The cultural constitution of publics

Authored by: Yifat Gutman , Jeffrey C. Goldfarb

Routledge Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138288621
eBook ISBN: 9781315267784
Adobe ISBN:


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Publics are one of the fundamental social problems of modernity. The chapter reviews the history of publics and the different theoretical approaches to the public. It moves from the analysis of Habermas’s structural transformation of the public sphere toward the analysis of global, digitally mediated, and multiple spheres of publics. We also point out some of the challenges that spheres of publics face from new forms of authoritarianism. The main argument is that publics are culturally constituted. We view the distance between modern-day publics from the Habermasian ideal not as distortion or a loss, but as the recognition of the cultural complexity of public life today. We demonstrate empirical qualities of modern publics, and also stake out a normative position that opens public life to new kinds of participation, of different publics and counterpublics.

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