Two terms, or really, two groups of terms, seem to gather competing ideas as to how we might conceive anything like a collective, collectivity, or collective space today. The city figures prominently in both. On the one hand we have the set of concepts assembled around the term “public,” as in public realm, public sphere, public space, public sector, and “the public” itself. On the other we have the set of concepts associated with the term “common”: the common(s), common sense, and common wealth. The latter set resonates with communism, communal, and the like. But neither should its usage by environmentalists to debate an oft-misunderstood “tragedy of the commons” be overlooked; similarly, as the recent controversy over a potential “public option” in American health care reform showed, conventional Anglophone usage associates “public” with the welfare state and with liberal/progressive political reform more generally.
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