Fake Democracy: The Limits of Public Sphere Theory

Fenton, Natalie. 2018. Fake Democracy: The Limits of Public Sphere Theory. Javnost - The Public, 25(1-2), pp. 28-34. ISSN 1318-3222 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Liberal democracy has been eviscerated, hollowed out from within and emptied of liberalisms many promises that have failed to materialize. Meanwhile inequality has increased exponentially, ecological crisis beckons and the often unaccountable power of elites (in politics, media, finance, corporations etc) increases dramatically. As citizens feel ever more cut adrift from the decisions that make their lives livable so global capital continues to prosper and shape politics. At the same time, the digital age gives us information abundance and unprecedented connectivity. This article will address the critical question: is public sphere theory adequate to the political, democratic and economic crises we now face?
Can a concept so undone really offer a critical perspective suggestive of democratic futures or is it rather holding us back, capturing us in the comfort zones of liberalism offering no more than fake democracy and in the process threatening to hinder critical theory’s ability to better imagine emancipatory futures?

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Identification Number (DOI):



liberal democracy, public sphere, inequality, representation, austerity, trust

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies
Media, Communications and Cultural Studies > Goldsmiths Leverhulme Media Research Centre


1 October 2017Accepted
31 January 2018Published

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Date Deposited:

16 Oct 2017 10:20

Last Modified:

13 Apr 2021 15:55

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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