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Communication and Political Crisis

Media, Politics and Governance in a Globalized Public Sphere


Brian McNair

Communication and Political Crisis explores the role of the global media in a period of intensifying geopolitical conflict. Through case studies drawn from domestic and international political crises such as the conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine, leading media scholar Brian McNair argues that the digitized, globalized public sphere now confronted by all political actors has produced new opportunities for social progress and democratic reform, as well as new channels for state propaganda and terrorist spectaculars such as those performed by the Islamic State and Al Qaeda. In this major work, McNair argues that the role of digital communication will be crucial in determining the outcome of pressing global issues such as the future of feminism and gay rights, freedom of speech and media, and democracy itself.
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Chapter 1. The new chaotics


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Cultural Chaos, to which the current volume provides a kind of sequel or extension, suggested a paradigm shift in the way media scholars have understood the relationship between communication and power. Having been steeped in—and, in my own early work as a sociologist of culture, contributed wholeheartedly to—the maintenance of a control paradigm in which the possession of economic and political power translated relatively easily into media and cultural power, and vice versa, I argued there that it was necessary to reorient the sociological gaze on the implications of what I characterized as an emerging chaos of communication in the digital age and an associated loss of control by economic and political elites not just of the media—Althusser’s ideological apparatuses of control (1970), as viewed in much materialist sociology since the early twentieth century—but of the mechanisms of power more broadly. The exercise of power in liberal capitalism has been and remains largely hegemonic in the Gramscian sense (Gramsci, 1971)—that is, consensual—legitimized by democratic processes and their supporting media channels. The erosion of media control, or the onset of cultural chaos, was thus also, potentially, the erosion of hegemony (embodied, in this context, in popular acceptance of the assumption that those who govern and the system by which we are governed are fully equipped and the most entitled to do so). ← 1 | 2 →

Cultural Chaos, written in the aftermath of...

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