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Eurospheres? Fragmented and Stratified or Integrated and Fair? A conceptual and pretheoreticalmapping exercise

Veit Bader

No 9, EUROSPHERE Working Paper Series (EWP) from Eurospheres project

Abstract: This working paper has three explicit intents. First, I discuss some basic conceptual issues regarding ‘spheres’, ‘places/localities’, ‘arenas’; ‘levels’; ‘fields’ or ‘social spaces’; and different kinds/types of ‘publics’. Second, I present some theoretical and empirical minima sociologica on fragmentation or integration and stratification or fairness of public arenas providing a more complex and sophisticated frame compared with existing attempts to clarify criteria, concepts and foci of European Public Spheres. Third, I address some pressing normative issues that may help to prevent the quasi-automatic transport to the EU of (idealized) normative standards of liberal and democratic legitimacy and the related normative concepts of publicity of ‘national democracies’ – the normative counterpart of methodological nationalism or state-centrism. More specifically, I propose that we should resist two normative biases. First, the One dominates over the Many: one ‘integrated’ or ‘heavy’ European Public Sphere versus the many ‘light’ European (and obviously the multitude of sub-European) public spheres. This strand does not analyze fragmentation and looks for (hopes for and asks for) too much unity, integration and cohesion. It does not discuss the many trade-offs characteristic for ‘simple’ and for ‘compound polities. It also does not address the selectivity of ‘a European Public Sphere’. The second normative bias – too much unqualified trust in ‘(individual) citizens’ – does not seriously enough take into account the many time-, information-, and qualification-constrains of democratic deliberation, participation, and decision-making. We cannot and should not want to do without ‘elites’ and we urgently need a whole variety of ‘counter-elites’ of all sorts, particularly also inside citizens-movements and organizations in order to control professional and bureaucratic elites on all levels, especially in the EU. The distinctiveness of my associative democratic approach is twofold: first, it is an institution-centered, multi-level analysis of public spheres and, second, it shows an explicit emphasis on sectoral/functional public spaces and arenas. The representation and presence of all relevant stake- and knowledge-holders in these arenas brings conflict and contestation to the spheres and issues where they matter most, in opposition to so-called ‘Big’ Politics and its recent revival in populist political ‘movements’ and parties.

Keywords: European public space; European Public Sphere; polity building; political science (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2008-04-01
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