The analytical space where ‘publics’ meet ‘problems’: keeping it open rather than shutting it down

From Material Participation by Noortje Marres pg 57-58:

By defining the public in terms of a problem of relevance, pragmatism undid two persistent attempts to solve the problem of material publics by conceptual means: the tendency to either internalize or to externalize the problems of the public. They warned against the attempt to externalize public affairs, and to assume that issues are simply ‘out there’, and all that is required for effective public action upon them, is an adequate (expert) understanding of these ‘objective’ problems. Rather, the public’s problems are also internal problems: they require some kind of mobilization on the part of social actors. However, the pragmatists equally warned against the attempt to conceptually resolve problems of the public by ‘internalizing’ the issues, and by suggesting that public issues are at heart a problem with people’s inability to take them seriously. 30 From the standpoint of the problem of relevance, the problem is not one of human nature–it is not a problem with its given epistemic, emotional or psychological constitution (illiteracy, indifference, short-sightedness). But neither are the issues at stake exactly ‘out there’, as an objective problematic that impacts on humans actors from an external environment. From the pragmatist perspective, the actors in here are not necessarily de-mobilized, and the problem is not necessarily all ‘out there’, but this does not necessarily solve much, as the question remains how relations of relevance can be established when actors are intimately affected by problems in which they have little investment?

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