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Modernity and the Contingency of the Public

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Abstract:

The idea of a public contingent on its participants is the analogue of resonance to music because neither would make sense without the other. This article introduces the concept of modernity as a framing device and explains the occlusion of the private by the public. Secondly, the article illustrates the Legal–Autonomous Public Model, and the Multiple Public Model in the work of John Dewey, Walter Lippmann, and Kenneth J. Arrow. Public space is what Foucault was alleged to have called '┬┤ecriture', which refers to a convergence of and intermixing of signifiers within a de-gendered setting (hence ┬┤ecriture, as opposed to l'┬┤ecriture). The great contest between Lippmann and Dewey in the 1920s signified a clashing of the two interpretations of the public with one arguing about the need for a return to a constitutionally guaranteed, left-of-centre public philosophy that would entertain the elite while taking care of the poor, and the other a plea for a rationalistic recourse that surmised and envisaged rational public discourse as only one of several possible publics. The article concludes with the notion that the constructions of public space defined by Dewey, Lippmann, and Arrow promote distinct yet related interrogations of public space that is more than an agora of resonating ideas, but includes a kind of automatic reverberation on its own axes.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13511610220128313

Publication date: 2002-03-01

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