Origins of Democratic Culture: Printing, Petitions, and the Public Sphere in Early-modern England

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Princeton University Press, 2000 - History - 291 pages

This innovative work of historical sociology locates the origins of modern democratic discourse in the emergent culture of printing in early modern England. For David Zaret, the key to the rise of a democratic public sphere was the impact of this culture of printing on the secrecy and privilege that shrouded political decisions in seventeenth-century England. Zaret explores the unanticipated liberating effects of printing and printed communication in transforming the world of political secrecy into a culture of open discourse and eventually a politics of public opinion.


Contrary to those who locate the origins of the public sphere in the philosophical tracts of the French Enlightenment, Zaret claims that it originated as a practical accomplishment, propelled by economic and technical aspects of printing--in particular heightened commercialism and increased capacity to produce texts. Zaret writes that this accomplishment gained impetus when competing elites--Royalists and Parliamentarians, Presbyterians and Independents--used printed material to reach the masses, whose leaders in turn invoked the authority of public opinion to lobby those elites.


Zaret further shows how the earlier traditions of communication in England, from ballads and broadsides to inn and alehouse conversation, merged with the new culture of print to upset prevailing norms of secrecy and privilege. He points as well to the paradox for today's critics, who attribute the impoverishment of the public sphere to the very technological and economic forces that brought about the means of democratic discourse in the first place.

 

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Contents

IV
xv
VI
14
VII
17
VIII
31
IX
35
X
40
XI
46
XII
57
XXV
155
XXVI
161
XXVII
170
XXVIII
172
XXIX
180
XXX
193
XXXI
205
XXXII
213

XIII
64
XIV
65
XV
71
XVI
77
XVII
96
XVIII
105
XIX
114
XX
129
XXI
130
XXII
136
XXIII
141
XXIV
146
XXXIII
217
XXXIV
227
XXXV
236
XXXVI
250
XXXVII
253
XXXVIII
258
XXXIX
262
XL
266
XLI
271
XLII
277
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About the author (2000)

David Zaret is Executive Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Sociology at Indiana University. He is the author of The Heavenly Contract: Ideology and Organization in Pre-Revolutionary Puritanism.

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