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Title: Global civil society & Rise of the new public sphere the case of climate change the Theoretical Inquairy
Authors: Zubair, Muhammad
Keywords: Social Sciences
Politics & International Relations
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: International Islamic University, Islamabad.
Abstract: Modern state system emerged in post Westphalian Europe. Overarching powers of the pope eroded and nation-state rose as the most powerful structure of new polity at national and international level. The new political arrangement had a triangular system of power distribution to provide legitimacy to the emergent polity. This power structure anchored around ‘state’, with ‘civil society’ and ‘public sphere’ as its imperative elements. State enjoyed monopoly of power over a certain territory while ‘civil society’ emerged as a realm of social life which mediated between ‘individual’ and the ‘state’. ‘Public sphere’ refers to the arena of our social life in which public opinion is formed. Public sphere is a space between civil society and state and with the help of ‘public opinion’ it brings ‘state’ and ‘civil society’ in touch with the wishes of the public. It provides legitimacy to the existing political systems. Public sphere is an instrument that civil society uses for mediating with the ‘state’ in order to win favors for public issues. Jurgen Habermas articulated the rise and fall of public sphere in 18th Century. British coffee houses, French saloon and emerging social clubs provided the physical space for the generation of rational critical debate. Principle of objective information was the basis of public sphere. Habermas ideal type ‘public sphere’ anchored around national press which carried the ‘public opinion’ from one part of the state to another. Access to all, universality, common interests, and inclusivity were the distinctive characteristics of Habermas public sphere. It had three structural preconditions; 1) press 2) civil society 3) addressee (state) of public opinion. Habermas argues that commercialization of life brought an end to ‘public sphere’. Citizens transformed into mere investors, consumers and workers marking a decline in civic engagement. However, with the dawn of current wave of globalization stimulated by modern information and communication technologies, the Westphalian structure of power distribution is viii undergoing change. A variety of processes conveniently labeled as ‘globalization’ has intensified the interconnections between ‘states’, ‘civil societies’ and ‘individual’ starting a new era of unmatched ‘interdependence’. These processes are transforming the triangular power structure anchored around ‘state’, ‘civil society’ and ‘public sphere’. This thesis explored this shift in polity in general and the transformation (and revival) of the public sphere in particular. The thesis is a mix of normative and empirical research. After taking the theoretical issue of polity transformation and the revival of the public sphere, the research looks for empirical evidence by exploring the developments on the issue of climate change, to see the reflections of theoretical developments on ground. The thesis presents a framework for the transformation of polity from local to global and explicates the revival of public sphere within this framework; particularly the public sphere on the issue of climate change and presents a theoretical model for transnational public sphere. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are supposed to have the potential to revive the public sphere. This research evaluated this potential of ICTs and argues that a ‘new public sphere’, anchored around modern communications networks has emerged. It fulfills the structural conditions of the Habermasian model of public sphere; 1) global communication media 2) global civil society 3) addressee (governance networks) of global public opinion. However the distinctive characteristics, problems and prospects of this ‘new public sphere’ are entirely different from Habermas ‘ideal type’ public sphere. The bourgeois public sphere existed in a ‘nation-state’, having an industrialist economic orientation and social system that reflected values of that age. The post industrial society or put it in another way ‘information society’ is drastically different from that of its predecessor. It is shaping its own political, economic and social systems based on the principles of ‘knowledge’ and ‘networking’. As a result the public sphere of this society is ix unprecedented. This marks a paradigm shift. For example, Habermasian definitions of ‘public’, ‘press’ and ‘common interest’ are delimited by the contours of ‘nation-state’, today the intensified connectivity and diminishing significance of territorial boundaries demands revisiting of such concepts within a new framework. The research envisages the rise of a transnational public sphere which is shaping public opinion about the mundane contemporary issues like climate change through a variety of ICTs tools. The prominent features of ICTs include ‘speed’, ‘affordability’, ‘interactivity’ and power to ‘integrate’ technologies. Internet, cell phones and interactive radio have been the important tools of global civil society for motivating public about climate change in various parts of the world. Though, ‘access to internet’ is not universal, however it is argued that members of global civil society actors like Climate Action Network (CAN) are reaching billions of citizens through cell phones and interactive radios, the fact which is often ignored in existing researches. The thesis documented such evidence of ICTs potentials and actual uses of ICTs by INGOS to further the cause of climate change issue.
Gov't Doc #: 1612
Appears in Collections:PhD Thesis of All Public / Private Sector Universities / DAIs.

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