There has been of late an increased scrutiny of the internal matters of at a certain corporation and I will not engage in debate regarding the demagoguery of the participants. Instead I’d rather point to the work of Jurgen Habermas and others as a means to demonstrate the futility of engaging the super-capitalist as a participant in the public sphere.
First it may be propitious to the readers of this critique to know that the critique itself is grounded in the belief of the Culture Industry and the degradation of the Public Sphere in modernity. I’ve referenced the culture industry in previous blog entries. The public sphere is the discourse of dialogue held by dispassionate rationalist in an attempt to develop public opinion regarding matters of the state. I use the word opinion here not as it is commonly defined as a massively held belief unfettered by the constraints of reasons but more as the reasoned output of the Public Sphere in determining the course of the state.
If you do not find merit in the suppositions put forth in the theories of the culture industry or that of the public sphere then I suggest you find other material to read. I additionally forewarn the reader that the conclusion of this entry is not intended to lead to any course of action other than perhaps encourage those engaged in rhetoric to consider what probable benefits expressed sentiments have on the competing positions in the debate.
First let us realize that the belief that a separation between the super-capitalist or mass corporation and the state exist in a meaningful way is a fatuous continuation of the modernist utopist dream. I think that even those that Habermas would classify as belonging to the plebiscite public sphere are cognitively enough aware to understand that the capitalist is now the main influencer in our modern democracy. Effectively the exertion of the state to constrain the activities of the private man is now dictated by the super-capitalist vs. the cacophony of the disorganized private homme participating in the barley palpable pulse of the public sphere.
Given the view of a disorganized public sphere no longer is an effective means for developing the opinion of the course of state is an inflammatory accusation leveled at the rightful participants in the public sphere it may be useful to decompose the effectiveness of current communication vehicles for developing the communication action that leads to the public sphere opinion. I postulated that the narrative of the discourse in the blogsphere as a means to form public opinion is not in itself powerful enough to have mass effect on the corporate hegemony of control on the state. Nor are blogs enough to counter the corrosive effect of the culture industry established by the corporate hegemony to meaningfully repopulate the public sphere with rationalist separated enough from the slavery of modernity.
It is important to remember that traditional participation in the public sphere as practice by the bourgeois was that the homme was a private landholder who is not coerced by the state or other private participants to adopt a position. Instead he is free to reason as a peer with others to form the public opinion. I for one would not be perceived as a credible participant in the public sphere on matters relating to the corporation because the existence of my private life is made possible by the super-capitalist to which I must confess an allegiance (willingly or otherwise). Therefore an entry of my opinion into the public discourse regarding the efficaciousness of the current strategies of the corporation is meaningless. The publication of my opinion would either cause irreparable harm to the continued sponsorship of my private life or further engender irrational classification of me as a member of the super-capitalists culture publicist machine.
Thus that leaves me with how do I reason in the public discourse regarding a topic of such visceral interest to the public sphere without appearing to be a remora of the super-capitalist or opening myself to be eviscerated by same capitalist? Tough question and a fine line no less. I think then that the best way to participate is by not participating directly in the particulars of a current eruption but keep focused on my desire to democratize health care.
Indirectly I think I may have contributed by pointing out that rightful heirs of the public sphere should not countenance the publicity communication of the super capitalist but instead look to continue to develop the public opinion regarding the role of the super capitalist in the public sphere. Finally our time should be spent not on deconstructing the discourse of the internal dialogue of the corporation but instead work towards forming opinions on how the corporate should be constrained by the state and thus free the private homme to be freer to participate in the public sphere without fear of recrimination.
3 thoughts on “Of Corporations and the Public Sphere”
At a pretty bohemian Web 2.2 Unconference yesterday someone told the story of a high school that called an assembly and presented various embarrassing MySpace pages belonging to their students. The next day most of the My Space pages were deleted. What surprised me was that the person who brought up the story concluded with an overtly State-dominated remark about children needing to learn responsibility. Sadly, this was followed by murmurs of agreement and a discussion of the role of social media “experts” in “raisng awareness” of the danger of putting the details of your life and, god forbid, your real opinions on the Internet.
I spoke to this point on Daily Kos a few months ago: this is the Puritan Reformation redux, and the exhortations of self-discipline play out as the tyranny of the State:
I usually don’t comment on my own blog but the article referenced by Three Guesses regarding the potential deleterious effects of discoursing in the modern day equivalent of the public sphere (i.e. the internet) reference, perhaps unintentionally, the classical Greek definition of polis (public space).
The article defines a third space as,
Thank you Three Guesses for referencing the article. Coincidently I read the comment shortly after I was thinking about how the geographical location of a public sphere has transformed and shifted from anywhere to narrowly constrained locales. The Daily KOS has the kernel of the truth. The modern day Puritans who cry foul in the street have only changed their clothing but not their message.
Daily KOS, [Third Space]: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/6/12/203540/522
On the bright side, the Puritan Reformation ultimately led to constitutional monarchy and the American Revolution. I guess to be free we have to do the Cromwell thing first. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll get past the Reformation moment in my lifetime. 🙁