Pol 339 State and Public Sphere Instructor: Assist. Prof. Dr. Volkan Çıdam

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POL 339 State and Public Sphere

Instructor: Assist. Prof. Dr. Volkan Çıdam

The notion of “Public Sphere” is one of the most contested concepts in political theory. This is because its use involves normative presumptions about the nature of modern democratic politics and state. The definition of the public sphere(s) depends on how we understand the relationship between civil society and the modern state. What is the role of the state in a modern society? Should we consider it an arbiter between particular interests or an institutional embodiment of the will of the people? Or, following G.W. Hegel and Karl Marx, is it better to view the state as an organization of civil society at a higher level, alleviating the contradictions residing in it? Although political theorists of 18th and 19th century provide different answers to these questions, they all draw attention to the emergence of new forms of associations among people that rest on the newly emerging forms of communication and public debate. Taking his inspiration from these thinkers’ emphasis on these new forms of associations, in his seminal work Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962), Jürgen Habermas came up with the notion of “public sphere” as a central aspect of modern democratic politics. In doing so, he also established the terms of the contemporary debates in democratic theory.

In this course, we will explore the contemporary relevance of the concept of public sphere more than fifty years after the publication of Habermas’ seminal work. Following Habermas, we will ask: What is the role of public debate in the formation of public opinion in a democratic society dominated by the mass media? Do the public associations, which fascinated Tocqueville, still play a significant part in the political life of contemporary mass democracies? How has the use of “public space” in democratic politics changed since the 19th century? How can we make sense of the public sphere under contemporary conditions, most notably in the digital age? To address questions such as these, we will first turn to the works of canonical modern political theorists such as, J.J. Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, Alexis Tocqueville, John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham to discuss different conceptualizations of the relationship between state and civil society, which still inform alternative understandings of the role of public sphere in democratic politics. In the second section of the course, we will focus on some of the problems / crises encountered by the “bourgeois public sphere” at the turn of 20th century by engaging with the writings of Walter Lippmann and John Dewey. In the third section we will explore modern theories of public sphere and public action – among others that of Hannah Arendt, Antonio Gramsci and Jürgen Habermas –, which address the problems identified mainly by Lippmann and Dewey. The final part of the course will revolve around the critical debates that emerged in response to Habermas’ paradigmatic account of the public sphere. Here our attention will be on contemporary writers including, Nancy Fraser, Michel Foucault and Michael Warner and the scholarly discussions about the role of internet in the formation of public sphere in contemporary democracies. We will conclude our critical explorations with a reflection on Gezi Park demonstrations, as an example of the new possibilities of counter-publics and the reorganization of public spaces both online and offline.

INSTRUCTOR: Asst. Prof. Volkan Çıdam

COURSE HOURS: Thursday (14:00-17:00)
OFFICE HOURS: Wednesday 14:00-15:00 and with appointment

  • GRADING: - Two assessment papers (%20 each)


- A short presentation and paper (%40)

- Final paper proposal (%10)

- Final Paper (%40)

- Participation (%10)

This is a reading intensive course, as well as a course that relies heavily on your oral and written participation. The Course readings MUST be read by all in order that we have a productive discussion in class. ‘Further Readings’ help you to better formulate the questions you elaborate in your assessment papers.

An assessment paper should be 4-5 pages (1,5 lines spacing, 12 pts font), including your personal and comprehensive evaluation of a specific and central issue that is analyzed in the readings of the specified weeks. Late papers will be penalized by -10 points (out of 20 points for each paper) and plagiarism leads to 0 points from that paper. First assessment paper is to be based on the reading materials of the Parts I and Part II. Second assessment paper is to be based on the reading materials of Part III.

If you chose to prepare a presentation paper, please talk with me until the 3rd Week. A presentation is about 10 to 15 minutes long and is designed to introduce the class for the week’s discussion. The presentation-paper should be 4-5 pages (1,5 lines spacing, 12 pts font), including a summary of the assigned texts and should raise the central questions that are discussed in class.

Final-Paper Proposal should be a page long summary of the topic of your final paper, including a tentative reading list.

Final-Paper should be 10-15 pages (1,5 lines spacing, 12 pts. font), including the critical evaluation of a central issue that is analyzed within the semester.

Academic Honesty

The Department of Political Science and International Relations at Boğaziçi University has the following rules and regulations regarding academic honesty.

  1. Copying work from others or giving and receiving answers/information during exams either in written or oral form constitutes cheating.

  2. Submitting take-home exams and papers of others as your own, using sentences or paragraphs from another author without the proper acknowledgement of the original author, insufficient acknowledgement of the consulted works in the bibliography, all constitute plagiarism. For further guidelines, you can consult http://web.gc.cuny.edu/provost/pdf/AvoidingPlagiarism.pdf

  3. Plagiarism and cheating are serious offenses and will result in:

  1. an automatic “F” for the assignment or the exam

  2. an oral explanation before the Departmental Ethics Committee

  3. losing the opportunity to request and receive any references from the
    entire faculty

  4. losing the opportunity to apply in exchange programs

  5. losing the prospects of becoming a student assistant or a graduate assistant in the department

The students may further be sent to the University Ethics committee or be subject to disciplinary action.

Lecture Program and Readings:

  • Week 1 (21.09) Introduction and Lecture on:

An introductory overview of the classical theories of modern state and civil society (Kant, Hegel, Marx): What is civil society, how can we define public sphere and what role does the public opinion play in the formation of modern society and state?

Part I: Civil Society and the Birth of Bourgeois Public Sphere: A Medium of Democratic Control of Power or a Medium of Surveillance?

  • Week 2 (28.09) The idea of Republic and Public Opinion

  1. Rousseau, Jean Jacques (1994), The Social Contract, Oxford University Press, pg. 54-58, 66-67, 73-75, 134-139

  2. Kant Immanuel (1991), “An Answer to the Question: ‘What is Enlightenment’”, in Kant. Political Writings, Cambridge University Press, pg. 54-60

Further Reading:

Habermas, Jürgen (1991), The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, MIT Press, pg. 1-56

  1. Tocqueville, Alexis (2010), Democracy in America, Volume II, Chapter 7: “Of the Omnipotence of the Majority in the United States and Its Effects”, Liberty Fund, Inc., pg. 402-426

  2. Tocqueville, Alexis (2010), Democracy in America, Volume III, Chapter 5-7: “Of the Use That the Americans Make of Association in Civil Life”, “Of the Relation between Associations and Newspapers” and “Relations between Civil Associations and Political Associations, Liberty Fund Inc., pg. 742-758

Further Reading:

Habermas, Jürgen (1991), The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, pg. 73-128

  • Week 4 (12.10) Public Opinion vs. Freedom of Speech

  1. Mill, John Stuart (2010), On Liberty, Chapter 1 and 3, “Introductory”, pg. 5-18 and “Of individuality, as one of the elements of well-being”, Classic Books International, pg. 56-74

Further Reading:

Habermas, Jürgen (1991,) The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, pg. 129-158

  • Week 5 (19.10) Public Opinion or Public Surveillance: Emergence of a Disciplinary Society?

  1. Bentham, Jeremy (1995), Panopticon or the Inspection-House, Verso, pg. 31-48 and pg. 80-95

  2. Foucault, Michel (1995), Discipline and Punish. The Birth of the Prison, “Panopticism”, Penguin Books, pg. 195-228

Further Reading:

Foucault, Michel (2003), The Society must be Defended Lectures at the Collège de France, “Lecture on 17 March 1976”, Picador, pg. 239-264

Part II Public Opinion, Democracy and the Transformation of the Public Sphere

  • Week 6 (26.10) The Challenge of Mass-Society: Elite Power vs. Public Opinion

  1. Lippmann, Walter (1993) The Phantom Public, Transaction Publishers, pg. 3-64, 67-70, 100-104, 133-141, 187-190.

Further Reading

Habermas, Jürgen (1991), The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, pg. 159-180

  • Week 7 (02.11) Democratic Reorganization of the Public Sphere?

  1. Dewey, John (2012), The Public and its Problems, The Pennsylvania State University Press, pg. 110-184 and 203-219

Further Reading

Habermas, Jürgen (1991), The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, pg. 196-235


Part III Modern Theories of Public Sphere and Political Action

  • Week 8 (09.11) Hannah Arendt: Spheres of Human Activity and Politics

1) Arendt, The Human Condition, pg. 22-79 and 175-207

Further Reading:

Arendt, “Reflections on Little Rock”, in Dissent Vol. 6, January 1959, pg. 45-56

  • Week 9 (16.11) Constituting Publics: Revolution I

  1. Arendt, Hannah (1990), On Revolution, Penguin Books, pg. 73-79 and 215-281

Further Reading:

Benhabib, Seyla (2003), “The Art of Making and Subverting Distinctions: With Arendt, Contra Arendt” in: Reluctant Modernism of Hannah Arendt, 2003, Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, pg. 123-171

Mouffe, C. (2005) `For an Agonistic Public Sphere', in L. Tønder and L. Thomassen (eds.) Radical Democracy: Politics between abundance and lack, pp. 191205ManchesterUniversity of Manchester Press.

  • Week 10 (23.11) Hegemony and the Public Sphere: Revolution II

  1. Gramsci, Antonio (1971) Selections from the Prison Notebooks, International Publishers, pg. 3-23, 52-61, 158-168, 181-185, 229-239, 257-264

  2. Eley, Geoff (1996), “Nations, Publics and Political Cultues: Placing Habermas in the Nineteenth Century” (extract) in: Habermas and the Public Sphere, Craig Calhoun (ed.), MIT Press, pg. 319-331

Further Reading:

Bobbio, Norberto (1979), “Gramsci and the Conception of Civil Society”, in: Gramsci and Marxist Theory, Chantal Mouffe (ed.), Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., pg. 21-47

  • Week 11 (30.11) Democratic- Constitutional State and Public Sphere

  1. Habermas, Jürgen (1994), “Three Normative Models of Democracy” in Constellations, Volume 1, Issue 1 December 1994, pg. 1-10

  2. Habermas, Jürgen (1985), “Civil Disobedience: Litmus Test for the Democratic Constitutional State” in Berkley Journal of Sociology, Volume 30, 1985, pg. 95-116

Further Reading:

Benhabib, Seyla (1996), “Models of Public Sphere: Hannah Arendt, Liberal Tradition, and Jürgen Habermas” in: Habermas and the Public Sphere, Craig Calhoun (ed.), MIT Press, pg. 73-98.

Fraser, Nancy (1996), “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy” in Habermas and the Public Sphere, Craig Calhoun (ed.), MIT Press, pg. 109-142


Part IV Reclaiming the Public Sphere: Critical Approaches and Revisions

  1. Foucault, Michel (1982), “Subject and Power” in: Critical Inquiry, Vol. 8, No 4 Summer 1982, pp. 777-795

  2. Warner, Michael (2005), “Publics and Counterpublics”, in: Publics and Counterpublics, Zone Books, pg. 65-124

  3. Warner, Michael (2005), “Something Queer about the Nation State”, in: Publics and Counterpublics, Zone Books, pg. 209-223

  • Week 13 (14.12) Publics Online and Offline:

  1. Çıdam, Çiğdem (2017) Unruly Practices: Gezi Protests and the Politics of Friendship, New Political Science, 39:3, 369-392.

  2. Papacharissi, Zizi. (2002) `The Virtual Sphere: The Internet as a Public Sphere', New Media & Society 4(1): 9-27

  3. Dean, Jodi (2003) ‘Why the Net is not a Public Sphere’ Constellations 10(1): 95-112

  4. Bennett W. Lance and Segerberg, Alexandra (2012) 'The logic of connective action', Information, Communication & Society, 15:5, 739-768

Further Reading:

Göle, Nilüfer, “Public Space Democracy”, in http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2013-07-29-gole-en.html , 2013, pg. 1-10

Dahlberg, Lincoln (2007) ‘Rethinking the Fragmentation of the Cyberpublic: From Consensus to Contestation’, New Media and Society 9(5):827-847.

Dahlberg, Lincoln (2001) `The Internet and Democratic Discourse: Exploring the Prospects of Online Deliberative Forums extending the Public Sphere', Information, Communication & Society 4(4): 61533.
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