Republicanism in Mediated Society. A Comparative Analysis on Public and Private Evaluation Guided by the Theory of Symbolic Society

  • Mark Elchardus
  • Kobe De Keere


Philosophical and historical analyses of the relationship between the public and the private sphere suggest that contemporary men and women evaluate public affairs, politics and the state of society-at-large in the light of their private, particularistic concerns. That proposition is evaluated on the basis of the theory of symbolic society. This theory considers the process of detraditionalization as a shift in the mode of social control. From a situation in which the conduct of conduct is based on traditional roles, threat of scarcity and religious belief, societies shift to social control on the basis of, on the one hand a belief in an autonomous subject, on the other new socializing institutions like schools, mass media, advertising, consumption and therapy. When this theory is applied to the distinction between public and private sphere, three implications are drawn: (1) that the evaluation of the state of society and of personal life will be quite distinct; (2) that each of those evaluations is determined by different factors; and (3) that interpretative communities, created by similarities in the level of education and media use, have become more important for the evaluation of the state of society and less important for the evaluation of personal life. These hypotheses, which run counter the expectation that contemporary men and women evaluate public affairs in the light of their private concerns, are tested using multilevel analysis on comparative data of 18 countries (European Social Survey). The analysis shows how European modernization influences the structuring of evaluation of the private and public sphere in the sense predicted by the theory of symbolic society.


Public sphere Private sphere Symbolic society Republicanism Comparative analysis 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sociology DepartmentVrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium

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