Communicative Capitalism

We might express this disconnect between engaged criticism and national strategy in terms of a distinction between politics asthe circulation of content and politics as official policy. On the one hand there is media chatter of various kinds – from television talking heads, radio shock jocks, and the gamut of print media to websites with RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feeds, blogs, e-mail lists and the proliferating versions of instant text messaging. In this dimension, politicians, governments and activists struggle for visibility, currency and, in the now quaint term from the dot.com years, mindshare. On the other hand are institutional politics, the day-to-day activities of bureaucracies, lawmakers, judges and the apparatuses of the police and national security states. These components of the political system seem to run independently of the politics that circulates as content.

Communicative capitalism designates that form of late capitalism in which values heralded as central to democracy take material form in networked communications technologies (cf. Dean 2002a; 2002b). Ideals of access, inclusion, discussion and participation come to be realized in and through expansions, intensifi cations and interconnections of global telecommunications. But instead of leading to more equitable distributions of wealth and infl uence, instead of enabling the emergence of a richer variety in modes of living and practices of freedom, the deluge of screens and spectacles undermines political opportunity and effi cacy for most of the world’s peoples.

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