According to the liberal tradition, the modern individual, at home in its private spaces, regards the public as its outside. The outside is the place proper to politics, where the action of the individual is exposed in the presence of others and there seeks recognition. (This is the notion of the political elaborated by Hannah Arendt in The Human Condition, which she calls the space of public appearance
Public space is civic space. It is the space of civil society, shared by citizens -- individuals who have aquired a public voice and understand themselves to be part of a wider community.
The public spaces of modern society, which constitute the world of liberal politics, tend to disappear in the postmodern world. In the process of postmodernization, such public spaces are becoming increasingly privatized, in the malls, freeways, and gated communities. Perhaps it no longer makes sense to understand social organization in terms of a dialectic between private and public spaces, between inside and outside.
"Consumers are poor substitutes for citizens." Benjamin Barber, in Jihad vs McWorld, argues that the public space of civil society, which he identifies with the democratic nation-state, is equally under attack by the globalizing world of the market as it is by the localizing attacks of fundamentalisms. Indeed, for Barber the obvious oppositions between Jihad and McWorld are dialectically intertwined as attacks on the idea of public institutions. They are not clashes of civilizations, (as Samuel Huntington puts it) but clashes within civilization. And neither side has a stake in democratic institutions, despite the ideological claims about "market democracy." The "freedoms" of consumer choice are essentially private. The apparent widening of individual consumer choices actually shrinks the field of social choices. Choices are only between rival products, and "empowerment" at the food court becomes trivialized into "a choice of toppings." According to Barber, The conglomerates that own McWorld have effectively defeated the public institutions of the nation-state. The world of the theme park, the mall, the fast food chain, have created a form of experience that privatizes what once had been a public sphere.
Yet in the more optimistic world of "Modernity at Large" ( Arjun Appadurai) the effects of mass media and migrations create "diasporic public spaces." "As Turkish guest workers in Germany watch Turkish films in their German flats, as Koreans in Philadelphia watch the 1988 Olympics in Seoul through satellite feeds from Korea, and as Pakistani cabdrivers in Chicago listen to cassettes of sermons recorded in Pakistan or Iran, we see moving images meet deterritorialized viewers." (p.4) For Appadurai, neither images nor viewers fit into circuits or audiences that are easily bound within local, national, or regional spaces.
Arguments for the re-assertion of public space see it as a "product," which is bartered, granted, and loaned to the public. Public space is a contract: The agreement is that public space belongs to them and they in turn belong to the state. For those who have broken the contract, public space is a strategy: to be taken and remade in their own image. (Vito Acconci) "A public space is public when it either maintains the public order or changes it. "You can keep your place, as long as you keep to your place." Public space is not a space in itself but the representation of space...a publicity system which is also a matter of discipline, which can be policed.
Architectural gradations of space into public and private zones might be thought of as a form of striation, to use a Deleuzian concept. Indeed, Deleuze and Guattari caution against the new reassertion of smooth space by multinational corporations -- the world that Hardt and Negri call "Empire."
Is the individual still the locus of the private? Since Freud, the distinction between public and private life can no longer be maintained. The barrier of private life becomes a dungeon of suffering, and the fallaciousness and oversimplification of opposing internal and external, individual and society, body and mind is exposed for all to see.
For feminists, the 'private' is often seen as an ideological prison, isolating women from masculine public life. Feminism becomes a kind of spatial politics. "the dichotomy between the private and the public is central to almost two centuries of feminist struggle; it is, ultimately, what the feminist movement is about" (Carole Pateman, quoted in Rose, Feminism and Geography.)
Domesticated space is culturally constructed, measured, and labled. In this sense, both public and private space are fully domesticated. (See a similar usage of the term in reference to time and technology. ) To read: J. Goody, The Domestication of the Savage Mind, Cambridge U. Press, 1977.
In Leviathan and the Air Pump, Shapin and Shafer describe the way in which Boyle's "matters of fact" were produced in a public space: a particular kind of physical space in which experiments were collectively performed and directly witnessed, (the laboratory as opposed to the alchemist's private and undisciplined closet)and an abstract space constituted through virtual witnessing. In this concept, the public (instituted in the scientific society) is constituted through civil conversation. (see Richard Rorty Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature.) Thus scientific communities form "invisible colleges." (Diana Crane 1972)
collective / individual
"socialist" / "capitalist" ?