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Idealist public history

Allmenningen. The history of the Norwegian public

Jostein Gripsrud seems to have departed from what does not fit with the ideal notion of the sensible Norwegian public. Such idealism is dangerous.

(PS. This article is machine-translated from Norwegian)

Norway has got its first public history. This is all the reason to welcome, for at least two reasons: First, the public is an important part of democracy; the press and other media, among other things, act as watchdog, "the fourth state power". Secondly, the public is changing dramatically through digitalization, social media, fake news and paper newspaper death. The structure of the public itself has changed in an unpredictable way. The public is part of democracy, but more than that: It is also an arena where we express ourselves aesthetically, communicate about lifestyle, exercise, food-
recipes, holiday destinations and novels. The public is a space where a jumble of threads is spun between people in every possible area.

Limitation to trouble. Although the media writers in Bergen, led by Jostein Gripsrud, have delivered a brick of a book, the public is so extensive that such a publication may seem like an impossible project: What to do and what to define? We already have press history, literary history, criticism history, women's literary history, Norwegian history, art history, urban history, immigration history, labor movement history, NRK history, church history, the history of the Human Ethics Federation and so on. Is it at all possible to write about the development of the public space as such and what is happening within it? It seems inhumane – and to achieve that, the theme needs to be delimited. For example, one can concentrate on trends or structures in development and thus stay away from the details. Formal conditions for voting rights and political participation are relatively easy to get an overview of. Likewise, the legal terms for freedom of speech, or "freedom of the press," as it was called in the Constitution. As everyone knows, a lot has happened when it comes to voting expansion and public participation since 1814.

There are unexplained gaps in manufacturing, for example, Arne Treholt is not mentioned!

Fiction left out. Half of the book deals with the time after 1945. This is also the arguably most important and best part, where Gripsrud has had a lot. He is good at numbers when it comes to the use of digital media, newspaper publishing and so on. Still, there are unexplained gaps in manufacturing, for example, Arne Treholt is not mentioned! From the arrest in 1984 up to 2010, when it was revealed illegal surveillance of Treholt's apartment in Oscars gate, the spy case has been an important topic of debate – which is thus ignored in this public history. So does Kaj Skagens Bazarov's children from 1983, which triggered a lot of fuss, including a debate at Club 7 where people stood up the walls, as well as a number of chronicles and posts in the press. Kjartan Fløgstad is mentioned only once, but not in connection with the debate at Rockefeller in 1987 about the media-critical book It 7. climate and the exchange of views with Jon Michelet. Fiction that thematically criticizes the public, like Hamsuns Editor Lynge via Niels Fredrik Dahls journalists to Henrik Langelands Prince is in other words a non-issue for the Bergen media writers behind Allmenningen.

Habermas platform. The time before World War II is devoted to much less space than the post-war period, although the period is much larger. The result is then. Well-educated academics like Martin Eide and Anders Johansen have done a good job with the 1800 number based on the premise editor Gripsrud has given them, but much of the material can be read more extensively about in a Norwegian story, a literary story or the four-volume press story Eide even contributed in 2010. The co-authors also do not demonstrate the same commitment to Jürgen Habermas' theory of publicity as Gripsrud kneads in the preface.

As a platform for the production, Gripsrud has chosen the Habermas classic Civil public (1962), on the structural transformation of the public. Where Habermas talked about refugalization and the decay of the public, Gripsrud is more optimistic, at least in the introductory chapter: Development has consisted of increasing democratization, but does not represent a decay, he claims. Nevertheless, the book does not really have a clear conclusion as to the current state of affairs: On the one hand, we have received increasing fragmentation in partial publics, but also greater participation. What this looks like in 10 – 20 years nobody knows, nor does Gripsrud.

Kjersti Stenseng and Jonas Gahr Støre during a press conference
about the Giske case. Photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix

Edge and enlightenment. In my opinion, it was a mistake to try to write Norwegian public history based on Habermas' 55-year-old book. Habermas' concepts of a development from a reasoning to a culturally consuming public are general and are never really discussed by Gripsrud & co. Thus, the application to the historical material becomes problematic. For example, what is a reasoning or deliberative publicity? What is the role of rhetoric – looked down upon by all Enlightenment thinkers – in this picture? Was it actually the case that people reasoned more before and that we now have more entertainment or cultural consumption? The book lacks examples of what a reasoning that shows what "public use of reason" (Immanuel Kant) is for something. Gripsrud has intercepted a wording, but shows poor knowledge of Kant in the book. The latter "What is enlightenment?" (1784) is stated to have been published in the Berlinische Monatsblatt. This journal does not exist. Kant's article was published in the Berlinische Monatsschrift – one of the most famous enlightenment magazines. This says something about Gripsrud's empirical knowledge of the Enlightenment. But shit! – the empirics are not so careful when only the subscription to the normative theory of democracy is in order:

A litmus test inspired by the Giske case shows the extent of the problem: What does Gripsrud & co have to say about the relationship between morality and publicity?

"The questions that have been raised as to whether 'the classical public' ever functioned properly are in themselves irrelevant to the normative power that still exists in the original ideals: freedom of expression, the primacy of the speaker's status, the principled openness of consideration of participation, the requirement for access to state activities and plans, the critical function of the public towards the state, the influence of public opinion on political decisions, the importance of the cultural public for norm formation, and the critical discussion of anything. All of these ideas are considered fundamental to how liberal democracies should work, and consequently they can serve as a critical yardstick for the real state of today's issues of these democracies. "

The normative power of ideals is independent of empiricism! Are they some kind of platonic ideals that are once-in-a-lifetime. Why, as a historian, does one need to operate with such ideals? Can this lead to ignoring facts that do not fit with one's dream dreams? Habermas just criticized himself at this point in the new preface to Civil public from 1990; he realized that the use of an ideal-typical method inspired by Max Weber meant that he had mistaken ideal and reality. But what does Gripsrud do? He ignores Habermas' self-criticism. And of course Weber is not mentioned.

It was a mistake to try to write Norwegian public history from Habermas' 55 year old book.

Moral theme. A quick litmus test inspired by the Giske case shows the extent of the problem: What does Gripsrud & co have to say about the relationship between morality and publicity? Although Bjørnsons A glove (1883) is mentioned so far, we get no insight into the debate the play started and the 1880 number's morality debate. It is hoped that the Mykle case in the 50 century: Terje Rasmussen reproduces in just three pages the public debate, but important secondary literature that the books of Anders Heger and Jan-Erik Ebbestad Hansen are not used.

The issue of morality has always been an important issue in the public. Robert Darnton (not mentioned) has written about how important political power pornography was as a backdrop to the French revolution. In Denmark-Norway, caricatures of the mad king Christan 7's escapades with the prostitute Støvlett-Kathrine were important, just as Struense's love relationship with the queen became a political theme. When Struensee was arrested 17. January 1772, the mob went berserk in the streets of Copenhagen and crushed a number of brothels in moral harness. This is not mentioned in Knut Dørum's article on the public disclosure.

Student Associations. The student community was an important institution and public arena after the foundation in 1813. Here many politicians got their first experience, and the debates were extensively referenced in the newspapers. One cannot compare the institution's public role with the weakened significance of the student community today. The society was split twice, in 1832 and in 1885, both times in relation to moral matters. In 1832, two Bergeners had been on a brothel. One of them had been sprinkled with ink and sent out on the street, making it a public matter. The Welhaven circuit voted for the two to be excluded, while Wergeland supporters voted against. The Welhaven circuit was voted down and left the Society.

In 1885, the Liberal Student Union was founded by those who supported Hans Jæger in the debate about From Kristiania-Bohemia. But Wallem's book on the history of the Student Society is not on the bibliography, and debates in the Student Society are almost not commented on until after World War II! Fredrik Ramm's attack on the recent unusual literature in Morgenbladet in 1931, "A dirty stream flows across the country", and the ensuing debate, is also not mentioned.

The book does not really have a clear conclusion as to the current state.

Dirt needs to. The journalist and editor Steinar Hansson (1947 – 2004) mentioned the publication of the name of a murdered prostitute at Grünerløkka in Oslo in January 1995 as a result of "blood mist" on the desk. After this event, the circulation on Dagbladet dropped, and editor Simensen quickly returned to the Opera. Nor do we hear about the Søviknes case. Has Gripsrud been anxious about what does not fit with the idealist idea of ​​the deliberative, "reasoned" public? Such idealism is dangerous: A good historian must dig into the matter and endure to get dirty on his hands.

Often, Gripsrud cuts theoretical references and pastes them on a historical phenomenon without dissemination. When discussing the sexual revolution, women's liberation and the lifting of the ban on homosexuality et cetera in the 70 century, Kant is cut as a legitimation base: "For those who have the sense of enlightenment and Immanuel Kant's definition of enlightenment as man's ability to turn away" their self-imposed authority ', it is obvious to regard individual liberation as an important aspect of a democratization process. "

But for Kant, it was self-evident that "the beautiful sex" stayed out of the public sphere and that sex was only allowed within the context of marriage.

Pamphlet. Espen Søbye has already expressed in Morgenbladet the wish for this book to be thoroughly discussed in public. Søbye is right in that Allmenningen. The history of the Norwegian public should not be allowed to go unchallenged. However, a criticism made would completely blow the frame for a newspaper review. I have therefore written a critical pamphlet entitled Gripsrud's grip – Public history as an ideology, published on Freigeist Publication.

The book mentioned costs 200 kroner freely sent and can be ordered from

Eivind Tjønneland
Idea historian.

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