britain, France and Germany; 18thC<br />Public press, coffeehouses, salons, etc.<br />
  6. 6. History/ies of the Public Sphere<br />Inherent exclusion, explained away by theoretical social mobility<br />White, male, propertied<br />Bourgeois = homme<br /> (property owners) <br /> = <br /> (human)<br />
  7. 7. Structural Decline & Refeudalisation<br />Mill and de Tocqueville – wider participation & ‘the tyranny of the majority’<br />Rise of industrial <br /> capitalism<br /> loss of criticality<br /><ul><li> state interventionism
  8. 8. public ~/~ private</li></li></ul><li>Structural Decline & Refeudalisation<br />The Mass Media<br />Commercialisation<br />PR and advertising<br /> debate acquiesence<br /> participation consumption<br />The PS became “the court before which public prestige can be displayed, rather than in which public critical debate is carried out” (1989: 201)<br />
  9. 9. A student re-enactment of…<br />
  10. 10. Critiques of the Habermasian Public Sphere<br />Historical inaccuracies<br />Over-idealisingthe internal function of the bourgeois PS<br />Existence of multiple historical PS<br />Unacknowledged exclusions from PS<br />Class, gender, race<br />Over-pessimistic about modernity and media<br />
  11. 11. Critiques of the Habermasian Public Sphere<br />Theoretical criticisms<br />Many, but Fraser (1992) outlines 4 important dimensions (postmodern/feminist critique)<br />Impossible to bracket status differentials<br />Multiple publics and counterpublics<br />Public ?/? Private<br />Separation from state<br />
  12. 12. Beyond TSTotPS<br />Habermas’s ‘linguistic turn’ <br />No universal institutional basis for the PS<br /><ul><li> transcendental </li></ul> basis in <br /> communication<br /><ul><li>Communicative </li></ul> action<br />
  13. 13. Beyond TSTotPS<br />Lifeworld and system<br />Communicative siege, moving from periphery to core<br />Ideal speech situation<br />I’m ideal!<br />
  14. 14. Beyond TSTotPS<br />Overall, more optimistic about the potential for citizens to influence power<br />Active audience theory (cultural studies)<br />But is this optimism too simple?<br />I’m ideal!<br />
  15. 15. Modern media and the public sphere<br />Overall, pessimistic view.<br />The lifeworld can be <br /> colonised by the system:<br />Coercion<br />Agenda-setting<br />Ideological power/hegemony<br />Declining political/civic engagement<br />
  16. 16. Modern media and the public sphere<br />Overall, pessimistic view.<br />Declining political/civic engagement<br />But: thepolitical cf. the Political?<br />And what about the internet?<br />
  17. 17. The internet and the public sphere<br />Techno-utopianism and –dystopianism<br />Reality is complex<br />Traditional big media on the Net<br />Citizen media on the Net<br />Digital divides<br />Politics online<br />The market and the internet<br />Multiple PSs<br />
  18. 18. Thanks for having me, and best of luck with the rest of the course <br />