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The media often talk about public opinion, the 'American' or 'British' public, or the movie-going public. A public can hold an opinion and be divided. What is the public and where did it come from? Is there one public or many? Is the very idea of the public a myth?
In this fascinating book, Alastair Hannay explores these questions and unpacks a much talked about but little understood phenomenon. He begins by tracing the origins of the public back to ancient Rome, before arguing that the idea of a public sphere is closely linked to the birth of democracy in the eighteenth century. He also reflects on the Enlightenment and the origins of public opinion, as well as considering the role of the media in creating and manipulating the public, and asks whether the very idea of the public might be uprooted and undermined by the Internet and global technology.
Engaging and controversial in equal measure, On the Public also draws on famous thinkers who have written about the public, such as Kierkegaard, Hannah Arendt, John Dewey and Jürgen Habermas.
'Hannay's provocative book points out that the potential of the public lies in its ability to stop observing and start acting…to become…an agent of change that can make politicians sit up and listen' Times Literary Supplement
'Philosopher Alastair Hannay's On the Public … is an interesting short guide.' - New Scientist
'Three of the first batch deserve high praise: On Immigration and Refugees, by the great logician (and campaigner for racial equality) Michael Dummett; On Belief, by that master of postmodern paradox, Slavoj Zizek; and On the Internet by Hubert L Dreyfus.' - Boyd Tonkin, The Independent
'This is clearly an important series. I look forward to reading future volumes.' - Frank Kermode, author of Shakespeare's Language
'Both rigorous and accessible.' - Humanist News
'The series looks superb.' - Quentin Skinner
'An excellent and beautiful series.' - Ben Rogers, author of A.J.Ayer: A Life
"Routledge's Thinking in Action series is the theory junkie's answer to the eminently pocketable Penguin 60s series.' - Mute Magazine
'Routledge's new series, Thinking in Action, brings philosophers to our aid.' - The Evening Standard
'A welcome new series by Routledge.' - Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society
Thinking in Action is a major series that takes philosophy to its public. Each book in the series is written by a major international philosopher or thinker, engages with an important contemporary topic, and is clearly and accessibly written. The series informs and sharpens debate on topics as wide ranging as the internet, religion, the problem of immigration and refugees and the way we think about science. Punchy, short, and stimulating, Thinking in Action is an indispensable series of books for anyone who wants to think seriously about major issues confronting us today.
Edited by Simon Critchley, New School University, USA and Richard Kearney, Boston College, USA