The Public Sphere

  • Dorothea BaurEmail author
Part of the Issues in Business Ethics book series (IBET, volume 36)


The goal of this chapter is to find a conception of the public sphere which ascribes NGOs an important role as political actors, particularly in the postnational constellation and particularly vis-à-vis corporations. The term is again assessed from a liberal and a deliberative perspective. The liberal model defines the public sphere as the political sphere in which only questions of constitutional essentials and basic justice are discussed and decided. This relatively narrow conception excludes NGOs which promote claims that are not (yet) considered as matters of basic justice from assuming a meaningful role in the public sphere. In the postnational constellation the narrow liberal focus poses additional problems given the absence of a global constitution. The deliberative model, by contrast, conceives of the public sphere as a network of communications where rational will-formation is achieved. The public sphere is thus an emancipatory space where citizens are empowered and can create pressures for legitimization towards both, the state and the economy (i.e., corporations). Deliberative democracy can equally conceive of a public sphere on a transnational level because it defines political action not by the locus or the actors involved but by the discursive character of their interaction. As such it provides a valuable perspective for the interaction between NGOs and corporations in the postnational constellation.


Public sphere Constitutional essentials Force of the better argument Transnational communication Cosmopolitanism Emancipatory space 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of St. Gallen, Institute for Business EthicsSt. GallenSwitzerland

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