Though some forums may be more receptive more often than others to the expression of alternative perspectives, any forum at a particular moment may host a variety of discourses. Moreover, viewing particular fora as necessarily counter discounts the possibility that discursive engagement may disrupt operative norms and engender counterdiscourses in ostensibly wider public spheres. My example of this second possible reduction concerns a specific case of critical valorization. In this instance, critical appreciation of a cultural artifact-the television talk show-extends beyond an appreciation of the artifact in its historical context to assert the claim that the site of the television talk show (indeed, the television studio itself) necessarily produces counterdiscourse. Lauding a new cultural formation, Paolo Carpignano, Robin Anderson, Stanley Aronowitz, and William DiFazio (1993)view the television talk show as a site of critical oppositional discourse. Carpignano et al. argue against a view that attributes a decline in politics to its descent into spectacle. They insist that spectacle has always informed politics, but that political elites have maintained their prominence by enforcing a structural separation between themselves as message sources and the public as docile audience members. Carpignano et al. welcome what they regard as a crisis in the spectacle form itself that undermines the separation between performance and audience and calls into question “the very structure of the separation between production and consumption of cultural products” (p. 96). Outlining a typology of publics on television, Carpignano et al. (1993) discern empowerment in the public of the television talk show. In this role, the public casts off its status as passive witness and gains full recognition as protagonist. The talk show enacts a public rite of hospitality that links participants together through conversation. It invites audience members to participate in a communal event. The television frame of the talk show presents a spatial orientation not confined to the visual space of the camera but occupied by the physical space of the show. Editing strives to reveal rather than narrate the place of the television studio. Developments in the talk show format have augmented the shared presence of the genre by situating the public “literally on center stage.” Though the audience-as-public does not appear in a “starring role,” the “show is constructed around the audience” (p. 111). The studio audience participates in writing the show’s script. The talk show produces a new kind of common sense as a product of an electronically defined common place that serves as a public. The talk 433 Communication Theory show format eschews the structure of formal debate. It offers “not a balance of viewpoints but a serial association of testimonials” (Carpignano et al., 1993, p. 115).The electronic space of the television talk show enables the empowerment of a n alternative discursive practice. These discourses d o not have to conform to the dictates of civility or the general interest. They can be expressed for what they are: particular, regional, one-sided, and for that reason politically alive. (p. 116) Carpignano et al. hold that the commotion created by the talk show format does not indicate a trivializing of intellectual discourse. They retort that “what is expressed is not a refusal of knowledge but of expertise” (p. 117).The common sense of the television talk show rejects the authority of the expert and replaces this authority with the narratives of lived experience. Carpignano et al.’s (1993)celebration of the television talk show as a site for alternative discourse practice neglects the ambiguities of any discourse venue. Common sense, which they contrast with elite knowledge, is an important practical knowledge that may spur ameliorative social action, but common sense also may serve as a source of racism, xenophobia, and other prejudices. Moreover, Carpignano et al.’s unnuanced defense of television talk shows elides discursive justification and recognition of diverse views among participants. Referencing a show denounced by some for its Rabelaisian themes, they celebrate its audience contributions as “simply asserted, commonsense, based on their own experience” (p. 118). This endorsement of simple assertion situates audience participation as deeply authentic discourse and relieves participants of any obligation to explain their views to others with regard for others’ interests and experiences. As Lisa McLaughlin (1993)notes, in valorizing the television talk show, Carpignano et al. ignore the ways in which these sites recreate the unequal conditions of the bourgeois public sphere by, for example, enacting a machismo that represents the exclusion of women as an expression of working-class interest. She holds that Carpignano et al.’s approach fails to account for the tendency of a representational apparatus to inscribe dominant discourses alongside alternative ones. In this respect, Carpignano et al. dismiss potentially disempowering tendencies of the television talk show. They insist that the authority structure of the talk show embodied in the host “is not different from that of any informal group” (p. 114). Carpignano et al. engage in reductionism by valorizing the talk show format as a realization, enacted in the place of the television studio, of the electronic medium’s capacity for dissolving distinctions between producers and consumers. 434 “Counter” in Counterpublics A third possible path of reduction lies in topics, but here too it is important to affirm the value of studying how topics enter and circulate within the public sphere. Focusing on the topics that counterpublics have injected into wider public agendas reveals transformations in collective understandings of public and private as well as of the common good. Topics mark movement and engagement and signal the processes through which transformations occur. Moreover, attention to topics discloses a historical record of concerns and interests of persons on the margins. Such attention may discbse various regimes of marginalization. Yet seeking the counter of counterpublics in particular topics commits errors paralleling a priori distinctions of public and private (this time through an opposition of counter and public) that have functioned historically to exclude from public life the needs and interests of some groups. That is, fixing a topic as necessarily counter functions to marginalize interests in a way similar to that by which a “rhetoric of privacy” (Fraser, 1992, p. 131) has functioned historically to exclude the interests of women and laborers. Further, this sort of reduction ascribes a unidirectionalityfrom margin to center-to public discourse that discounts how topics may emerge as concerns of counterpublics only after discursive engagement with wider publics. Engagement may engender the articulation of previously unknown or unrealized interests and issues. To illustrate a potential topical reduction, I evoke as an example the political philosophy of liberalism and attempts to accommodate diversity in a liberal public sphere. A principal concern of liberal political philosophy is the question of legitimacy, that is, how citizens may justify to one another the installment of a political regime and the exercise of power, which entails some coercion. The question of political legitimacy is especially acute in contemporary diverse societies, for citizens hold varied and often competing visions of the good life. A liberal model of the public sphere responds to this situation by positing a principle of neutrality: In legitimation discourses, citizens ought not to advance reasons that assert the superiority of one particular conception of the good over another. Neutrality imposes a moral duty of civility upon citizens that obligates them to conduct their discussions through areas of agreement (Rawls, 1993/ 1996). Theorists have offered different renderings of neutrality. Bruce Ackerman posits a “supreme pragmatic imperative” by which citizens must be willing to engage in dialogue about their views of the good with other citizens whose views may differ. When citizens in dialogue discover disagreements regarding dimensions of moral truth, they ought to pursue a path of “conversational restraint.” Keeping to this path prescribes that 435 Communication Theory we should simply say nothing at all about this disagreement and put the moral ideals that divide us off the conversational agenda of the liberal state. In restraining ourselves in this way, we need not lose the chance to talk to one another about our deepest moral disagreements in countless other, more private, contexts. (1989, p. 17) Rawls approaches the principle of neutrality through the idea of public reason. The content of public reason consists of a political conception of justice that identifies and assigns special priority to basic rights, liberties, and opportunities. The method of public reason entails rules of inquiry that identify principles of reason and standards of evidence in accordance with which citizens determine if substantive principles apply and which laws and policies may best satisfy these principles. Public reason applies to matters of constitutional essentials and basic justice. Legitimacy requires that on these fundamental questions citizens explain to one another how the laws and policies they favor may be supported by the values of public reason. Rawls (1993/1996) instructs that “in making these justifications we are to appeal only to presently accepted general beliefs and forms of reasoning found in common sense, and the methods and conclusions of science when these are not controversial” (p. 224). Citizens may not appeal to nonpublic reason, which precludes appeals to comprehensive religious or philosophical doctrines, or “to what we as individuals or members of associations see as the whole truth” (p. 225). Though citizens hold diverse comprehensive views, they are able to reason together through an overlapping consensus of beliefs and values. A major limitation of the liberal model is that it assumes a priori distinctions of public and private, understood respectively as questions of justice and visions of the good. Public and private are not fixed, content-specific categories that structure the public sphere prior to discourse. Boundaries between “public” and “private” are drawn through discourse even as previously held views of each shape the conditions of their emergence. Public deliberation, in important respects, consists of challenging and redefining accepted notions of the common good. For counterpublics, redefinition is especially important. Benhabib ( 1992)maintains that “all struggles against oppression in the modern world begin by redefining what had previously been considered ‘private,’ non-public and non-political issues as matters of public concern, as issues of justice, as sites of power which need discursive legitimation” (p. 100; see also Cohen, 1988). Fixing an already established ordering of public and private often advantages those in power by silencing the concerns of excluded persons and groups. Liberalism’s defenders attempt to counter this disabling potential consequence by admitting the overlap in public and nonpublic reason as 436 “Counter” in Counterpublics well as shifts in conceptions of public and private. In this admission the indistinct figure of a possible liberal counterpublic emerges, but any such entity seems plagued by the liberal commitment to neutrality. In the introduction to the paperback edition of Political Liberalism, Rawls (1993/1996) reformulates his idea of public reason to permit the expression of reasonable comprehensive doctrines at any time “provided that in due course public reasons, given by a reasonable political conception, a r e presented sufficient to support whatever the comprehensive doctrines are introduced to support” (pp. li-lii). Others insist that public reason is not inconsistent with shifts in understandings of public and private. Evan Charney (1998)contends that “when matters once viewed as ‘private’ come to be seen as proper objects of legislation, such legislation is itself generally justified in terms of public-political values” (p. 99). Problems persist in these acknowledgments. Both responses are silent on the question of how public values themselves undergo transformation. Public and private still appear as discrete and unitary categories. What is missing in each response is a recognition of process, of discursive engagement and struggle among participants in the public sphere. A considerably more fluid model of topical shifts has been developed by G. Thomas Goodnight (1982,1987),who elucidates how argumentative practices and grounds construct topics as personal, technical, and public as well as enact shifts in understanding among these argument spheres. In contrast to the theorists cited above, Goodnight focuses on the communicative qualities of public spheres. Recognition of Exclusions and Articulation of Resolve I have outlined herein possible paths of reductionism in counterpublic theory and criticism. In this section, I discuss how reductionism might be avoided by focusing critical attention on the discursive norms and practices through which participants in the public sphere articulate recognized exclusions. My position is not that discursive norms and practices are the only qualities of counterpublics susceptible to scholarly inquiry. Nor do I wish to provide an ontological basis for counterpublics. Rather, my references support the position that critical attention is most productively focused on the discursive qualities of counterpublics when considering how they set themselves against wider publics or, as my illustration at the end of this section demonstrates, the state. Proceeding not from exclusion but the recognition of exclusion situates counter as a constructed relationship. Foregrounding its construction offers some critical resistance against explicitly fixing or implicitly relying on particular persons, places, or topics as necessary markers of counter status. Framing relations this way evokes an early exploration 437 Communication Theory of the public, John Dewey’s The Public and Its Problems, first published in 1927. Dewey did not discern the public as a pregiven object grounded in the aggregated physical bodies of citizens. Rather, Dewey regarded the public as an emergent body formed through the perception of indirect consequences of human actions and the recognition by affected persons of common interest. The public organized as a state to protect its interests. Dewey defined the state as “the organization of the public effected through officials for the protection of the interests shared by its members” (1927A9.54, p. 33). Yet, the organization of the public as a state established political institutions that persisted of their own momentum and prevented the re-formation of publics and their reorganization in new forms of state. For this reason, “to form itself, the public has to break existing political forms” (p. 31). Of course, Dewey worried that contemporary society suffered the problem of a public in eclipse. He attributed this condition in large measure to the challenges of “the machine age,” which “has so enormously expanded, multiplied, intensified and complicated the scope of the indirect consequences, [has] formed such immense and consolidated unions in action, on an impersonal rather than a community basis, that the resultant public cannot identify and distinguish itself” (p. 126). Dewey’s worry persists in the observations of present-day commentators who warn of the public’s decline amid increasing social complexity. The significance of Dewey’s public for this essay, however, is its emergent quality. As a critical term, then, counterpublic signifies the collectives that emerge in the recognition of various exclusions from wider publics of potential participants, discourse topics, and speaking styles and the resolve that builds to overcome these exclusions. The advantage of a focus on recognition appears when one compares this concept of “emergent collectives” to the subordinate groups that appear in the second, reductionist reading of Fraser’s (1992) description of counterpublics. At first sight, this comparison seems superfluous, for Fraser offers a retort to reductionist readers when she identifies “subordinate social groups” as the participants in the “parallel discursive arenas” of counterpublics (p. 123).The “social” in “subordinate social groups,” however, may be too easily elided and its constructed character obfuscated. Moreover, “SOcial” is no guarantee of recognition, as reification may mask social relations as natural. Emergent collectives fit less comfortably in a conception based on essential group identity. In contrast to subordinated groups, the concept of emergent collectives does not invoke essential identities or the physical bodies of participants in a counterpublic. This concept takes into account that not all members of a subordinated group may be aware of exclusions (especially in cases of unstated rules that disadvantage participants in public 438 “Counter” in Counterpublics deliberation) or committed to overcoming exclusions. Some ostensible members of a subordinated group may have attained positions of privilege in relation to their cohorts. Other people may dissociate their interests from their identity. Black conservatives, for instance, respond to accusations of betrayal by insisting that their identity does not determine their political views. For various reasons, not all members of a historically excluded group may affiliate with counterpublics. Additionally, emergent collectives are not necessarily composed of persons excluded from wider public spheres. This quality facilitates critical attention to coalitions built across difference. Further, emergent collectives account for the circumstance that people may participate in multiple and potentially conflicting publics and counterpublics. Individuals are not always constituents of counterpublics. The associates with whom participants form counterpublics in regard to one episode or controversy may confront them as antagonists on other issues at other moments. Felski (1989) describes the adjudication of difference as a lingering tension for counterpublic assertions of identity. For example, women’s consciousness of membership in an oppressed group “is often attained by a suppression of other forms of difference, an erasure felt most painfully by those whose unequal status and particular needs are suppressed by the fiction of a unifying identity” (p. 168). The concept of emergent collectives permits appreciation of affirmative and potentially emancipatory formations of identity that acknowledge the dilemmas of difference. The articulation of exclusion informing the discourse of counterpublics enables the thematization of functioning yet unstated norms and practices regulating discourse in wider public spheres. The discourse of these wider public spheres may engender processes of reification: The norms and practices that sustain such discourse may be viewed by participants (if reflected upon at all) as natural restrictions. Habermas (196211989, p. 56) explains that the historical bourgeois public sphere perpetuated a fundamental conflation of bourgeois and homme: The bourgeoisie in their role as property owners saw themselves standing in for humanity pure and. simple. The bourgeoisie countenanced the equation of these two identities by presupposing that social and economic conditions offered excluded others an opportunity to attain an autonomous (i.e., propertied and educated) standing. Bourgeois ideology situated the bourgeoisie as best able to advance the interests of the “public.” This ideology supposed that “only they [property owners] had private interests-ach his own-which automatically converged into the common interest in the preservation of civil society as a private sphere” (p. 87). Critical attention to the articulation of exclusion may reveal how counterpublics contrast bourgeois self-satisfaction by taking up exclusion and the practices 439 Communication Theory that sustain it as explicit themes of discourse or imagine themselves explicitly as alternative collectives. Counterpublics may self-reflexively set themselves against some other, wider public. In her discussion of counterpublics, for example, Fraser references the efforts of participants to respond to the neglect of women’s interests in wider public spheres by inventing such terms as “sexual harassment” and “the double shift” and struggling to circulate this discourse among wider publics. In setting themselves against wider publics, participants in counterpublics specify the substance of their relations to these publics. This process of explicitly setting oneself against another recalls scholarly work on the power of discourse to constitute its audiences (see McGee, 1975). In an exploration of the processes through which discourse asserts an oppositional public, Maurice Charland (1987) considers the constitutive rhetoric of the peuple que‘be‘cois.For Charland, the actions of the Que‘becois to gain independence from Canada reveal the existence of social subjects as rhetorical effects. To assert the rhetorical construction of a peuple and its boundaries, however, is not to deny material consequences for those who identify with the peuple. Charland describes “the ideological trick of such a rhetoric” as presenting “that which is most rhetorical, the existence of a peuple, or of a subject, as extrarhetorical” (p. 137). He employs Althusser’s notion of interpellation to explain the power of a constitutive rhetoric: “acknowledgment of an address entails an acceptance of an imputed self-understanding which can form the basis for an appeal” (p. 138). In the case of the peuple que‘be‘cois,Charland examines a 1979 Quebec government white paper that outlined a proposal for Quebec sovereignty while in economic alliance with Canada. The white paper reached back into history to recount a narrative that identified contemporary citizens with the original French settlers of the province as a transcendent collective subject. The white paper unfolded a narrative of historical struggle for selfdetermination repeatedly frustrated by British power and subjugation of the peuple. However, the white paper told a story that remained unfinished: “Within the context of contemporary attempts to secure Quebec’s independence, the White Paper offers a condensed historical narrative of the peuple que‘be‘coisas teleogically moving towards emancipation” (1987, p. 144). Evoking work on constitutive rhetoric as a critical backdrop, my references to exclusion as articulated through discursive practices and norms call attention to the discursive constitution of counterpublics and, more generally, the public sphere. In his recent work, Habermas (1992/1996, pp. 308-314, 360-366; 1992, pp. 442-452) presents a model of a multiple public sphere as the social space generated in the communicative action of widely diversified and relatively autonomous public spheres. 440 “Counter” in Counterpublics Habermas notes that persons engaged in communicative action “encounter each other in a situation they at the same time constitute with their cooperatively negotiated interpretations.” Interlocutors’ reciprocal attribution of individual integrity and freedom proceeds in a “linguistically constituted space.” As a fluid realm, “this space stands open, in principle, for potential dialogue partners who are present as bystanders o r could come on the scene a n d join those present” (p. 3 6 1 ) . Counterpublic spheres, then, signify the social spaces generated in articulations of recognition and resolve. Habermas, however, ascribes an enduring quality to abstracted forms of larger publics. My formulation resists attempts to envision public and counterpublic spheres as entities that sustain themselves beyond particular discursive engagements. Regarding a counterpublic as continually active beyond the discursive engagement of its participants risks reducing the concept to these nondiscursive activities. As a dispersed ephemeral phenomenon, the public sphere manifests in moments of social dialogue and discursive engagement among and across constructed boundaries of social, cultural, and political affiliation. Though particular political arrangements may be more hospitable to the emergence of publics and counterpublics than others (see Schudson, 1994), the public sphere cannot be institutionally secured in any particular governmental chamber or public medium. The multiplicity of the public sphere frustrates efforts to provide it a nondiscursive substance or to locate it in particular institutions. Along these lines, Benhabib (1992) holds that “there may be as many publics as there are controversial debates about the validity of norms” (p. 10.5). The movement toward multiplicity in models of the public sphere recognizes simultaneity, permeability, overlap, diverse affiliation, partiality, and contestation among publics and between publics and counterpublics. Manifest in engagement with wider publics, the resolve of counterpublics to overcome exclusion emphasizes their dialectical movement in the public sphere. Both Fraser and Felski highlight the dual functioning of counterpu blics in their formulations. Engagement of counterpublic discourse with larger audiences constitutes counterpublicity-an activity akin to “going public.” Resolve to overcome exclusions does not indicate a teleology toward recovery of a single, overarching public sphere. The structural inequalities that impact public discourse are far from having been overcome, and the absence of formal exclusions in wider public spheres does not necessarily eradicate varying advantage. Even if one could imagine a genuinely egalitarian society, recognition of sociocultural diversity calls for multiplicity. As Fraser (1992) observes, restricting deliberation in an egalitarian but diverse society to a single, encompassing sphere “would be tantamount to filtering diverse rhetorical and stylistic norms through a single, overarching lens” (p. 126). 441 Communication Theory Moreover, discursive contestation undermines teleological aspirations. Counterpublic gains are not permanent. Their successes may be partial and subsequently undone. Just as counterpublics seek wider circulation of discourse, so t o o may wider publics attem pt t o contain counterdiscourses. Fraser invokes this possibility in her caution that counterpublics are not enclaves but they may be enclaved involuntarily. Emergent publics cannot articulate all possible perspectives in public debates without asserting a dubious discursive totality that presumes knowledge of the needs and interests of others prior to discursive engagement. Exclusion thus appears as a recurrent feature of public discourse, in that new formations of publics engender new exclusions. A brief illustration completes my explication of a discursive orientation for investigating how counterpublics set themselves against wider publics. My example is drawn from the consistently contentious realm of U.S. welfare policy debate. Specifically, I reference testimony given to the Senate Finance Committee regarding provisions of the 1988 Family Support Act. The Act codified a mid-1980s welfare reform consensus that mandated work requirements for some adult Aid to Families with Dependent Children ( AFDC) recipients while offering support services such as job training, day care, and transitional medical care to these recipients. I consider the testimony of Margaret Prescod, who, accompanied by a few members of her organization, represented Black Women for Wages for Housework. Prescod’s name did not appear on the scheduled witness list, but she announced her presence after the statements of a group of witnesses: Senator Moynihan, I would like to, if possible, register a protest on behalf of women all across the country. We feel that this is legislation that will affect women, for the most part, and women who are housewives, women who are on welfare. And women have not had adequate time to testify. (Welfare, 1987, p. 44) Noting her objection, Moynihan, the Finance Committee chair, permitted Prescod to speak after the scheduled witnesses had completed their testimony. Her intervention is especially instructive, given the claims of this essay, for her testimony and the counterpublic it manifests resists reliance on a particular person, place, or topic as a necessary marker of counter status. Prescod, the person, explicitly complicated labels and identities that might categorize her or the persons she represented. The place, a congressional committee hearing room, hardly stands out as a supportive site for counterdiscourse. The place is illustrative as well for exemplifying an important point, but one that has not been discussed directly in this essay: Besides wider publics, counterpublics may engage 442 “Counter” in Counterpublics the state as i desired audience. The topic, welfare reform, is one with a long history of marginalizing its subjects, especially as welfare policy discourse has regularly impugned the character of poor persons. Yet, in these ostensibly unfavorable conditions, one encounters the discursive articulations about which I have written. Having called attention to the exclusionary qualities of the hearings in requesting to testify, Prescod explained at the beginning of her testimony that the members of her organization represent an alternative perspective-a counterdiscourse-to the testimony heard by the Finance Committee so far. She instructed the committee that “we are a different kind of expert than you have heard from so far. We are expert in caring for people, in keeping our communities going through volunteer work’’ (Welfare, 1987, p. 64). She characterized the emphasis on paid employment as deceptive, for this requirement identified mothers as nonworkers: It is said again and again that women should be working, that we must earn our way. We don’t hear as much being discussed that women are already working, that homemaking and child rearing is a full-time job, that those of us in waged jobs are doing the double shift, and that workfare would in fact be a second job for welfare mothers. (p. 6 5 ) Prescod challenged the diagnosis of dependency in poor persons that informed the hearings. Welfare dependency did not name a disabling physical or mental condition, but a social hierarchy that positioned some recipients of government benefits as independent (e.g., retirees) and others as dependent. Prescod contended that “our unwaged work helps keep this country going. We are not dependent on the state; the state is dependent on us, as a matter of fact” (p. 65). She explained women’s entry into the paid labor force as a matter of necessity and desire: necessity to recover family incomes lost as earning power has declined, and desire to attain the dignity society has reserved for paid workers. She concluded her testimony by exhorting policy makers to recognize in their reforms the contributions women make to society outside the market economy. This brief recounting demonstrates the usefulness of a critical focus on articulations of recognition and resolve by counterpublic participants. Prescod engages welfare policy makers in this manner quite explicitly. She bases her appeal for a hearing on the exclusive composition of the committee’s witness list. She describes her perspective as contrary to the expertise offered by the officially prescribed witnesses, and she attempts to undermine key values and hierarchies, which in this instance operate as discourse norms and practices, guiding the hearings and welfare reform debates generally. Prescod’s intervention embodies the hope of counterpublic participants that power may be reconfigured. 443 Communication Theory Conclusion In the movement toward multiplicity in public sphere studies, scholars have conceptualized counterpublics in order to disclose relations of power that obliquely inform public discourse and to reveal potentially emancipatory practice that participants nevertheless undertake, hopeful that they may reconfigure power by reformulating discourse. To further this project, I have sought the “counter” in counterpublics. My aim has been to forestall potential reductionism in future scholarship by explaining how it might proceed through fixing or relying on particular persons, places, or topics as necessary markers of counter status. In the process, I have demonstrated how reductions may occur in reading, criticism, and theory. I also have sought to orient scholarship to the communicative qualities of counterpublics, to the articulation of alternative standing in setting oneself and one’s associates against another. Proceeding in this manner draws critical attention to emergent collectives constituted neither necessarily nor exclusively by actually or potentially excluded individuals, but formed by participants who recognize exclusions in wider public spheres and resolve to join together to overcome these exclusions. If this essay offers reasons for approaching counterpublics as discursive entities, then an appropriate concluding point may be to situate my discussion of the articulation of recognition and resolve within ongoing debates in the field of communication regarding the status of the public sphere. To be sure, interest in the public sphere from scholars in a range of fields has grown recently, arising in significant measure from the 1989 English publication of Habermas’s Structural Transformation. As Goodnight and Hingstman ( 1997) explain, this interdisciplinary interest has developed into an important line of inquiry. Debates in communication have been lively and, at times, fiery. These qualities were displayed recently in the publication of and responses to an article by Kendall Phillips (1996) purporting to discern a universal and debilitating reliance on consensus in public sphere theory. Yet, if a contribution of Phillips’s essay is to remind scholars of the value of dissent, then Phillips errs in setting dissent against a singular, consensual public sphere. As G. Thomas Goodnight, whom Phillips regards as a prominent protagonist in a consensual public sphere, notes, “gestures of consent and dissent are contingent inventions spun from human conditions of uncertainty. Differences that make a difference sometimes emerge from rhetorical engagements because, and in spite of, attributed C O ~ S ~ ~ S U(1997, S ” p. 270). Goodnight’s response is included here not to inaugurate a new line of inquiry in the concluding paragraph of this essay, but to underscore my cautions against fixing relationships among publics and spheres. Consent versus dissent, public versus counter-fixing these terms as binary oppositions restricts theory and criticism. The movement toward 444 “Counter” in Counterpublics multiplicity in public sphere theory belies such binaries. Theorists and critics would do well to seek out relations among publics, counterpublics, and spheres as advocates in the “actually existing” public sphere construct these relationships through discursive engagement. Robert Asen is an assistant professor in the Communication Arts Department at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Author ’ Notes The possibiliry of conceptual reductionism constitutes one horn of a dilemma confronting theorists seeking the counter in counterpublics: Drawing scholarly attention to qualities of counterpublic discourse risks reducing such discourse to these qualities, yet advancing a conceptual definition that highlights no qualities in particular risks conflating counterpublics with other publics in a multiple public sphere. This essay highlights participants’ recognition and articulation of exclusion from wider public spheres in order both t o retain the critical purchase of existing work in counterpublic theory and to appreciate the multiform emergence of publics that set themselves against others. Felski employs the term “feminism,” which Fraser cites similarly, to signify both a collection of ideas and beliefs and a coordinated movement to enact social change. References to the latter broach the question of the relationship between counterpublics and social movements. 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