My personal history of the public sphere
Mon 8/18/08 12:15 PM
For Dewey the Public is an associated group often centered on some kind of activity, but is not clearly defined in terms of its location or constitution.
“If a public exists it is surely as uncertain about its own whereabouts as philosophers since Hume have been about the residence and make-up of the self.” (308)
John Dewey, The Public and It’s Problems (1927)
For Hannah Arendt there is a tripartite structure consisting of 1) The Private Realm of Property-takes place in the oikos (household) where oiketes or animal laborans (slaves, household workers) perform endless, circular Labor for the necessities of life. 2) The Public Realm of the Commons-takes place in the agora (marketplace, bazaar, shops, meeting places) where demiourgos and homo faber (workers) perform Work for the public good. 3) The Political Realm of Vita Activa-takes place in the polis or res publica where citizens perform Action.
“The term ‘public’ signifies the world itself, in so far as it is common to all of us and distinguished from our privately owned place in it.” (52) “Everything that appears in public can be seen and heard by everybody” (50) … “seeing and hearing others, of being seen and being heard by them.” (58) Her notion is an extension of the place where people “gather around a table” (53) for “storytelling and artistic transposition of individual experiences.” (50)
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (1958)
For Habermas the public sphere includes those social institutions that encourage open, rational debate between citizens I order to form public opinion. It can be face-to-face as happens in Tischgesellschaften, salons and coffee houses or it can be written communications as in journals, newspapers, letters, novels and electronic forms of communication. It began with the bourgeois commercial and professional classes, excluding the working classes or aristocracy, and was a way to make the state responsive to the expression of their needs and interests expressed as public opinion. Habermas contrasts it with the State and the private interests of individuals.
Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962)
Rorty’s model for the public sphere is the Kuwaiti bazaar, “surrounded by lots and lots of exclusive private clubs.” During the day “haggling, profitably away,” then, when tired or finished, retreating to your private club.
Richard Rorty, “Post-Modernist Bourgeois Liberalism” (1983)
Oldenburg describes the “third place,” a meeting place for moderately sized groups of involuntary association, not highly structured organizations, like corporations or institutions, or small groups
like families. Oldenburg includes cafés, coffee shops, community centers, beauty parlors, barber shops, general stores, bars and hangouts.
Ray Oldenburg, The Great Good Place (1989)