View Full Document


Unformatted text preview:

The Public and its Problems From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia The Public and Its Problems is a book by John Dewey an American philosopher written in 1927 In this work Dewey touches upon major political philosophy questions that have continued into the twentyfirst century specifically can democracy work in the modern era Is there such a thing as a public of democratic citizens or is the public a phantom as journalist Walter Lippmann argued in his 1927 book The Phantom Public to which The Public and its Problems was a response Dewey s Argument Dewey begins his argument by distinguishing between the state represented by elected lawmakers and the public the diffuse often incoherent body of citizens who elect the state The public is called into being when ordinary citizens experience the negative externalities or consequences of exchanges beyond their control such as market or governmental activities A public then is made up of citizens whose common interest is focused on alleviating these negative externalities through legislation in fact Dewey argues that a public does not actually exist until a negative externality calls it into being Dewey asserts that this occurs when people perceive how consequences of indirect actions affect them collectively Indirect extensive enduring and serious consequences of conjoint and interacting behavior call a public into existence having a common interest in controlling these consequences Dewey 126 Hence a public only develops when it has a reason and comes together around an issue of substantial or serious significance In the second half of The Public and its Problems Dewey concedes to the arguments of adversaries of modern democracy such as Walter Lippman by describing all the powerful forces at work that eclipse the public keep it from articulating its needs For example Dewey explains how special interests powerful corporate capital numbing and distracting entertainment general selfishness and the vagaries of public communication make effective public deliberation difficult Whereas Walter Lippman believed that the public had little capacity to be a rational participant in democracy and was essentially nonexistent Dewey held a more optimistic view of the public and its potential Dewey did not call for an abandonment of the public rather he hoped the public would regain a sense of self The solution to this he writes is improved communication Only then with communication will the public find itself and become a cohesive group In addition to Dewey s proposition that the public cannot find itself because there are too many publics he also blames the distractions of modern society He points out that even in the past the public has had other concerns than politics Political concerns have of course always had strong rivals Dewey p 137 In discussing the distractions of the past Dewey explains that those distractions are far more prevalent and bountiful in today s society He cites technology as the main perpetrator He uses examples of the movie cheap reading matter and the motor car as drawing peoples attention away from politics These technologies Dewey explains are far more desirable topics of discussion for the everyday person than the latest political news Unfortunately Dewey does not give a solution to the problem of technology taking away from interest in political affairs However Dewey does have hopes that society can someday use its technology to improve communication and thus improve public interest in politics Furthermore he asserts that local community is where democracy must happen so that people can become active and express issues of public concern In this way the local community can become the Great Community He writes Without such communication the public will remain shadowy and formless Till the Great Society is converted into a Great Community the Public will remain in eclipse Communication can alone create a great community Dewey 142 The Public and Its Problems does much to stimulate thought on this vital issue that still plagues contemporary society References Asen Robert The Multiple Mr Dewey Multiple Publics and Permeable Borders in John Dewey s Theory of the Public Sphere Argumentation and Advocacy 39 2003 Bybee Carl Can Democracy Survive in the Post Factual Age Journalism and Co mmunication Monographs 1 1 Spring 1999 29 62 Dewey John 1927 The Public and its Problems New York Holt The Phantom Public From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia The Phantom Public is a book written in 1927 by journalist Walter Lippmann in which he expresses his lack of faith in the democratic system arguing that the public exists merely as an illusion myth and inevitably a phantom As Carl Bybee wrote For Lippmann the public was a theoretical fiction and government was primarily an administrative problem to be solved as efficiently as possible so that people could get on with their own individualistic pursuits 48 Context The Phantom Public was written following Lippmann s experiences observing the manipulation of public opinion during World War I It followed his better known work Public Opinion 1921 and moves further toward disillusionment with democratic politics The book provoked a response from philosopher John Dewey who argued in The Public and its Problems 1927 that the public was not a phantom but merely in eclipse and that a robust democratic politics is possible Today this debate between Lippmann and Dewey continues to be important for the critique of contemporary journalism and press critics such as New York University s Jay Rosen invoke it to support moves toward civic journalism Lippmann s Argument in The Phanto m Public Lippmann argues that public affairs are really in no way our own affairs and are instead managed at distant centers from behind the scenes by unnamed powers 3 He sees two main problems with the system as it is 1 Democratic theory places completely unrealistic expectations on its citizens to be knowledgeable enough to truly make educated decisions on public affairs He goes on to explain that he believes citizens have been asked to practice an unattainable ideal and that from his perspective he has not met anybody including the President of the United States or a political science professor who comes anywhere near to embodying the acceptable idea of a sovereign citizen 2 Proponents of this traditional democratic theory have mistaken the true goal of democracy He argues that the main goal of democracy is not the process itself but

Access the best Study Guides, Lecture Notes and Practice Exams

Loading Unlocking...

Join to view The Public and its Problems and access 3M+ class-specific study document.

We will never post anything without your permission.
Don't have an account?
Sign Up

Join to view The Public and its Problems and access 3M+ class-specific study document.


By creating an account you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use

Already a member?