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Politics, Private Space, and Total Persuasion

Dave Hoffman

Dave Hoffman is the Murray Shusterman Professor of Transactional and Business Law at Temple Law School. He specializes in law and psychology, contracts, and quantitative analysis of civil procedure. He currently teaches contracts, civil procedure, corporations, and law and economics.

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4 Responses

  1. Belle Lettre says:

    Thanks for a great and interesting post. I’m not going to position myself on Franzen’s side (would be hypocritical) or on the opposite (since I don’t belong their either). Rather, I would offer these two thoughts:

    1) The proliferation of blogs and online journals have been key to eroding Franzen’s conception of the public sphere. My own blog, for example, has been characterized by Dan Filler as “a (particularly nice) mix of the personal and academic.” I won’t get into whether that’s good or bad, but I will note that nowadays, even on what one would call “academic” (as opposed to the personal blogs of academics) blogs are riddled with personal observations. Dan Markel offers his travel tips on Prawfsblawg. Baby announcements are routine. Let’s not even discuss such diary sites as Xanga or LiveJournal.

    My point is, even as blogs have offered academics a new forum for their roles as public intellectuals, this public space has become a refractory for the private as well.

    Indeed, what to make of blogs that are both personal and academic, and commercial to boot? Most blogs run ads. How do you feel about this space being co-opted by commercial interests? The commercial aspect arguably erodes both the private and public interests of the space.

    2) Blogs are inextricably linked to social networking. Blog communities are not a thing of imagination–check out the Co-Op’s own blog roll to the right. This serves, I believe, an important function, a sort of virtual community for those who would otherwise feel isolated (for instance, the community of medievalist bloggers are surprisingly large in number relative to their percentage at any particular institution). Moreover, many social networking sites permit a blog option–either hosted on their own servers (MySpace) or through “importing a note” (Facebook). Again, these sites are overrun with ads.

    It seems inexorable, this erosion of the public sphere, the commingling of public and private, and the commercialization of both.

  2. Frank says:

    “What’s wrong with a society in which most speech that you hear is designed to persuade you to consume?”

    The “wrongness” of it can be framed on any number of levels, but let’s just focus on self-interest. The U.S. savings rate has gone down from around 10% or so in the 1970′s/early 80s to a negative figure today. This is just as the switch from defined benefit to defined contribution pension plans make personal savings for a decent retirement all-important.

    Moreover, as Robert Frank has shown, consumer spending puts us on a treadmill; as more and more of our peers go into debt to buy things, living standards rise, such that the one person on the block without the flat-screen TV (or whatever the must-have du jour is) is seen as poor, cheap, or puritanical.

    Check out this article on the “high cost of easy credit,” and this excerpt:

    “Their debt escalated when they decided to get married. They paid for rings, a reception, a honeymoon and a new bathroom — about $50,000 in a seven-month stretch.”

    It seems totally irrational to me for a couple earning 60K a year to rack up that much consumer debt so quickly. But as Rebecca Mead has shown, the peer pressure to put together a wedding extravaganza in today’s society often overwhelms fiscal prudence.

  3. Jed Adam Gross says:

    A recent case of possible interest: In IMS v. Ayotte, New Hampshire’s Attorney General evidently argued that “limiting unwarranted intrusions into the decision-making process of prescribing physicians” could serve a substantial state interest. The state’s Federal District Court overturned the commercial speech restriction at issue, distinguishing the case at bar from situations “involv[ing] solicitations that invade the tranquility of the home or that target vulnerable victims.” Of course, decision-making processes can occur in public spaces, not just in the privacy of the home or doctor’s office.

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