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The Masks of the Political God by Luca Ozzano

New Perspectives on the European Public Sphere

Civil Society
European Union
Political Participation
Political Theory
Political Sociology
Panel Number
Panel Chair
Hakan G. Sicakkan
Universitetet i Bergen
Panel Discussant
Slavko Splichal
University of Ljubljana

24/08/2018 14:00 - 15:40
Building: VMP 5 Floor: Ground Room: Lecture Hall B2
This panel aims to address the recent changes in the formation of a European public sphere after the onset of the latest financial and political crises and identify the consequences of these for the theory of transnational / European public sphere.

The past two decades witnessed discernible manifestations of a global system change. Post-Cold War changes in global power affairs aside; international contestations and tensions over control of global capital, access to natural resources, migration flows, and climate change are sternly intensifying, and the rise of inequality across and within the world’s regions and countries is accelerating. As a corollary, the social and political conflict structures that have been shaping countries’ party systems in the postwar era are rapidly transforming into new polarizations, crafting politicization around unprecedented political cleavages. The new political cleavages threaten the fabric of democracy, not least by rendering populist autocracy and extremism legitimate in the minds of many citizens and bringing back populist political parties into political power equations more ominously than ever before in the postwar period. The new political cleavages transfigure the grip of nation states by re-scaling structural conflicts beyond state boundaries. In the midst of this process, we observe the tensions between globalism, nation-statism and nativism grow into top-down and bottom-up dynamics that play a constitutive role in new assemblages of transnational publics and formations of new transnational public spheres.

Do we have conceptual and methodological tools that capture the new transnational transformations in Europe? When modeling the formation of a European public sphere, mainstream theories offer four intertwined ideas: 1) Europeanization of national public spheres, 2) domestication of Europe, 3) expanding overlaps between national public spheres, and 4) increasing interconnectedness between national public spheres, enabling timely responses by all parts to stimuli received or produced by one of the parts. Currently, the dominant model leans on the Habermasian dictum that a European public sphere can only materialize through Europeanization of national public spheres.

The four models implicitly presume that national public spheres will gradually diminish and be replaced by a Europe-wide transnational public sphere through Europeanization, domestication, overlaps, or interconnectedness. However, the political crisis of the European Union, epitomized by exits, opt-outs, autocracy, and extremism and populism, revealed a continuing presence of national publics and public spheres despite sixty years of rigorous efforts at building a European public sphere. The crisis also revealed an interdependent and agonistic co-existence of various contesting publics, and their public spaces, along with the European public sphere, i.e., other public spheres did not deteriorate with the rise of a European public sphere.

What do these observations mean for the theory of European public sphere? Do the mainstream models capture the ongoing transformations and their potential consequences? Are there transnational public sphere formations and forms in Europe not foreseeable or observable through the mainstream models? If so, what are they?

Researchers who offer empirical findings or conceptual approaches that reify or challenge the current models, or that imply alternative ones, are invited to join this panel.

Paper List

Title Details
Can Euroscepticism Contribute to a European Public Sphere? The Europeanization of Media Discourses About Euroscepticism Across Six Countries View Paper Details
New Forms of Transnational Public Sphere in Social Media? View Paper Details
The Representation of EU Citizens During Times of Crisis: An Analysis of the British Newspaper Coverage During Brexit View Paper Details
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