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An Overview of Research on the European Public Sphere

Christoph Bärenreuter, Cornelia Brüll, Monika Mokre and Karin Wahl-Jorgensen

No 3, EUROSPHERE Working Paper Series (EWP) from Eurospheres project

Abstract: Since the mid-1990s, there has been increasing research on the European Public Sphere (EPS). The interest in this question has to be understood within the context of discussions on the EUropean democratic deficit and, above all in relation to the question of (the existence and/or desirability) of a EUropean demos. Mainly, the EPS has been understood as a means of increasing the legitimacy of EU-policymaking and democratizing the EU-polity: Empirical research has revolved around the questions of (1) whether, to which extent, and in what arenas/sectors a EPS exists, (2) whether, to which extent, and in what areas/sectors European and national policymaking reflects the public debates (the EPS’s democratizing/legitimizing function), and (3) questions and contributions about how to design empirical EPS research and how to operationalize concepts, important ingredients in these research efforts were European integration in different fields, existence/viability/compatibility of a European identity and a European public/demos (as participants and audience in the EPS), communication across national borders, emergence of pan-European communication structures, Europeanization of national public spheres, domestication of Europe, similarities and differences in national discourses/narratives/ framings of issues in public debates, etc. The Working Paper delivers a summarizing analysis of different normative and empirical approaches to the EPS linking hitherto research to the research aims of Eurosphere. The main contributions of Eurosphere to EPS research is seen (1) on the normative level by focusing on inclusion and exclusion in the public sphere. As a supplement to the premises laid down by the democratic legitimacy debate in empirical EPS studies, Eurosphere conceptualizes the European Public Sphere as a means of inclusion. Thereby, the project both contests and complements hitherto academic work on the EPS. (2) On the empirical level, Eurosphere includes different speakers/actors in the EPS (political parties, media, think tanks, NGOs), internal communicative arenas of these institutional actors (networks and communication structures), media communication, and the responses ofthe citizens, also taking into account the fragmented and multi-level character of EUropean governance by simultaneously focusing on national, trans-European, and European level organizations.

Keywords: European; Public; Sphere (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2008-02-01
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