Unbounded Publics: Transgressive Public Spheres, Zapatismo, and Political Theory

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This book is about the public sphere and the various ways it has been theorized as a driving mechanism for social and political change. Public spheres are the places where people come together to actively engage in new ideas and arguments, where collective interests and a collective political will are formed, and where social movements and rebellions get their start. Conventionally, the public sphere has been understood nationally_as a body made up of citizens who gather in particular places and times and who speak to the governments that claim to represent them. But increasingly, in light of debates about globalization, theorists are considering the political possibilities for transnational public spheres. The public sphere is generally discussed in either a national or transnational context. Unbounded Publics argues that there has been and can be a different kind of sphere, atransgressive public sphere, one that exists in both contexts at once. Power, politics, and people do not always abide by imagined or legally enforced boundaries. Throughout history, various publics have struggled to hold sway_to wield political influence_and often, these public spheres have been simultaneously national and transnational in important ways. The most self-consciously transgressive public spheres have been formed by structurally disadvantaged people_by those excluded from participation, by those with unstable or partial citizenship, and by those who are neglected or marginalized. Gilman-Opalsky's guiding illustration of the transgressive public sphere in the book is found in the case of the Mexican Zapatistas. This book is a valuable resource for those interested in political theories of the public sphere, globalization, cosmopolitanism, social movements, and political identity. Moreover, the author argues for a vital new way to think about, discuss, and participate in public spheres today. Without transgressive public spheres, Gilman-Opalsky contends, institutions that function both within and beyond national boudaries grow increasingly unaccountable and elude the democratic steering of the people.

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Editorial Reviews

CHOICE, July 2009 - H. G. Reid
This important and timely study rethinks public sphere theory in the 20th century. Gilman-Opalsky provides a thoughtful examination of Habermas, Arendt, and Mills. Furthermore, the author astutely problematizes the prefigured national framework and brings back into focus the unique agency of nonbourgeois public spheres. Highly recommended.
Andrew Arato
This is an excellent piece of research, and, to my mind, an interesting, normative political proposal as well. Gilman-Opalsky has a solid understanding of his sources, is fair in his criticisms, and has an original approach in trying to go beyond them. He brings together contemporary political concerns and theory in quite a convincing way. I am personally quite persuaded by his attempt to overcome the sway of more abstract varieties of currently fashionable cosmopolitanism, the negative results of which have for example contributed to the present near catastrophic situation of the world (via liberal imperialism).
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739124789
  • Publisher: Lexington Books
  • Publication date: 3/1/2008
  • Pages: 382
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Gilman-Opalsky is assistant professor of political philosophy at the University of Illinois.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Acknowledgements Chapter 2 Table of Contents Chapter 3 General Introduction Part 4 I Public Spheres and the National Framework Chapter 5 Introduction to Part I Chapter 6 1 Basic Concepts and Terms: Political Public Spheres and Communicative Power Chapter 7 2 A Prefigured National Framework: Legitimation and the Public Sphere Chapter 8 3 Habermas's Classical Theory in Light of Nonbourgeois Pubilc Spheres Part 9 II Public Sphere and the Transnational Framework Chapter 10 Introduction to Part II Chapter 11 4 "Globalization": A New Topography for the Public Sphere? Chapter 12 5 Transnational Cosmopolitan Public Spheres a Turn Against the National Framework Chapter 13 6 Beyond the National/Transnational Dichotomy: Moving Toward a Theory of Transgressive Public Spheres Part 14 III Transgressive Public Spheres Chapter 15 Introduction to Part III Chapter 16 7 A Different Kind of Public Sphere: The Zapatistas' Transgressive Public Sphere Chapter 17 8 Indigenous Identity and the Recasting of Subject Positions Chapter 18 9 The Case for Transgressive Public Spheres Chapter 19 Conclusion Chapter 20 Bibliography

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