This paper explores the changing fortunes of the public realm during the last two decades. It poses the problem of how we think about globalisation and neo-liberalism as forces driving these changes. It then examines how different aspects of the public realm – understood as public interest, as public services and as a collective identity – have been subjected to processes of dissolution. Different processes have combined in this dissolution – in particular, attempts to privatise and marketise public services have been interleaved with attempts to de-politicise the public realm. Tracing these processes reveals that they have not been wholly successful – encountering resistances, refusals and negotiations that mean the outcomes (so far) do not match the world imagined in neo-liberal fantasies.
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