Do Malls Contribute to the Privatisation of Public Space and the Erosion of the Public Sphere?

Chiodelli F., Moroni S. (2015), “Do Malls Contribute to the Privatisation of Public Space and the Erosion of the Public Sphere? Reconsidering the Role of Shopping Centres”, City, Culture and Society 6(1): 35-42

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Shopping malls are often criticised as a cause of the privatisation of public space and the erosion of the public sphere. Some authors argue that to fight these negative processes, shopping malls should be considered equivalent to public spaces, and therefore entail the same rules enforced in public spaces (for instance, the right to free admission and to free speech). In our opinion these approaches are unsound. In this paper we argue that: 1) shopping malls do not necessarily entail a privatisation of public space, nor necessarily any erosion of the public sphere; 2) because they are not public spaces, they cannot be considered equivalent to them; 3) they are highly open access (compared to many other kinds of both private and public spaces), and the limits they impose on some political activities are, under certain conditions, acceptable. This does not mean that the owners of private spaces are completely free to act as they choose; it means that they cannot be equated with public entities that manage spaces that belong to the public.

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