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The Public Sphere Essay

1161 words - 5 pages

The Public Sphere
So many definitions are there of the public sphere. One can
range from a scale as small as a township to a scale as large as a
national government. In the earlier post-revolutionary days of the
United States, just what the United States actually was and what it
meant were still being defined. Now that the revolution was over,
words such as nationalism and patriotism must be redefined. Many
politicians, political groups, and the general public all desired to have
a say in what they believed to be the true nature of this newly formed
country. The best way to do this, of course, is in a public format
where people could listen to the opinions of others, or retort and give
opinions of their own. Parades or processions were an effective way
of a public showing of opinion; they were highly publicized and very
visible. Now, however, they were newer, more advanced ways that
ones ideas could get around to many more people than before. The
printing press was perhaps the greatest manner in which ideas
spread. Events such as the aforementioned parades or processions
could now be reported on, as could public debates between candidates
standing for office, social dinners and the toasts which were proposed,
pamphlets could be printed, and an abundance of other social
happenings. The question of exactly how these parades and print
culture affect American’s views of nationalism yet remains. However,
what is for certain is that these two aspects of early,
post-revolutionary America greatly advanced the bringing forth of
political ideas into the public sphere.
What print actually accomplished was the spreading of ideas to
a greater number of people. This was also quite a benefit because the
amount of people who were taking interest in political issues was
growing as well. Now, politics was not an issue to be delt with solely
by the upper-class. David Waldstreicher in writing about the effect
that print had on public celebrations, such as parades, states
Through the new media of journalism, urban festival
reached an expanding audience. . . Even the new, bourgeois
public sphere can be seen as a locus for relating and debating
the deeds of a politically active populace (20).
Everybody was getting involved. While these people debated the new
meaning of nationalism, among other issues, just the fact that more
and more people were partaking in these events was part of that new
definition of nationalism.
At a first glance, it may be difficult to see the importance of a
parade or other sort of celebration in political terms. However, they
were a phenomenal way to express a political idea, to try to get other
people to jump on ones political bandwagon, or most importantly, to
incite political action. Waldstreicher writes “...celebration, which may
appear to us distanced, second-hand and unconnected to real life or
politics, seemed at the time...

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