January 26, 2006

Concept Network

Hi All,

I just wanted to offer a reading strategy for dealing with the texts in class. One of the important pedagogical goals of the class is to make explict how different concepts orbit around each other and what value different authors give to this particular concept network.

So, for example, to talk about the public sphere is to talk at the same time of the following

civil society
private sphere
communication forms/genres (reason giving, claims making, argumentation, texts, print)
public opinion not opinion polls (mere opinion)
social movements
subaltern counter publics
publics or public sphere
publicness without a public sphere
general interest
general intellect
common topics
specific topics
deiberative democrcay
rhetorical democracy

you get the drift. It is not enough to think you know what the public sphere means, its meaning and value is a function of how different authors value it in terms of a host of other concepts. Just one example, while Habermas and Fraser and Virno all think a public sphere is important they would have three different ways of imagining its relationship to the state. For Habermas the state intervention into civil society is a bad thing, it collapsed the public sphere into the governance of the social; Fraser believes publics have to be viewed in light of their attachment to parilimentary forms of democracy, at the same time, she sees the existence of mulitple and oppositonal publics challenging the dominant public sphere. Virno has no use for the "people," a concept that may be explicit in Habermas's view of democratic legitimacy and is closely associated with the legitimation of the State. For Virno, the Multitude does not appeal to the State for refuge. At the same time, Virno doesnt seem to imagine the public sphere as primarily a place to redeem the emancipatory potential of reason (habermas) but, as somthing akin to an assembly for the multitidue (that which is other than the people) to care for common concerns.

So as the semester continues, one way to think about the presentations is as a way to make explict for the class the conceptual network of particular authors and how those networks appear differently or similarly