Mark Mancall on the idea of public space in a democracy

Historians in the News

The essence of democracy is discourse, disagreement and debate, through which to equip citizens with critical wisdom to make crucial decision that concerns the community they form.

For that to happen, a democratic society must encourage public spaces, in which numerous ideas and opinions on issues facing the nation could come into play.

However the idea of public space, professor of history, emeritus, Stanford university, California, Mark Mancall said, has never been fully achieved anywhere, according to historians.

“Gender, ethnic differences, class groupings, all participated in defining who could enter public space,” said the professor, who is the director of the royal education council, Thimphu, during the first of a series of discussions on media and democracy that the Bhutan centre for media and democracy organised yesterday.

He explained that it was not until about a hundred years ago, in 1919, that women in America were given the right to vote, which meant the right to enter into public space.

Listing some of the main characteristics of a public space in its truest sense, professor Mancall said, a society had to first be accommodative, in that, everybody should have access to it.

“You can’t have public space without having access to it regardless of what income, of social class or any other consideration,” he said. “A democracy requires that.”...
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