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Public Sphere

Frank Marcinkowski


The public sphere is an indispensable element of a democratic society and the institutional core of democratic decision-making. Every democratic political order is essentially based on the idea that citizens participate in collectively binding decisions, articulate their interests and opinions openly, listen and evaluate the opinions and arguments of others, and, on that basis, make up their minds. The public sphere establishes an arena of discussion on public affairs and guarantees that all these processes are open to the public. In everyday usage, the term “public sphere” is associated with “the public”, i.e. the people as a whole or a group of people having common interests (e.g., “the reading public”). Scientific definitions of the concept vary across different theoretical schools of thought (→  Public ). Mostly the term refers to the institutionalization of a realm of social life for the exchange of information and opinions. The public sphere in the narrower sense is the act of free citizens gathering together for debate in order to achieve a rational regulation of public affairs. Another facet of the concept denotes the structures and contents of the public political debate itself. In a third dimension of the meaning, the term refers to the public spaces in which public communication regularly takes place: streets and squares, formal and informal gathering places, publicly ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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