Public Sphere Essay

2214 Words9 Pages
This paper argues that the public sphere within contemporary society is better understood as discursive space. It argues that such a conceptualisation enables investigations into the interrelationships, or conjunctures, between discourses in the public sphere. The paper will begin by outlining and classifying contemporary responses to Habermas’ original concept of the public sphere, and debates over the nature of social interaction in contemporary society. Subsequently, the paper will outline a case for the reconfiguration of the public sphere as a discursive space where the identities of multiple publics are defined and redefined, and interests clarified and constituted. Supplanting this interpretation of the public sphere into a contemporary setting, we will canvass how Fraser’s (1992) theory is useful in explaining the formation and re-construction of national identity in Australia. Fraser’s (1992) theory shows how the fluid and dynamic structure of the public sphere enables discursive connections to be made across a breadth of local sites where discursive practices and deliberation take place. Habermas (1964: 49) originally conceived the public sphere as the realm of social life where citizens could freely and openly address issues of common concern. It was “the domain of our social life in which a thing as public opinion [could] be formed” (Habermas, 1996: 55) in a rational and dialogic manner. Habermas (1964: 53) implies that the public sphere is a spatial concept, a social site or arena where meaning are articulated, distributed and negotiated; and where all participants are included, equal and rational. However, Habermas has come under sustained criticism for ignoring difference in the treatment of culture and identity (Calhoun, 1998; 375). Furthermore, Habermas’ unitary bourgeois public sphere is perceived to have led to a neglect of
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