Interview: Alex Gourevitch on Thomas Paine

Alex Gourevitch is an assistant professor of political science at Brown University. At this summer’s SHEAR conference in Philadelphia, he presented (without reading! It’s still a novelty to us historians!) a paper called “Paine and Property: Radicalism and Anti-Radicalism in Property-Owning Democracy.” In today’s interview, he returns to those themes for The Junto.
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The Public Sphere and Early American Democracy

Das Lesekabinett (1843), Johann Peter HasencleverHow did the particular formation of democratic politics, a rambunctious public sphere, and capitalist social relations come about in the early American republic? I began to talk about this question last month when I asked, ‘how did democracy become a good thing?‘ I argued that the crucial factor was an unprecedented separation between economic and political power, which made democractic politics incapable of seriously interfering with capital accumulation. Today I want to show how Jürgen Habermas’ account of The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere helps us see what went on in this crucial separation, and how his account relates to the American case in particular. Continue reading