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Neoliberalism, Media and the Political examines the condition of media and journalism in neoliberal cultures. Emphasizing neoliberalism's status as a political ideology that is simultaneously hostile to politics, the book presents a critical theoretical argument supported by empirical illustrations from New Zealand, Ireland, the UK and the US.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Introduction: Disfiguring Neoliberalism

Abstract
I started thinking and writing about neoliberalism in 1999 when I began graduate study at Dublin City University. Back then my understanding of it, and a whole lot of other things, was pretty unformed. I mainly had some hunches and intuitions. Perhaps my strongest one was that the power and authority of neoliberalism had something to do with how the social world was talked about in everyday media contexts — discourses that were deeply political and ideological, yet simultaneously trite and mundane. Much has changed since 1999. I was then writing about an Irish context that looks very different in 2014. And I moved to Aotearoa New Zealand in 2003, since engaging with its media and political culture. However, the argument here is essentially guided by similar intuitions, even if they are now articulated in a form that my earlier self would have been unable to formulate.
Sean Phelan

1. Articulating Neoliberalism in Critical Media and Communication Studies

Abstract
Looked at broadly, we can identify two distinct discourses about neoliberalism in communication and media studies and elsewhere. The first deploys the term to enact a familiar critical narrative where neoliberalism signifies a social order dominated by the logic of the market. This narrative has been given different articulations1 in communication and media research. Neoliberalism has functioned as a descriptive and explanatory category in analyses of topics such as infotainment (Thussu, 2007), media ownership (Herman & McChesney, 1997), multiculturalism (Lentin & Titley, 2011), reality television (Ouellette & Hay, 2008), political marketing (Savigny, 2008), political consultants (Sussman & Galizio, 2003), intellectual property rights (Hesmondhalgh, 2008) and the cultural politics of voice (Couldry, 2010). Others have examined the communicative dynamics of “free market” regimes without explicitly deploying the term “neoliberalism” (Aune, 2001). More generally, the role of media and communication practices in the ideological constitution of neoliberalism is taken for granted in the wider literature (see Birch & Mykhnenko, 2010; Harvey, 2005; Jessop, 2010).
Sean Phelan

2. Neoliberal Discourse: Theory, History and Trajectories

Abstract
Neoliberalism has often been conceptualized as a discourse (Holborow, 2012b). Bourdieu and Wacquant (2001) describe it as a “double” discourse that “although founded on belief, mimics science by superimposing the appearance of reason” (p. 4). Fairclough (2002) cites “neoliberal political discourse” as one of the constituent elements of a new capitalist formation where value is accrued through signification and branding practices (Hearn, 2008). And rejecting the “false dichotomy” (p. 133) between Marxist and governmentality perspectives, Springer (2012) commends a discourse-based account of neoliberalism which conceptualizes it as a “mutable, inconsistent, and variegated process that circulates through the discourses it constructs, justifies, and defends” (p. 135).
Sean Phelan

3. Neoliberal Logics and Field Theory

Abstract
Chapter 2 introduced our principal discourse theoretical categories and related them to a discussion of two distinct types of neoliberal formation. We now need to clarify the general implications for the rest of the book. Integral to all the discourse theory concepts we have considered so far has been the concept of logics (in the plural). When Laclau (2004) speaks of a hegemonic, discursive, antagonistic or heterogeneous logic, he is “not referring in the least to formal logic in the usual sense” (p. 305). Rather, like Lacan, Deleuze and others, he subsumes the three branches of the medieval university curriculum — grammar, rhetoric and logic — under the category of logic. Laclau emphasizes the “context-dependent” nature of logics, dismissing “the very idea of a general logic” (p. 305): the image of structures and systems with absolute logical foundations. “A logic is nothing else than a rarefied system of objects governed by a cluster of rules which makes some combinations and substitutions possible, and excludes others” (p. 305).
Sean Phelan

4. Neoliberalism and Media Democracy: A Representative Anecdote from Post-Rogernomics New Zealand

Abstract
If the story of neoliberalism is typically narrated as an Anglo-Americancentric 1980s story focused on the political victories of Thatcher and Reagan, for dramatic effect, the story sometimes turns to Aotearoa New Zealand. New Zealand underwent one of the most extreme neoliberal experiments of the 1980s (Gray, 1998a), radically altering the character of a society historically defined by the values of the welfare state and “the social democratic ideal of [a] harmonious classless society” (Kelsey, 1997, p. 20). The country became a “laboratory” for the deployment of neoliberal theories, its small-scale, weak parliamentary structures and relative economic vulnerability providing “almost perfect political, economic and intellectual conditions in which to experiment” (p. 19). The New Zealand neoliberal story was, in its local vernacular, the story of “Rogernomics”, named after Roger Douglas, the Minister of Finance of the Labour Party government that came to power in 1984 and which was re-elected in 1987.
Sean Phelan

5. The Journalistic Habitus and the Realist Style

Abstract
The focus of this chapter can be distilled into one key question: how do journalists, and in particular mainstream political journalists, identify with the thing called neoliberalism? It’s a deceptively simple question, because our answer depends on the ontological and epistemological assumptions we bring to it. We might come to the question with a deep epistemological scepticism about the very notion of “neoliberalism”, as some journalists are inclined to do (see, for example, O’Brien, 2013b). Or we might bring different understandings of how political subjectivities are formed, and different assessments of the place of the political in the constitution of human subjectivity. The question generates myriad sub-questions. Does journalistic identification with neoliberalism emerge through active engagement with neoliberal thought? Is it socially engineered by neoliberal news sources and public relations agents? Or does identification with neoliberal logics work more through a kind of ideological and cultural osmosis, where journalists and others unconsciously internalize a set of common-sense assumptions that they would never describe as an “ism”?
Sean Phelan

6. Media Cultures, Anti-politics and the “Climategate” Affair

Abstract
The hacking of thousands of emails from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in November 2009 was widely represented as a scandalous moment for climate change scientists. According to the narrative originally articulated in the blogosphere, the documents showed how CRU researchers had “manipulated” data to conceal evidence at odds with the assumption of anthropogenic climate change. The revelation resulted in the widespread publication of news stories questioning the integrity of climate change scientists, though “multiple investigations concluded that no fraud or scientific misconduct had occurred” (Maibach et al., 2012, p. 289). The event dubbed “climategate” exemplified the “cultural politics” of climate change (Boykoff, 2013, p. 800), the “gate” suffix communicating the intended aura of scandal and wrongdoing.1 It gave new life to the idea of a vibrant debate between an “imperious” scientific establishment and “brave” heterodox scientists, belying the impression that the science has been “settled”. And it politicized the domain of scientific practice itself, eliding any meaningful distinction between science and politics among those most gripped by the scandal.
Sean Phelan

7. Neoliberal Imaginaries, Press Freedom and the Politics of Leveson

Abstract
The 2011 Leveson Inquiry into the “culture, practices and ethics of the [UK] press” (Leveson Inquiry, 2012, p. 1) invites critical reflection on the problematic of neoliberalism, media and the political for at least two reasons. First, the events that led to the establishment of the Inquiry — The Guardian’s revelation of systematic phone hacking at the News of the World newspaper — symbolized the abject condition of journalism in a corporate media system. Neoliberal regimes are officially governed by the assumption that the organization of social life is best served by the market: in Hayek’s (1960) famous formulation, the “spontaneous order” of the market should be the primary mechanism for constituting the social. However, within the realpolitik of “actually existing neoliberalism” (Brenner & Theodore, 2002, p. 349), things often function differently. The appeal to “free market orthodoxies” acts as a “smokescreen” for policy regimes that “optimize the power and influence” (Puttnam cited in Gaber, 2012, p. 637) of corporations. Crouch (2011) suggests actually existing neoliberalism is “devoted to the dominance of public life by the giant corporation” (p. viii), ironically privileging a paternalistic and collectivist logic of “consumer welfare” over the individualist logic of “consumer choice” (p. 55). Choice, it turns out, is not that important at all — not even to Chicago School economists. So long as there is a “general gain in efficiency across the economic system” (p. 56), how the gain is socially distributed or organized does not matter much. Two newspapers in a city might give us more choice. However, if merging them produces economic efficiencies, the interests of the (rational) consumer will have been served within the Chicago School imaginary.
Sean Phelan

8. Media Rituals and the Celtic Tiger: The Neoliberal Nation and its Transnational Circulation

Abstract
Neoliberalism is sometimes represented as synonymous with globalization. Activists condemn the ideology of “neoliberal globalization” and its policy inscription in the “Washington consensus”. The critique morphs into a story of declining state power: of how the political agency of nation-states has been undermined by the creation of a politico-judicial architecture beholden to the principles of “free trade” and “free markets”. The nation-state is positioned as a bulwark against the external forces of neoliberalism, a site of democratic and sovereign resistance to the politically unaccountable masters of our neoliberal age.
Sean Phelan

Conclusion: The Possibility of a Radical Media Politics

Abstract
This book offered a theoretical account of the relationship between neoliberalism, media and the political, supported by empirical analyses from different contexts. I focused on critically understanding the sedimented condition of neoliberalized media regimes, endeavouring to illuminate aspects and dimensions not captured in summary critical nar-ratives about neoliberalism or in summary claims about “the neoliberal media”. I emphasized the dialectical interplay between neoliberal logics and other discursive logics, interrogating the image of a monolithic neoliberalism that simply imposes itself on other domains and practices. The strategic intention was to identify the sites of a cultural politics within the immanent rationality of neoliberalized regimes, elucidating objects and logics that might be politically acted on in the name of a radically different kind of media and political culture.
Sean Phelan

Backmatter

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