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“Public” as a “social Actor” vs “Public” as a “Target Audience”: Conceptual Connection Between “the Public” and “Civil society”

P. 377-389.
Belyaeva N. Y., Dzhibladze A.

The goal of “re-defining the public” is closely connected with the notion of “public space”, which is rapidly changing due to availability of modern communication technology and a growing number of active citizens. Our research collective at HSE Public Policy Department has been studying interaction between the civil society and the power in particular political regimes, mostly in Russia and former USSR states, but also in a broader comparative prospective [Belyaeva, 2006, 2007a, 2007b, 2011]. The central concept in our studies is public. Our strategic aim is to re-define the concept itself, to see it as a definition of a social actor, and to trace its transformation. Particularly relevant to our field of study are the events that took place in Russia troughout the last year and came to be known as “the White Revolution”, when hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens gathered to protest against unchangeable power and elections fraud. These events have transformed the public space of a seemingly-controlled political regime. Attempts to describe them in the analytical language of “civil society versus power” were proved inadequate. A new analytical frame and a new conceptual language need to be developed to describe both the new actor and the space in which it acts.