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Systemic Practice and Action Research

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 369–386 | Cite as

Revitalizing the Public Sphere: The Current System of Discourse and the Need for the Participative Design of Social Action

  • Doug Walton
Original Paper

Abstract

Public discourse in Western democracies, particularly in the United States, is far from the Habermasian ideal of citizens engaging in a rational discussion of public affairs. Rather than providing an arena for informed deliberation, the growing expertise of the media, lobbyists, and politicians has sub-optimized the current system of discourse to focus on emotional manipulation and the creation of polarized interests, each competing with each other for dominance. Avoiding a potentially disastrous outcome from this unbalancing of public discourse requires a revitalization of the public sphere and a return of the citizen voice in public decision making. To that end, systems thinkers have a tremendous opportunity and can play an important role. This article will explore the current challenges facing public discourse and outline that potential role.

Keywords

Public sphere Social systems design Public discourse Bela H. Banathy The Agora Project 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Saybrook Graduate School and International Systems InstituteLivermoreUSA

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