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Speculating on "the People" in Late Modern Democracy

Péter Csigó

Péter Csigó is a Hungarian sociologist researching collective speculation at the fields of popular media and democratic politics.

The common critique of media- and ratings-driven politics envisions democracy falling hostage to a popularity contest. By contrast, the following book reconceives politics as a speculative Keynesian beauty contest that alienates itself from the popular audience it ceaselessly targets. Political actors unknowingly lean on collective beliefs about the popular expectations they seek to gratify, and thus do not follow popular public opinion as it is, but popular public opinion about popular public opinion.

This book unravels how collective discourses on “the popular” have taken the role of intermediary between political elites and electorates. The shift has been driven by the idea of “liquid control:” that postindustrial electorates should be reached through flexibly designed media campaigns based on a complete understanding of their media-immersed lives. Such a complex representation of popular electorates, actors have believed, cannot be secured by rigid bureaucratic parties, but has to be distilled from the collective wisdom of the crowd of consultants, pollsters, journalists and pundits commenting on the political process.

The mediatization of political representation has run a strikingly similar trajectory to the marketization of capital allocation in finance: starting from a rejection of bureaucratic control, promising a more “liquid” alternative, attempting to detect a collective wisdom (of/about “the markets” and “the people”), and ending up in self-driven spirals of collective speculation.

426 pages, 2017, cloth
$65.00 / €60.00 / £52.00

Introduction: collective speculation in mediatized populist democracy

Part 1. The speculative media system
Chapter 1 Speculation and liquidity in mediatized politics and marketized finance
Chapter 2. The rise of the fifth estate
Chapter 3 Theorising collective myth-making on media and markets

Part 2: The cultural autonomy of neopopular mythmaking
Introduction to Part 2
Chapter 4: Mythicizing popular media in academia
Chapter 5: The myth of “active control” in media interpreting industries

Part 3. The counter-performativity of neopopular mythmaking
Introduction to Part 3
Chapter 6. When being popular is dangereous: the case of a myth driven political campaign
Chapter 7: Latent events in a postnormal media environment

Conclusion: The postnormal condition of populist democracy

"All things considered, perhaps a more appropriate title for The Neopopular Bubble would have been Critique of Speculative Reason. Be that as it may, theory has for a long time argued that contingency rather than necessity is the operative factor in the fundamental structures of society. Until now, however, this insight has only had an abstract basis, without an accompanying social theory. What the work of Csigó does is for the first time provide a foundation for a new theory of social miscontructionism, one properly suited to the times of liquid modernity." - LSE Review of Books