It seems to me that there is, at least in some societies, a sphere which is not private, and yet not public per se. That is the sphere where the government governs even against the public opinions. The government interferes not only in the private sphere but in the public sphere as well.

For example, in some Islamic countries where the society is modernizing fast, the governments interfere not only in the private sphere but in the public sphere as well.

It is common, among liberal thinkers and activists, to criticize the government’s interference in private sphere, but here we see that the government can interfere in public sphere too.

So I came to believe that a third sphere should be identified which is neither public nor private but is the realm that the government claims of its own. Is there any similar theorizing in the literature?

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    A government going against the public's opinions is not necessarily a bad sign. For example, the public may want lower taxes, at the cost of high deficit spending. Depending on the country's finances, acceding to those demands may not be a great idea. If the government submits to fair elections, the public may yet get what they want, from their successors (this is not what happens in your chosen example tho). Many people would agree that a government which governs by polls is not a good idea. So all in all, it is seems rather unclear what you are asking here. Commented May 3 at 1:58
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica I mean when it comes to the cultural and social affairs, not economic that can be scientifically decided. That includes forms of public life, the collective ways of living. For example, the Islamic way of dressing that the government wants for a society might not be what the majority of people want.
    – Sasan
    Commented May 3 at 7:06
  • Well, economics can't necessarily be scientifically decided in advance. Otherwise, you might see say a more dynamic Europe. Or a less deficitey USA. But in the larger sense, democracies tend to only grant governments certain explicit powers. And what's not on the government's list of responsibilities is assumed to be none of their business. That's somewhat of the essence of "small government" (not necessarily as practiced by its US advocates). Last, if you don't like it, vote it out next time. Theocracies on the other hand operate from the opposite PoV, which is logical as well. Commented May 3 at 16:48

1 Answer 1


Assuming you're using "public sphere" in the sense of Habermas:

The ideology of the public sphere theory is that the government's laws and policies should be steered by the public sphere and that the only legitimate governments are those that listen to the public sphere.

You seem to claim that governments can or should exist for their own sake, so they're entitled to their own 'sphere', which is perhaps the case with some autocratic/absolute monarchies. You may want to look into theories justifying those, but I'm not too familiar with them. I can throw around some soundbites like the "divine right of kings", but I'm not sure what the equivalent of that is in Islam.

The doctrine asserts that a monarch is not accountable to any earthly authority (such as a parliament or pope) because their right to rule is derived from divine authority.

Wikipedia seems to suggest Madkhalism is a similar enough Islamic ideology, but I confess I had not heard that term before.

Madkhalists argue that the governments of Arab countries are not to be revolted even if they are oppressive. They hold that God has given the highest Muslim authority this right due to the 59th quranic verse in Surah An-Nisa, which translates as:

“O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. ”

One might say that Khomeinism is similar enough in some respects, but not resorting to kings:

[Khomeini] declared that Islamic jurists are the true holders of religious and political authority, who must be obeyed as "an expression of obedience to God" [...]

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    “You seem to claim that governments can or should exist for their own sake, so they're entitled to their own 'sphere”. No, actually I am critical of such governmental sphere. It is only that we need to take that into account when analyzing certain socio-political entities. Let me mention another example. Building a public toilet can be what public want, but building a mosque might not be the demand of public even in Islamic countries. So an Islamic government building mosques around, is against public opinion.
    – Sasan
    Commented May 3 at 7:16

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