Satish Poduval, Media and the Public Domain
13th February 2007
Report: Rethinking The Public Sphere by Nancy Fraser
Rethinking The Public Sphere is a response to Habermas' 1973 essay, later published in English as The Public Sphere in 1989. Habermas states his concept of the public sphere as both historical, and normative. It is historical both in the sense of era and region- 20th century Western Europe. He dismantles the distinctions between the public and private domain.
According to Habermas, man should be autonomous from the state and the civil society, but he feels that public-ness is degenerating due to the advent of the mass media. Mass media gives higher priority to profitability under the aegis of commercial interest. In a mass democracy opinions of political and non-governmental organizations also matter. In a Socialist Welfare State, many voters base their opinions on others' representations of their idea. The populist decision should be taken in public interest and individual concerns should retreat into the private domain.
Nancy Fraser, through this essay, demands extrapolation from Habermas, saying that his essay is inadequate and perceives the essay as a masculinist bourgeois account. She identifies four assumptions from The Public Sphere.
She begins by deriving the four assumptions:
1. Societal equality is not a necessary condition for political democracy. 2. An increase in the number of competing, debating publics causes a society to drift from its democratic nature; a single discursive arena is preferred as opposed to multiple. 3. Public discourse should be independent of private interest. 4. Civil society should be able to function separately from the state.
According to the first assumption, women, economically backward classes and racial ethnicities are excluded as peripherals. Hypothetically, the concept remains unaltered since it...