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The Roots of RadicalismTradition, the Public Sphere, and Early Nineteenth-Century Social Movements$
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Craig Calhoun

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780226090849

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226090870.001.0001

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The Reluctant Counterpublic

The Reluctant Counterpublic

Chapter:
(p.152) Chapter Five The Reluctant Counterpublic
Source:
The Roots of Radicalism
Author(s):

Craig Calhoun

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226090870.003.0006

Liberal theory assumes that private property and political independence are intertwined, a relationship built into classical conceptions of the public sphere during the eighteenth century. Based on this notion, independence grounded in private existence allowed people to reason in disinterested ways about public affairs. Such “bourgeois” thinking was rejected by Karl Marx, who dismissed bourgeois democracy and instead advocated a revolutionary class struggle that would transcend any politics of individual opinions. In contrast, Jürgen Habermas saw unfulfilled radical and progressive potential in the categories of bourgeois democracy. The debate between liberalists and Marxists over bourgeois realities makes it hard to understand radicals such as Thomas J. Wooler, a key voice in English popular radicalism who fought for an integrated public sphere and resigned himself, along with other radicals, only reluctantly to a politics of counterpublics. This chapter explores the response of rationalist intellectuals, often followers of Thomas Paine, to the idea of the public sphere, and how the dominant political public was shaped by exclusion of the most radical voices.

Keywords:   public sphere, Karl Marx, bourgeois democracy, Jürgen Habermas, Thomas J. Wooler, radicalism, politics, counterpublics, intellectuals, Thomas Paine

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