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Where Is the Public Sphere?

Political Communications and the Morality of Disclosure in Rural Rajasthan

Anastasia Piliavsky

The public sphere has been centre stage in celebrations of India's political triumphs. Leading commentators tell us that the astonishing post-independence surge of democracy has been contingent on the rise of a new kind of sociopolitical formation: the public sphere. This article takes a closer look at the popular deliberative terrain in North India to question this claim. Drawing on research conducted in a provincial town in the North Indian state of Rajasthan, we see that where metropolitan political theorists see 'transparency' as promoting discursive and political possibilities, Rajasthani villagers see an exposure which prevents expression, communication and the making of political choices. In their view, it is secrecy and social seclusion that enable political interactions and elicit political judgments. 'The public sphere' is an unfit heuristic for locating popular politics within (and beyond) Rajasthan, where it obscures much more than it reveals.

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Chantal Mouffe

My aim in this presentation is to offer some reflections concerning the kind of public sphere that a vibrant democratic society requires. I want to scrutinize the dominant discourse which announces the “end of the adversarial model of politics” and the need to go beyond left and right towards a consensual politics of the centre. The thesis that I want to put forward is that, contrary to what its defenders argue, this type of discourse has very negative consequences for democratic politics. Indeed it has contributed to the weakening of the “democratic political public sphere”, and it has led to the increasing dominance of juridical and moral discourse, dominance which I take to be inimical to democracy. I submit that the increasing moralization and juridification of politics, far from being seen as progress, a further step in the development of democracy, should be envisaged as a threat for its future.

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Transnational Public Spheres from 'Above' and from 'Below'

Feminist Networks across the Middle East and Europe

Ruba Salih

This article examines the emergence of transnational public spheres brought about by women activists in diasporas and countries of origin across Europe and the Middle East. Such activism can take various forms - networks, partnerships, transnational mobilisations against war or for advocacy - which, in turn, have an impact on the ability to provide women with new paths to emancipation. Although globalising states and societies are becoming more interconnected, demarcating inequalities and forms of governance still exist. Parameters based on territoriality and national citizenship reinforce the unequal access to resources that women experience around the globe and thus have a hand in shaping women's agendas. The article concludes that although women may be able to acquire empowering tools through feminist transnational networks, these tools are not always capable of dismantling boundaries or weakening old hierarchies.

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Affective Solidarities?

Participating in and Witnessing Fair Trade and Women’s Empowerment in Transnational Communities of Practice

Debarati Sen

participating in, witnessing, recollecting and documenting the effects of fair trade in turn produced new kinds of knowledge about plantations while affecting the plantation public sphere. Ethnographically documenting these emerging acts of voluntourism is

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Constructing a Public Sphere

Materiality and Ideology

Judith Kapferer

The changing cultural and social significance of central city space generates and structures the social formations of capital today. Buildings and landmarks within the city of London are examined here as crucibles for the expression, symbolization, formation, and re-formation of the social orders of the city and the state. Here, the cultural power of state apparatuses to control and order the image and substance of capital and state is challenged by the arts of architecture and cityscape. The relation between public space and private practice is interrogated in locations such as the Square Mile, Trafalgar Square, and Hyde Park, which symbolize and concretize the social relations of the marketplace, the state, and the people. The experience of these places is iconic of the social formations of contemporary society.

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The Embattled Public Sphere

Hannah Arendt, Juergen Habermas and Beyond

Seyla Benhabib

In 1927 the American journalist, Walter Lippmann, published The Phantom Public.1Written against the background of growing despair and disillusionment about the viability of representative democracies in Europe and North America, in this work Lippmann decried the ‘ideal of sovereign and omnicompetent citizens’ to be a fiction at best and a phantom at worst. Lippmann’s elitist and pessimistic assessment of the fiction of collective deliberations engaged in by informed citizens, elicited a spirited response from John Dewey in The Public and its Problems.2 Granting that the experience of industrial and urban modern societies undermined ‘the genuine community life’ out of which American democracy had developed, Dewey admitted: ‘The public seems to be lost... If a public exists, it is surely as uncertain about its whereabouts as philosophers since Hume have been about the residence and make-up of the self’.

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The Feeling for Gray

Aesthetics, Politics, and Shifting German Regimes

Inger-Elin Øye

Building on 25 months of fieldwork in eastern Germany from 1991 to 2003, this article explores the interpenetration of aesthetics and politics, and questions them as theoretical categories. A multilayered description depicts aesthetic perception and action, guided by an imagery of façade, as constituted and reproduced by state policies, positioned experiences, and subversive responses. Moving beyond the Cold War legacy, aesthetics' potency and politicization is dated back to early nation building and Protestant and Romantic influences. Being essential to and controlled by shifting, largely authoritarian regimes, aesthetics simultaneously provided a 'shadow life' and a 'lingua franca', cross-cutting verbal and non-verbal mediums and everyday and high culture, as people juggled with, distrusted, and decoded surfaces, expressing and in search of deeper, hidden truths. I argue that historically generated aesthetic perceptions and praxis not only mark east German political culture but also emerge in Habermas's public sphere theory and, moreover, offer arguments to revise it.

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As'ad Ghanem

The question of the nature of the Israeli regime is related to two different but connected inquiries. First, its proper classification under the categories of democracy/non-democracy, a question that is closely connected to our understanding of the nature and basic features of democracy. This question has received considerable scholarly attention in the past two decades. Beside its traditional classification as a liberal democracy (see, e.g., Yakobson and Rubinstein 2008), Smooha (1990, 1998) formulated the “ethnic democracy” model to account for Israel’s political structure, Rouhana (1997) classified Israel as “ethnic state” and its regime as “exclusive ethnic state,” Peled and Navot (2005) refer to the Israeli regime as a “majoritarian democracy,” while Yiftachel (1997, 2006) described it as an archetype for “ethnocracy.” I have also dealt with the classification of the Israeli regime on several previous occasions (Ghanem 1998, 2001, 2010; Ghanem, Rouhana, and Yiftachel 2000; Rouhana and Ghanem 1998).

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Scandinavianism

Mapping the Rise of a New Concept

Ruth Hemstad

some sort of organizational structure and access to the public sphere through common networks, publications, periodicals, meetings, and societies was in the making from the late 1830s. The first meeting of Danish and Swedish students was actually on

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Jens Kreinath and Refika Sariönder

2000: 186187 ). This move into the public sphere has been a new experience for many Alevis who began to publicly commit to their religious associations, whereas previously Alevis had been accustomed to hiding their religious identity for centuries