Comparing Public Spheres


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Professor John Downey
Loughborough University

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Comparing Public Spheres

  1. 1. Comparing Public Spheres Professor John Downey Loughborough University European University Institute June 2014
  2. 2. The Idea of the Public Sphere • Most famously associated with Habermas but also in C20th Arendt and Dewey; • Roots in an Aristotelian view of active citizenship; • Normative as well as empirical concept – specifying conditions for democracy – the only force permitted is the force of the better argument; • The rise of the public sphere; • And its fall? • The public sphere in flux and subject to change.
  3. 3. Modes of ‘Publicness’ • The everyday – from the coffehouse to the public house ; • The occasional – events, protests; • The mass-mediated; • ‘New media’; • The private and the public; • Intimate sphere; the sphere of the state; and that of business; • Colonization of the lifeworld and the public sphere by economic and political elites; • Ability of journalists to resist pressure from elites; • Ability of resource poor groups to influence agenda; • Mediatization thesis – power of media over politics.
  4. 4. Impact of news impact • Are media the independent or the dependent variable? Cause or effect? Or both? • Media effects? • Agenda-setting: media influence what we think about rather than causing us to think in particular ways; • Complex causation; • Valence and visibility.
  5. 5. Different models of the public sphere • Deliberative – civility, internal pluralism, inclusive; • Liberal – elite driven, civility, restricted pluralism; • Republican – inclusive, external pluralism, uncivil; • ‘Multicultural’ public sphere – inclusive, different modes of discourse; • Which models correspond best to historical and contemporary manifestations of the public?
  6. 6. Comparison as a method • Which unit of analysis? The national? • But that may overlook differences (class, ethnic) differences within the state; • Class-based publics; • And it may overlook transnational publics; • Comparing apples with pommes; • What to count? How to count? • How to explain the results? • Comparisons over time…much less common.
  7. 7. What to measure and how? • Intensity of debate – driven by national elite dissensus; • Political parallelism - varieties; • Economic parallelism – ‘paid news’; • External pluralism – intra-system; • Is greater pluralism always a good thing? • Internal pluralism – intra-institution; • Inclusiveness of debate; • Polarization of debate; • Just the news media or popular cultural forms as well? • Content analysis; • Discourse analysis; • Frame analysis – hard to operationalise for large data sets; • Decline in news consumption.
  8. 8. European versus national public spheres • European Union is referred to the best example of cosmopolitan citizenship; • Limits to this ‘imagined community’? • Also recognition of a ‘democratic deficit’ – distance between citizens and institutions and lack of a European ‘we’; • Can a European public sphere be created that helps to create this sense of we that is essential to a strong democracy?
  9. 9. Institutional versus culturalist approaches • Institutional approach stresses importance of pan-European political and media institutions; • Culturalist approach looks at nationally interlocking ‘national’ public spheres; • But is there much evidence of a sense of ‘we Europeans’ in the different European public spheres?
  10. 10. Berlusconi • Why choose Berlusconi? Seemed to be a figure that united non-Italian European elite in condemnation; • ‘Gaffe’ prone; • Kapo; • How is the conflict framed? Left v Right? Nation v Nation?
  11. 11. What we found? • Discourse intensity much higher in Germany and Italy; • Seen in national terms by both left and right in each country; • Newspapers in other countries see this as an opportunity to use ethno-national stereotypes of both Germans and Italians; • Insult to victims and survivors of the Shoah hardly mentioned! • Essentially national public spheres; • Predominance of ethno-national stereotypes in analysis of European problems – Eurocrisis; • Rise of neo-populism.
  12. 12. ‘We Europeans’ united against ‘the Other’? Turkish accession • Islam and Ottoman Empire used historically as a way to define European, Christian identity; • Identification of frames: • Clash of Civilisations, Christian/ethno-nationalist version; • Clash of civilisations, liberal version; • Multiculturalist frame; • Liberal individualist frame; • Economic consequences.
  13. 13. What we found • Intensity much higher in France, Germany, and Turkey than in USA, UK, Slovenia; • Why? Elite consensus in USA and UK? Distance? Geopolitical reasons? Dominance of multiculturalist frame; • France – dominated by liberal version of Clash of Civilisation; • Germany – ethno-nationalist version of Clash of Civilisation thesis; • Turkey – nationalist frames;
  14. 14. ‘We Europeans’ united against ‘the Other’? The USA • Historical and contemporary reciprocal uses of America and Europe to define identities; • ‘Old’ and ‘new’ Europe and the invasion of Iraq; • Old – social democratic, anti-invasion; • New – neo-liberal, pro-invasion; • To what extent are these frames distributed across Europe?
  15. 15. Sample • Czech Republic, Germany, France, Slovenia, UK, Switzerland, Slovakia; • ‘quality’, finnce and regional/’tabloid’ papers; • Using claims-making method and keyword occurrence; • Network analysis.
  16. 16. What we found • New Europe – UK, Czech Republic, Slovakia; • Old Europe – France, Germany, Slovenia; • Prominence of national sources in each country; • Leaders and followers – hierarchy of influence; • Old Europe network and a new Europe network; • Explanations: media as dependent and independent variable; • Models of capitalism and impact on public opinion; • Resonates with reporting of Eurocrisis and responses to it?
  17. 17. Debating the European Constitution • Centrality of national elites to debate in each country; • Intensity of debate higher in France and UK: elite dissensus (but over different issues); • Germany relatively low intensity (because of elite national consensus); • Advocacy papers of left and right but they report the same issues and the same people; • Inclusiveness – dependent upon political system – majoritarian systems tend to be more exclusive; • Big differences between elite and popular papers – class-based publics. Not true for other issues eg immigration.
  18. 18. Research Agenda • Uneven rise of neo-populism in EU; • Are ‘traditional’ and ‘new’ media implicated in this? How? • Complex causation with media reporting and new media (possible) causal conditions (along with others: unemployment, living standards, immigration, electoral system, …) • Method: Qualitative Comparative Analysis doing longitudinal analysis.