From counterpublics to minipublics (P2P in Australia 1)

One of the advantages of touring the world for lectures, is that you are meeting many interesting people.

Australia has been the occasion for a particularly rich series of encounters.

Our first meeting was with Brian Martin at the University of Wollongong. Brian is an advocate for nonviolent tactics, with a particular interest in the principle of backfire, i.e. when your enemy makes a big tactical mistake that is profitable for your case, as for example the Dr. Haneef case which undermines the legitimacy of the security legislation of the Australian government. He is particularly known for his studies and defense of whistleblowers, i.e. citizens who report on the wrongdoings of their employers.

I also had a most interesting conversation with the co-author of his book, Random Selection in Politics, (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999), i.e. Lyn Carson. An expert in deliberative democracy , she makes the most interesting distinction between counter-publics and minipublics:

Here is a quote explaining the difference:

Deliberation pertains to minipublics, not counterpublics:

Collective action is usually birthed in “oppositional consciousness” which is converted to “counterpublics” — i.e. a public that is created outside what we commonly think of as a public. Such counterpublic has a specific sets of interests that differ from the general interest and for which it tries to find influence.

But “minipublics are microcosms of the wider public — a sample (often a random sample) brought together to deliberate to show what the wider public would decide if given access to the information which a minipublic receives, and indicating what the wider public would think if given similar opportunities for deliberation.”

Lyn Carson writes that “Deliberations are conversations that matter because they work methodically toward consensus, attempt to build common ground, with an eye to the public interest, rather than self interest. The quality, the depth of these conversations is important and a great deal of effort is expended by convenors, or deliberative designers, to create respectful, educational, purposeful, egalitarian spaces.”

(source: L. Carson, Sydney Democracy Forum: The Democratic Deficit and Australia 29 June)

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.