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Current History Virtual Issue on Public Spheres

What is the state of the public sphere around the world today? Is it serving its original purpose as a forum in which citizens, through reason, criticism, and debate, may “compel public authority to legitimate itself before public opinion"? The German philosopher Jürgen Habermas described the public sphere in those terms in his seminal account of its origins in eighteenth-century Europe. He argued that the simultaneous emergence of a new property-owning middle class, the periodical press, and Enlightenment ideals combined to create an unprecedented space fo citizen participation in debates on public affairs. But can the public sphere still play such a role in the twenty-first century? In an era of digital communications, information overload, and pervasive state surveillance and cyber-censorship, is it still feasible to hold governments to account by means of rational debate? This collection of previously published Current History articles addresses these questions and more.

New Spaces, New Controls: China’s Embryonic Public Sphere
Volume 114, Number 773, September 2015
Sebastian Veg

The Decay of the Russian Public Sphere
Volume 114, Number 774, October 2015
Alexander Etkind

The Rise and Fall of the New Arab Public Sphere
Volume 114, Number 776, December 2015
Marc Lynch

Latin America’s Elusive Public Sphere
Volume 115, Number 778, February 2016
Philip Oxhorn

The EU’s Democratic Deficit and the Public Sphere
Volume 115, Number 779, March 2016
Jan-Werner Müller

The Rise of Hindu Populism in India’s Public Sphere
Volume 115, Number 780, April 2016
Arvind Rajagopal

Africa’s Emergent Public Sphere
Volume 115, Number 781, May 2016
Ebenezer Obadare
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