The Neopopular Bubble

Speculating on “the People” in Late Modern Democracy
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426 pages, 11 tables, 2 figures and 7 online appendices

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.

List of Tables and Graphs
List of Online Appendices
Introduction: Collective Speculation in Mediatized Populist Democracy

Part 1  The Speculative Media System
1. Speculation and Liquidity in Mediatized Politics and Marketized Finance
1.1 Two “Neomodern” Myths in a “Liquid” New Age
1.2. The “Modernist” Invention of the New Age of Popular Media
1.3. The Fifth Estate: The Discursive Sphere of “Neopopular” Speculation
1.4. The Mediatization of Politics
1.5. Liquidity and Collective Speculation in Late Modern Society
1.6. Structural Paradoxes in the Making of the “New Age”
2. The Rise of the Fifth Estate
2.1. The “Balanced” Model of Control in High Modern Institutions
2.2. Breaking the Balance: New Speculative Centers “above” Big Institutions
2.3. The Opening of a Sphere of Collective Speculation on Popular Resonance
2.4. The Rise of the Fifth Estate, a “Field of Restricted Symbolic Production”
2.5. Conclusion
3. Theorizing Collective Mythmaking on Media and Markets
3.1. The Free Market Belief System as Collective Myth
3.2. Collective Myths, Beyond the Constructionist Mainstreams
3.3. The Neopopular Code of Mythmaking: Scholarly Complicity and Beyond
3.4. A “Strong Media Mythology”: Addressing Neopopular Mythmaking
3.5. Understanding Popular Media Myths: From a “Weak” to a “Strong” Model

Part 2.  The Cultural Autonomy of Neopopular Mythmaking
Introduction to Part 2
4. Mythicizing Popular Media in Academia
4.1 Self-Propelled Binarizing
4.2. The Shared Mythical Core: Instances and Rules of Popular Control
4.3. Liquid Binarizing: The Production of Unfalsifiable Narratives
4.4. Inflating the Modernist Bubble: Self-Reproduction through Self-Expansion
5. The Myth of “Active Control” in Media-Interpreting Industries
5.1. Active Media-Using Prospects in Commercial Marketing
5.2. Controlling the Active Voter: Modernist Myths in the Discourse of Political PR
5.3. The Popular Middle: The Mythical Object of Active Control in Political Marketing

Part 3.  The Counterperformativity of Neopopular Mythmaking
Introduction to Part 3
6. When Being Popular Is Dangerous: The Case of a Myth-Driven Political Campaign
6.1. The Media Coverage of the New Right’s Celebratory Performance in 2001–2
6.2. The Ambiguous Reception of Celebratory Politics
6.3. Celebratory Politics and the Middle Ground of the Hungarian Electorate
6.4. Discussion: Selectivity, Repolarization, and Audience Partitioning
7. Latent Events in a Postnormal Media Environment
7.1. Neopopular Speculation and Media Eventization
7.2. Eventization and Theories of Liminality, Spectacle, and Catharsis
7.3. Latent Events as Experiential Enclaves
7.4. The Postnormal Space of Late Modern Media

Conclusion: The Dialectic of Liquid Modernity and the Crisis of Democracy