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Community Media in Transition, Vol. 10 - 2003, No. 1

Counter Public Spheres and Global Modernity

, , pages: 15-32

This article explores the concept of counter public spheres and their relationship to the dominant public sphere. We argue that counter public spheres are increasingly relevant due to particular social and political configurations that mark out a distinct stage of modernity. We suggest that this stage is characterised in particular by the intensification of globalisation, the rise of neo-liberalism and a decline of trust and social democracy resulting in instability in the dominant public sphere. This, along with the ability to forge solidarity between disparate groups and the technological potential to link geographical distances, political causes and to organise translocal protests opens up the possibility of symbolic contest in the dominant public sphere, increased participation in civil society and as a consequence, the extension of democracy. However, this depends on two main factors : (1) the nature of participation – does it simply build on associations of interest that may have arisen out of the individualisation of lifestyles organised around consumption in the market place or is it based on something more than enlightened self-interest? (2) The relative power and ability of counter publicity to break through the increasingly privatised dominant public sphere monopolised by transnational corporations.

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