Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist

Reign of Appearances
The Misery and Splendor of the Public Sphere


Award Winner
  • Author: Ari Adut, University of Texas, Austin
  • Date Published: September 2023
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316632383

£ 18.99

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Hardback, eBook

Looking for an inspection copy?

This title is not currently available on inspection

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • The public sphere is the realm of appearances - not citizenship. Its central event is spectacle - not dialogue. Marked by an asymmetry between the few who act and the many who watch, and subjecting all its contents to visibility, the public sphere can undermine liberal democracy, law, and morality. But the public sphere also liberates us from the burdens and bondages of private life and fosters an existentially vital aesthetic experience. Reign of Appearances uses a great variety of cases to reveal the logic of the public sphere, including homosexuality in Victorian England; the 2008 crash; antisemitism in Europe; confidence in American presidents; communications in social media; special prosecutor investigations; the visibility of African-Americans; violence during the French Revolution; the Islamic veil; contemporary sexual politics; public executions; and pricing in art. This unconventional account of the public sphere is critical reading for anyone who wants to understand the effects of visibility in urban life, politics, and the media.

    • Challenges the common wisdom that the public sphere is always good for democracy
    • Asserts that spectatorship - and not civic participation - is the essence of the public sphere
    • Argues that spectatorship, which is a much-disdained stance, is an existentially vital aesthetic experience
    Read more


    • Winner, 2020 Theory Prize, American Sociological Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    Advance praise: 'For most political theorists, the public sphere is simply the place where people like them argue about politics. Ari Adut thinks that this is both unrealistic and unimaginative. In this brilliant and original book, he gives us a far more critical account – and then a lovely (and unexpected) appreciation of how we live in public places and in public view.' Michael Walzer, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey

    Advance praise: 'An original, provocative, sustained, and sophisticated theoretical-cum-empirical work on a vital topic. Written with panache and style, and filled with deft scholarly references from the history of philosophy, the visual arts, and literature, the book is a great pleasure to read.' Jeffrey Alexander, Lillian Chavenson Saden Professor of Sociology, Yale University, Connecticut

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2023
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316632383
    • length: 220 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 mm
    • weight: 0.367kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. A critique
    2. A realistic perspective
    3. Publicity
    4. Politics in public
    5. Content regulation
    6. Visibility in society
    7. Law and morality in the public sphere
    8. A defense of spectatorship

  • Author

    Ari Adut, University of Texas, Austin
    Ari Adut is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas, Austin. He holds graduate degrees from the University of Chicago and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris. He is also a former member of Institute for Advanced Study. He is the author of On Scandal: Moral Disturbances in Society, Politics, and Art (Cambridge, 2008). Adut's research has been featured in the New York Times and by the BBC, and it has received support from the Social Science Research Council and the American Council of Learned Societies.


    • Winner, 2020 Theory Prize, American Sociological Association
    • Winner, 2022 Theory Prize, American Sociological Association

Related Books

also by this author

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×
warning icon

Turn stock notifications on?

You must be signed in to your Cambridge account to turn product stock notifications on or off.

Sign in Create a Cambridge account arrow icon

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.