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Structural Transformations of the Public Sphere: Historical and Normative Perspectives

Organizers: Erika A. Kiss, UCHV; Jan-Werner Mueller, Politics

April 26, 2019April 27, 2019 · 301 Marx

University Center for Human Values

It has become a commonplace that we are living through a profound structural transformation of the public sphere.  More particularly, discussions have gone from one extreme – cyberutopian visions of the internet as a force for democratization — to another extreme: now Facebook is said to have caused the return of fascism.  Two perspectives have mostly been lacking from these discussions: first, a historical one that allows us to see how new certain phenomena really are (one just needs to re-read Walter Lippmann to appreciate that there might not have been anything like a golden age of the public) and also to understand better how previous generations have come to terms with structural changes (including momentous shifts in what is seen as public and what is seen as private).  Second, we believe that we need a much clearer normative picture of the functions the public sphere really has for democracy, including a more profound philosophical comprehension of different “spaces” (physical and virtual) and how they can facilitate or hinder core democratic practices (such as assembly, deliberation, collective will-formation, etc.)

Email Kim Girman (kgirman@princeton.edu) for access to the papers.

See schedule here

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