A Review of Nancy Faser's Rethinking the Public Sphere

1022 words 5 pages
Priyanca Vaishnav,

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
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But contrary to Fraser's beliefs, women did not form a separate, subaltern group; instead they consciously wove themselves into the mainstream system and caused the change in the mindset of the discursive publics. They played more active parts in mainstream relationships. Similarly, Martin Luther King never emphasized on isolation, but on a more collective "humanity".

Fraser disagrees with Habermas' stress on having common public-interest discourse and setting aside private concerns or personal bias. She says that a common concern is subjective and changes according to social circumstances. Not all members of a social group may agree on the commonality of a singular issue. Subaltern counter-publics would want some guarantee that newer issues will be addressed. But if there are no preconceived pointers some groups may take advantage and override the weaker sections of the society in absence of concrete direction. Common agreement achieved in suspicious circumstances may lead to camouflaged or even apparent dominance and subjugation thereby. Also, the subaltern groups run the risk of being far away from the capitalist economic structure that prevails in most developed and influential economies. They may be too radical to hold any relevance in these societies, if we take a more global worldview.

In her last argument, Nancy Fraser first sums up her