Pragmatic “Fusion of Horizons” and New Babel Building: Rhetoric of the Public Sphere in the Transnational Era

It is increasingly interesting when I read transnational professional communication together with Habermas and Fraser’s public sphere theories. I am so excited! The newly posted “Transnationalizing the Public Sphere” is quite appealing to me. Because I am from a socialist nation that actually practice capitalism to some extent, I am quite interested in how human beings communicate under the postmodern context. This is especially interesting when new media and the internet engage us all in a global public sphere. I can feel this trend of transnationalism even inside myself, my own identities, and my ideal that all human beings are going to understand more about each other in our era.

Fraser’s idea that the post-national, postcolonial, multicultural, globalization demands a transnational public sphere, one that will replace the old fashioned nationalist communication approach. People nowadays have multiple identities, they speak multiple languages, they travel to different territories, they even hold another nation’s ideology, rather than that of their own geographical motherland. We can see this frequently on online forums, social networks, which are the medium of the cultural and ideology flow. Fraser already implied the urgency to engage not only capitalist societies, but also other parts of the world in the research and practice of public sphere. In this new piece Fraser outlined how Habermas’ public sphere is geographically limited to a certain nation’s sovereignty, national economy, national citizenry, national language, national literature, and national infrastructure of communication. In saying this, Fraser summarizes the most salient obstacles that have been undermining global friendship and understanding. However, Fraser’s answer for this huge and promising transnationalism is not in the social movements or the study of transnational public spheres, but first of all in understanding the institutional and normative premises that construct different public spheres, nationality, and transnationally.

Therefore, to Fraser, we should answer a set of questions before we embark on reaching a public opinion because “public” no longer has the same meaning years ago. We have to know our audience affected to make sure that our rhetoric is fair and justice to every audience. We have to consider and weigh the sovereignty of each nation we trouble happens. We have to consider rhetorical situations in our current communication context of transnational public spheres. We have to take into account the power dynamics of each rhetorical situation and the parties affected, and so on. What’s more, Fraser unfolds the mismatches between Habermas’ Westphalian states and todays nation states. We should identify new transnational public powers that can make transnational private powers under control. We should also mark the transnational citizenship and construct more inclusive public spheres for equal dialogues and common interests. According to Fraser, different communities should be included in a dialogue for the sake of true democracy.

Gadamer’s “fusion of horizons,” I believe, is intertextual to Habermas’ “exchange of ideas” in the public sphere, especially in today’s transnational public sphere that Fraser proposes. For Gadamer’s Truth and Method already hints the subjectivity-intersubjectivity issue, which can be understood further as national-transnational logic. Therefore, the rhetoric of the public sphere is pragmatic to current ethics. If Habermas’ public sphere is Utopian, then the transnational public sphere is not. We can confirm this by looking at any chaotic newspaper forum or comment column and find tons of examples to prove that we need such a pragmatic approach to reach consensus and mutual understanding.

By the way, thank you Dr. Holmes for sharing such an interesting piece! I even had fun reading the French and German version, though I only know a few words of German. Haha. I found “In the World of Public Sphere? Or, the World of Fragments” interesting, too. 


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. ajholmes
    Mar 05, 2013 @ 17:48:45

    Glad you enjoyed this piece, Belle!


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