Content and Style
The Public Sphere explicitly seeks to question everything we take for granted, whether it be the common news stories in national politics or the minutiae of sporting events that we attend. We seek to engage our writers and readers in long-term, critical conversations about daily public life, regardless of individual beliefs or levels of education. The Public Sphere is not a news magazine and will not tell you who won the latest sporting match unless it is pertinent to a critical essay or discussion on the site. We encourage a range of perspectives and insights. All essays strive to use accessible and engaging prose, and they avoid convoluted jargon and technobabble as much as possible. Moreover, we are committed to making explicit the unspoken codes underlying political and social life. We seek to reveal these codes precisely because their implicit quality gives them power, and naming them gives individuals, communities, and public spheres a stronger ability to make informed decisions. In other words, conversing about implicit codes makes real (and radical) democracy possible.
Our specific sections are On Creative Life, On Cultural Life, On the News, On Public Life , and On Religious Life. These sections address a wide range of daily experiences, from fashion to politics to poetry.
Each issue has a specific theme that is explored in a few of our essays. In addition, many of our essays are just thought-provoking explorations meant to be in the public sphere and ignite a conversation that fans the flames of intellectual life in that arena.
The Public Sphere:
Philosopher Jürgen Habermas identified the “public sphere” as the social and political space of rational conversations over politics, business, literature, and social rules. Habermas maintained that physical locations, like coffee houses and salons, were gathering places for people not associated with structures of direct governmental power. In these gathering places, people of varied backgrounds and viewpoints were able to express opinions that mediated between private lives and governmental authority. At the same time, technological advances in the area of publishing (e.g., pamphlets, journals, magazines, newspapers) provided the means necessary for these debates potentially to include individuals from all over the face of the globe. As a realm of critical discussion that existed for its own sake and was subject to no authority save that of the better argument, the public sphere was for a time relatively autonomous from the State, the Church, and even from the forces of market capitalism which made it possible.
While we can question that an equitable and universal public sphere ever existed, the public sphere has been increasingly undermined by a host of corporate industries (e.g., advertising, marketing, public relations, etc.) whose sole task is the manufacturing of public opinion. Rather than being able to participate actively in critical discussions regarding the governmental and corporate management of our lives, far too often, the only role for the public is one of validating decisions that have already been made by those in power. We at The Public Sphere acknowledge the desperate state of our present social institutions, and in this acknowledgement, we seek to reclaim these institutions. We know that at various moments in the past, technological, economic, and intellectual innovations have provided crucial means for the task of imagining a more humane society. Whether such contemporary innovations are to lead to a more humane society is up to us. The Public Sphere is what we make it.
We started this magazine, The Public Sphere, in the hope of providing space on the Internet for reasoned criticism and discussion of all aspects of public life. The Public Sphere is a space where intellectual conversation and interrogation can flourish, where academic knowledge and ideas are valued, but where one does not need to be an academic initiate (and may prefer not to be) in order to participate in the exchange. In accordance with this design, The Public Sphere provides a space of provocative critical conversation open to everyone, regardless of social, cultural, economic, or political location, who is willing to examine that which so often goes undisclosed. This model of discussion can only work if the magazine’s readers take it upon themselves to extend, deepen, and critically examine the magazine’s contributions. As such, all of the essays and articles that we publish have a shared purpose: they strive to start conversations.