The Sociology of the Public Sphere - 2017

Unit summary


  • Level of Study: Undergraduate Level 3
  • Study load: 0.125 EFTSL
  • Delivery method: Fully Online
  • Prerequisites: Yes
  • Duration: 13 weeks
  • Government loans available: FEE-HELP, HECS-HELP
  • Availability for 2017: Sem2
  • Assessment: Essay - Tutorial essay (15%) , Journal - Weekly journal (35%) - Learn more

Unit provided by

2017 Fees
Domestic 793.00
HECS 793.00
International 1,043.00

This unit was previously known as SGY320 The Sociology of the Public Sphere.

Today we are struck by an apparent loss of the will and the capacity to build solidarities between strangers in a world that is deeply divided by differences. The effort needed to build common ground, to arrive at shared interpretations of interests and to agree on the general significance of problems is dangerously lacking. In place of the effort required to build solidarities across differences we often resort to easy bonds forged defensively around our differences.

Are the chickens coming home to roost? We might suppose that the Global Financial Crisis and more recent state financial crises testify to deep and widespread traumas that are set in train when we fail to plan around shared futures. So too real threats to the sustainability of our planet highlight the urgency of a planned response to risks that confront us all.

So where does this leave us? Are we faced with a zero sum game between private concerns and public interests? Namely, do we have to sacrifice our private interests as we try and build common ground with others? Perhaps we can look at the challenge differently. Rather than pitting private and public interests against each other we can turn to a democratic mode of integration that gives private concerns a vital role in negotiating the character of common interests. This is the ideal of a modern democratic public sphere.

SOCX329 will explore the modern public sphere as an embattled but vital cultural potential of liberal democratic histories.

At the completion of this unit students will:

  1. have familiarity with fundamental concepts and issues informing current debates within the sociology discipline
  2. be able to move between general theoretical and focused empirical materials relating to the public sphere.
  • Essay — Tutorial essay (15%)
  • Journal — Weekly journal (35%)
  • Online Discussion — Weekly Online Discu and Report (15%)
  • Research Essay — Major research essay (35%)

Equivalent units

You cannot enrol in this unit if you have successfully completed any of the following unit(s) because they are considered academically equivalent:

  • SGY320 — The Sociology of the Public Sphere

You must complete Level 1 and 2 studies in Sociology or International Relations before starting this unit.

This unit addresses the following topics.

1What is the public sphere and what's happening to it?
2Democratic solidarity: Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1858)
3Internal threats to the public sphere
4Market society and the public sphere
5Prospects for the contemporary public sphere
6The structural transformation of the public sphere
7A theory of communicative rationality
8Reviving the public sphere
9Eva Cox: Australia as a truly civil society?
10Politics for the ranter and the individuality for the shopper?
11Democracy and the internet
12Mass media and the public sphere

This unit is delivered using the following methods and materials:

Instructional Methods

  • Discussion Forum/Discussion Board
  • Online assignment submission
  • Standard Media

Online materials

  • Resources and Links

This unit is an approved elective in the following courses:

This unit may be eligible for credit towards other courses:

  1. Many undergraduate courses on offer through OUA include 'open elective' where any OUA unit can be credited to the course. You need to check the Award Requirements on the course page for the number of allowed open electives and any level limitations.
  2. In other cases, the content of this unit might be relevant to a course on offer through OUA or elsewhere. In order to receive credit for this unit in the course you will need to supply the provider institution with a copy of the Unit Profile in the approved format, which you can download here. Note that the Unit Profile is set at the start of the year, and if textbooks change this may not match the Co-Op textbook list.
This unit does not have a prescribed textbook(s).

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