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Conceptualizing European Public Spheres. General, Segmented and Strong Publics


  • Erik O. Eriksen


The development of post-national democracy in Europe depends on the development of an overarching communicative space that functions as a public sphere, viz., a common room created by speakers who are discussing common affairs in front of an audience. This is a place where opinions ideally are formed and changed according to a communicative mode or interaction. The point of departure is Habermas' seminal work on the public sphere from 1962. The author examines the aptness of his recent reformulation of the concept (1992/1996), which is found to be too 'thin'. Further, he distinguishes between a general public sphere, segmented publics and strong publics and clarifies their potential conduciveness to democratic government. General publics are inclusive and open communicative spaces rooted in civil society in the periphery of the political system. Such a sphere is found wanting at the supranational level in Europe. Rather what is discovered are transnational, segmented publics evolving around policy networks constituted by the common interest in certain issues, problems and solutions. The EU also has many strong publics, viz. legally institutionalized discourses specialized on collective will-formation close to the center of the political system.

Suggested Citation

  • Erik O. Eriksen, 2004. "Conceptualizing European Public Spheres. General, Segmented and Strong Publics," ARENA Working Papers 3, ARENA.
  • Handle: RePEc:erp:arenax:p0020

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    Cited by:

    1. Brüggemann, Michael & Sifft, Stefanie & Kleinen von Königslöw, Katharina & Peters, Bernhard & Wimmel, Andreas, 2006. "Segmented Europeanization: the transnationalization of public spheres in Europe ; trends and patterns / Michael Brüggemann; Stefanie Sifft; Katharina Kleinen," TranState Working Papers 37, University of Bremen, Collaborative Research Center 597: Transformations of the State.
    2. Stefanie Sifft & Michael Brüggemann & Katharina Kleinen-V. Königslöw & Bernhard Peters & Andreas Wimmel, 2007. "Segmented Europeanization: Exploring the Legitimacy of the European Union from a Public Discourse Perspective," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45, pages 127-155, March.
    3. Brüggemann, Michael, 2005. "How the EU constructs the European public sphere: seven strategies of information policy," TranState Working Papers 19, University of Bremen, Collaborative Research Center 597: Transformations of the State.

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    democracy; European public space; policy networks; public opinion; supranationalism;

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