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Communication in Pre-20Th Century Thought, Vol. 10 - 2003, No. 2

, pages: 5-24

Classical writers, going back as far as John Locke, recognized public opinion as a powerful force. That the passions and interests of real people often divert them from pursuing the common good confronted them with a dilemma: what is desired by all is not necessarily what reason shows to be in their general interest. The dilemma points to the necessity of government and also of institutional arrangements to mediate between the people and the makers of laws binding on everyone. The paper examines in particular the views of Rousseau on assemblies, of Hegel on the development of universal norms, and of von Stein on social movement. It concludes that public opinion exists only in the form of discourse and that it exerts influence either when some part acts as a concrete group or when the preferences of an abstract aggregate of individuals converge on a particular party, candidate, or legislative proposal.

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, pages: 25-44

Wilhelm von Humboldt’s studies of language during the nineteenth century anticipated twentieth-century symbolic interactionism, suggesting a two-century intellectual history stressing the communicating subject as an intersubjective actor. Jürgen Habermas’s theory of communicative action, well known for its inclusion of George Herbert Mead’s symbolic interactionism, appeals in the same breath to von Humboldt’s work, thus inviting a critical re-appropriation of Mead beyond the social-psychological realm, into macro-level analyses of cultural reproduction and societal evolution. Read as a project of cultural cultivation, the model of the conversation achieves the status of life-giver for language as such. This project reaches the level of state interests to maintain individual creativity in the company of others, to consider language an explicit project of social and cultural policy, and to develop concrete institutions of education in the interest of the emancipated citizen. However, this rearticulated symbolic interactionism faces theory-practice disparities in a weak legacy of educational diversity.

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, pages: 45-64

Is it wise to structure critical discussion of the media around a normative ideal of publicness? This article suggests some potential problems by re-examining Kant’s conception of the public use of reason, primarily as articulated in his newspaper article, “An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment?” (1784). Kant’s account of the enthusiasm of a German newspaper-reading public for the French Revolution not only introduces an aesthetic dimension into political judgment, but also prefigures the strategies of media critique. The limits of “the public” as an optic though which to judge the social functions of the media are discussed in the light of Kierkegaard’s phenomenology and Ian Hunter’s recent excavation of the tradition of civil philosophy associated with Pufendorf and Thomasius.

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, pages: 65-78

News is a contraction of two words : "new things". And news is the report of those "new things." These reports over time can themselves become artefacts. Historians, anthropologists, sociologists -along with journalists-study news. In different ways and via a range of media, dramatists, paleo-anthropologists and poets also pinpoint-sometimes en passant-the production, transmission and impact of news. Here we look at the seemingly unlikely "cross-fertilisation" of these remarks, and pick up points made by newsmen working at speed to capture "a defining moment," a story and its impact.

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, pages: 79-92

For many decades, communication as a theoretical field of study has been dominated by Western-oriented perspectives that arose in the context of media perceptions in Western Europe and North America. Western communication theories have been promoted around the world as possessing a strong element of universalism. In recent years, this approach has been challenged on the basis of obfuscating the cultural peculiarities of non-Western societies as significant components of communication theorization. In this article, the author presents a normative Arab-Islamic perspective as a basis for future communication theory building in the Arab-Islamic context. Drawing on the notion of “Worldview,” the Arab-Islamic perspective identifies four antithetical conceptual constructs that bear on the nature of communication: individualism-conformity, transcendentalism-existentialism, intuitive-rational processes, and egalitarianism-hierarchy. The author concludes that Arab-Islamic communication patterns are formalistic, indirect, hyperbolic, asymmetrical, metaphysical and orally biased.

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, pages: 93-104

This paper presents an analytical framework for a reading of the Thought News project as an attempt to democratize the means of mass communication. The project was a creative endeavour of a former journalist Ford, and the American pragmatists, Dewey, Park, and Mead to set up an accessible newspaper about complex social processes. Because of its emphasis on the conditions of information diffusion as integrative and on the possible social bearing of theoretical knowledge, the project represents a typical nineteenth century reflection on mass communication. In this sense, it is comparable to the contemporaneous theories of Tarde and Schäffle, who similarly sought to improve the performance of the press. Arguably, central concerns of the project have not been obliterated by the new communication technologies, but persist instructively for our present uses of them.

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