The Tragic Turn in the Re-imagination of Publics

  • Marinus Ossewaarde
  • Published 2010


In several recent presidential addresses of the American Sociological Association, it has been argued that sociologists should regenerate and get involved in what public sociologists call the ‘publics’, in order to promote critical and reflective discourses (Gans 1989; Adams 1998: 20-21; Piven 2004; Burawoy 2005a). A public, according to C.Wright Mills’ definition, is an arena in which the required physical (communication facilities) and intellectual (ability to think and argue) conditions for democratic debates are present (Ossewaarde 2007). These discussions result in well-informed opinions, which in turn find an outlet for effective action, even against the prevailing system of authority, if necessary (Mills 1956: 303-4). Through such conversions and ‘reflexive selfexamination’ (Gouldner 1976: 215), people, like students, media representatives, citizens and so on, can better comprehend social patterns of oppression and delusion, and also act accordingly. Publics are ‘webs of critical discourse’ which contribute towards the formation of the democratic will of ‘lay citizens’, who can directly and competently get involved in the political process of determining the paths along which the world is to develop (Emirbayer and Sheller 1998). The hope of public sociology is, in Mills’ words (1956: 299), ‘that truth and justice will somehow come out of society as a great apparatus of free discussion.’

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Ossewaarde2010TheTT, title={The Tragic Turn in the Re-imagination of Publics}, author={Marinus Ossewaarde}, year={2010} }