The Global Public Sphere
The Global Public Sphere
Public Territories and the Imagining of Political Community
Despite the increasing transnationalization of communication, we are only at the beginning of understanding the implications of this new sphere on public communication and civic deliberation. It is a public architecture that evolves as a networked space within and beyond the nation-state. However, when attempting to assess this sphere of public space, we are facing an ambiguity: on one hand conceptions of the 'public sphere' are framed through an overarching still dominant modern paradigm which centres public communication in nation-states; on the other, political, civic, and, on the other public communicative practices are embedded in public spheres which are meandering across globalized networks - linking citizens of different societies and, through such an emerging sphere of deliberation, influencing the agenda of politics and, sometimes, governments. It seems that the overarching paradigm of modern public spheres tends to blind us to identifying and conceptually mapping how these new structures of public communication take shape. In this chapter, we will begin to situate public space between specific forms of networks: 'networks of centrality', the observing sphere and the 'centrality of networks', the engagement sphere. In order to map this 'terrain' over the next chapters, we must first carefully assess the ways in which existing debates have defined the 'openings' of the nation-state, or in other words, the processes of 'decoupling' civil society from the national boundedness. This discussion will allow us to address more specifically the ways in which the public space evolves through such a 'de-bracketing' of the state - society nexus, across different spheres of public 'action' within a globalized scope.
In his book The Public and its Problems , John Dewey remarked that 'in no two ages or places is there the same public' (Dewey, 1927: 33). Dewey's observation, made in the early decades of the twentieth century relates to the transformation of the public sphere at a time when the traditional centrality of vibrant community public life in the USA was still functional but - and this is Dewey's point - already slowly dissolving. The traditional public life of local communities was merging with larger, more centralized forms which now began to'mediate' public debate and shape public opinion, which was no longer an outcome of traditional 'local' community reasoning. Such a shift away from the centrality of public discourse of a vibrant local community 'place' of the local townhall to the 'mediating' centrality of national media spheres of newspapers and radio, left local publics - so Dewey concludes - 'eclipsed' and 'diffused' (Dewey, 1927: 137). The deliberative role of a vibrant community public, and this is Dewey's pessimistic assessment, is 'passing away' as 'mediated' spheres of publics emerge where the 'power' and 'lust of possession' is 'in the hands of the officers and agencies' which - and what an irony! - 'the dying public instituted' (Dewey, 1927: 81).
About forty years after Dewey, Jürgen Habermas has identified a second major shift of public spheres. This shift relates to another Western world region: modern European nation-states. In this lens, the shift of public discourse in European nation-states towards 'manufactured publicity' (Habermas, 1964; 1991: 211) and away from reasoned publicness made room for strategically produced 'publicness', a distinct form of public reasoning, which is, however, often translated as 'public opinion' or 'publicity' of priv