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In Search of the European Public Sphere: Between Normative Overstrech and Empirical Disenchantment


  • Hans-Jörg Trenz


The attempt to pin down the constitutive elements of the European public sphere is typically marked by ambivalence between normative and descriptive elements. In normative terms, the European public sphere is identified through the standards which should be used to assess the legitimacy of European integration. In descriptive terms, the European public sphere is identified through the actors, institutions, and communicative processes which guide the practice of collective self-understanding of the Europeans. This article argues that the tension between normative standards and legitimating practice should be considered as constitutive for the emergence of a European public sphere. Against recent attempts to define the European public sphere in purely descriptive terms, this implies the need to re-introduce the normativity of the public sphere as part of the dynamics of an evolving communicative space in Europe. It is precisely this practice of legitimation and delegitimation that makes the European public sphere thinkable as a (still unfinished) project and that accounts for its dynamic expansion.

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  • Hans-Jörg Trenz, 2008. "In Search of the European Public Sphere: Between Normative Overstrech and Empirical Disenchantment," RECON Online Working Papers Series 7, RECON.
  • Handle: RePEc:erp:reconx:p0026

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Andreas Follesdal & Simon Hix, 2006. "Why There is a Democratic Deficit in the EU: A Response to Majone and Moravcsik," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44, pages 533-562, September.
    2. Daniel Naurin, 2007. "Safe Enough To Argue? Giving Reasons in the Council of the EU," ARENA Working Papers 11, ARENA.
    3. Erik Oddvar Eriksen & John Erik Fossum, 2002. "Democracy through Strong Publics in the European Union?," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(3), pages 401-424, September.
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    democracy; discourse; European public space; legitimacy; media; normative political theory; public opinion;

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