Theorizing Reactive Democracy

The Social Media Public Sphere, Online Crowds, and the Plebiscitary Logic of Online Reactions

in Democratic Theory
Paolo GerbaudoSkłodowska–Curie Research Fellow, Scuola Normale Superiore, Italy

Search for other papers by Paolo Gerbaudo in
Current site
Google Scholar

The diffusion of social media has profoundly transformed the nature and form of the contemporary public sphere, facilitating the rise of new political tactics and movements. In this article, I develop a theory of the social media public sphere as a “plebeian public sphere” whose functioning is markedly different from the traditional public sphere, described by Jürgen Habermas. Differently from Habermas’ critical-rational publics, this social media public sphere is dominated by online crowds that come together in virtual gatherings made visible by a variety of social media reactions and metrics that measure their presence. It can be best described as a “reactive democracy,” a plebiscitary form of democracy in which reactions are understood as an implicit vote indicating the mood of public opinion on a variety of issues.

  • Collapse
  • Expand

Democratic Theory

An Interdisciplinary Journal


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 498 498 72
PDF Downloads 437 437 113