The reason why is very well explained by Jürgen Habermas in his classic work on “The Public Sphere” (Bürgerliche Offentlichkeit). Markets see people as consumers. Bureaucracies see people as clients (and tax payers).
Markets and governments are necessary institutions. But democratic societies do not consist of concumers or clients. They consist of citizens.
As market forces and administrative structures grow more powerful, they threaten to invade and dominate the life of citizens. To counteract the “colonization of the life-world” (Habermas), we need to strengthen the vitality of public discourse.
The problems that Habermas pointed to in modern states also occur in many large organizations. Higher education is becoming more market-oriented and more bureaucratic at the same time. This is often labelled New Public Management (NPM). The academic tradition of self-governance and professional debates (with its mix of faults and advantages) is marginalized. The academic rhetoric remains, but universities are increasingly run as knowledge coroprations rather than as scholary republics.
IFLA is basically a professional association of concerned citizens. But we are exposed to the same tendencies. We cannot avoid the market and management forces in our environment. But we can restore the balance between consumer, client and citizen by developing (mobilizing) the Public Sphere.
The IFLA web site is designed for information and practical communication rather than debate. IFLA Express only operates one week a year – and is also heavily geared towards information sharing. But social media (blogs, twitter, persinal web sites, citizen journalism) offer a way forward.
IFLA has made a decent start by encouraging blogging and twittering (with official twitter tags). The ProfSpeak blog, which was started last year, invites debate, but has some way to go in responding to comments … The IFLADIAL Report has many suggestions
- for topics that we hope can be discussed
- for improvements that we hope can be made
Money is not an issue – we focus on changes that can be done at no monetary.