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Soc 235, Lecture 17

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Ron Jacobs

on 17 November 2014

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Transcript of Soc 235, Lecture 17

As media become more important in our lives, does civil society shift away from voluntary associations toward the public sphere?
what is the public sphere?
How has it changed?
what is its structure?
The public sphere
: a space where individuals gather to discuss matters of common concern
How have theorists imagined the relationship between democracy and the public sphere?
ideal of inclusion
emphasis on the quality of discourse
power of public opinion
Historical transformation of the public sphere
1700s-1800s: public sphere as engine of critical rationality and democracy
1900s: public sphere as a staged arena of publicity; decline of rational critique
2000s: new communication technologies
French salon culture, 1700s
British coffee house, 1700s
the force of the better argument
the idea of public opinion
combination of media and face-to-face
public relations
propaganda
attempt to rely on emotion, fear to control public opinion
Idealized publics vs. real publics
Idealized publics: based on normative theories (i.e., evaluative, moral, utopian)‏
Public sphere as a realm of freedom
complete inclusion
trust and openness
rationality
Civil society 2: if “real” publics do not match the ideal, then we say that civil society has been destroyed
Real publics, or civil society 3: recognition that the ideal public can never exist, and even if it could it might not be desirable
Full inclusion, complete trust, perfect rationality are impossible
Even if you had full inclusion and rationality, “the best argument” will usually be made by the most educated
importance of smaller, alternative publics for generating critique, innovation
Civil society 3: From Rational debate to binary discourse
The idealized vision of the public sphere is real, but it exists as the sacred side of of a binary discourse of civil society
Sacred Profane
Rational irrational
Inclusive exclusive
Trusting suspicious
Rule-regulated arbitrary
Democratic undemocratic
Each of the sacred terms only acquires its meaning by reference to the profane terms
each moment of inclusion is also a moment of exclusion
Because of the binary nature of civil discourse, people can enter the public sphere in order to engage in symbolic purity/opening or pollution/closing
1. Marx's theory, in which civil society becomes negatively associated with capitalism alone, is an example of what Alexander refers to as ______________
A. Civil society I
B. Civil society II
C. Civil society III
D. Civil society IV

2. True or false. In Alexander's theory about the best way to understand civil society, which he refers to as civil society III, we need to think about civil society as a sphere that can be analytically independent of the market.
A. True
B. False

3. True or false. According to Alexander, in order to maintain democracy it is sometimes necessary for the civil sphere to invade noncivil spheres, to monitor them, and to demand certain kinds of reforms.
A. True
B. False
Full transcript