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Democracy in the Age of New Media

The Politics of the Spectacle

Tauel Harper

In the age of the spectacle, democracy has never looked so bleak. Our world, saturated with media and marketing, endlessly confronts us with spectacles vying for our attention: from Apple and 9/11 to Facebook and the global financial crisis. Democratic politics, by comparison, remain far from engaging. A society obsessed with spectacles results in a complete misfiring of the democratic system.
This book uses critical democratic theory to outline the effects of consumer culture on citizenship. It highlights the importance that public space plays in creating the critical culture necessary for a healthy democracy, and outlines how contemporary ‘public’ spaces – shopping centres, the Internet, social networking sites and suburban communities – contribute to this culture. Terrorism, ecological destruction and the financial crisis are also outlined as symptoms of the politics of the spectacle. The book concludes with some basic principles and novel suggestions which could be employed to avoid the pitfalls inherent in our spectacular existence.


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Acknowledgments vii


Acknowledgments This book is the culmination of many years research and much work on behalf of a number of people to whom I’m greatly indebted. I would like to thank Peter Lang and particularly Mary Savigar and Sophie Appel for their support in the creation and production of this work. I’d also particularly like to thank Kawan Publications for their wonderful assistance in readying the manuscript for print. Much of the research for this book derived from my PhD research completed while at Murdoch University. My gratitude to my PhD supervisor Ian Cook and colleagues such as David Brown and Yvonne Haigh remains undiminished, as does my appreciation of Lubica and Lenka Ucnik for first introducing me to Hannah Arendt. I also appreciate the attentive feedback of Douglas Kellner, Rodney Smith and Graham Maddox, whose comments on my early research helped me refine this work. My colleagues at UWA also deserve my thanks for being so supportive over the last three years. In particular the support and friendship of David Savat, Stewart Woods, Larissa Sexton-Fink, David Denemark, Leonie Harris, Linda Cresswell, Ines Bortolini and Hui Chuin Poa has been integral to the completion of this book. My friends and colleagues Helen Merrick and John Corner have provided crucial support and advice at important times over the course of this project and Erin Coates graciously let me use her artwork for the cover. I would also like to thank my students, who have been a constant source of inspiration and pride....

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