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Title:Grassroots and Habermas in West Bend: Some Reflections
Author(s):Peterson, Mark C.E.
intellectual freedom
West Bend Community Memorial Library
Abstract:The West Bend Memorial Library controversy is an instructive example of how the framing assumptions—the ground—of public space have come under attack not only from the re-evaluation of social legitimacy heralded and embodied by an economics-based paradigm but equally from those who stand in opposition to what Habermas characterizes as the bourgeoisie-established criterion of political legitimacy: that is to say, enlightenment rationality. While the grassroots movement in support of the public library ethos stood with the nineteenth century’s enlightenment rationality, the group promoting censorship of LGBTQ-themed materials stood firmly in the more socially relevant, refeudalized, public sphere of the early twenty-first century—one in which the legitimating function of rational discourse has been eroded by opinion and manipulative publicity. This explains why the grassroots effort was itself largely irrelevant to the outcome of events. The library’s autonomy was kept in place not by social or political forces (both subject to refeudalization) but by the law. The grassroots movement to support the library thus illuminates the cracks, or fault lines, resulting from a change in how “public space” (and, thus, public institutions) have come to be understood during the last one hundred years, and, specifically, in the resulting change in modes of sanctioned discourse: specifically, from rational public debate to manipulative publicity.
Issue Date:2014
Publisher:Johns Hopkins University Press and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Citation Info:In Library trends 62(4) Spring 2014: 750-758
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-09-24

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