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TRANSFORMATION OF SYMBOLIC POLITICS IN THE CONDITIONS OF TELEDEMOCRACY: CAUSES AND EFFECTS

Introduction

politics television mediated symbolic power

This paper will be the continuation of a theoretical discussion about how the communications media have changed the nature of politics into what is known as symbolic politics. I will concentrate on the influence of television on modern political practice. Such focus is determined by the assumption that the audiovisual media have become the main medium, through which symbolic politics is performed and its nature being changed.using the concept of symbolic politics, I will explain the nature of media power and its impact on political system of society, on its character, practices and institutions. By symbolic politics I mean political communication practice that aims at influencing citizens through emotional channels . Symbolic politics campaigns are conducted through mass media, and citizens participate in them as members of the media audience. Thus, the main focus of this paper centers on the inquiry: Is the transformation of symbolic politics harmless for the liberal democratic values and for the development of civic culture in a modern state? The answer to this inquiry is that modern symbolic politics conducted through mass media (mainly television) eventually generates and determines the process through which political life enters the symbolic virtual space of mass media. Such process can constitute a serious danger for democratic values such as political participation and civic culture because citizens, once placed within a symbolic media-political space, become alienated and passive spectators of a political show rather than an active and conscious participants in the political processes.final goal of my work is to emphasize the dangers of new mediated symbolic politics for the democratic political practices. Political spectatorship encouraged by modern symbolic politics through television may essentially contradict the principles of political participation.terms I introduce and will operate in the paper have strict limitations and should be comprehended in this restricted way. By teledemocracy I mean special type of democratic government, adapted to the rules of telediscourse (discourse of television). There are different definitions of teledemocracy and in this study I will apply the notion of teledemocracy that is closer, in its meaning, to telecracy : the power of television and not to the concept of teledemocracy defined as electrification of the implementation of democracy since 1980 s (the term refers to remote voting and through that to direct democracy) . The term mediacracy stresses the important role of media as the creator of the world image including the world of politics. This definition of mediacracy does not focus on interpretation of mediacracy as increasing consolidation of media outlets in the hands of a few media conglomerates (phenomenon symptomatic for US social life) because this would go beyond the scope of my analysis.the paper consists of two chapters. In the first section Causes , I will explain the concept of symbolic politics and the role of mass communication media in transforming political space. Consequently, in the section Effects , I will focus on the outcomes of the transformation of symbolic politics and talk about the dangers associated with this transformation to liberal democracy.

Chapter I CAUSES

of symbolic politics

politics is one of the topics most actively discussed in contemporary political science, especially in German academia (M. Edelman, R. Schpelt, W. Schultz, H. Rust). This concept denotes a special kind of political communication, which aims not at rational comprehension, but at foisting stable senses most often with the help of visual effects. Thus, symbolic politics is not just applying symbols, but is a symbol in itself.political action (presidential decree, parliamentary session, interview with a terrorist) has its symbolic expression, which serves as the emotional glue for the various elements of social life. Such symbolic expressivities are not necessarily aimed at deceiving audiences feelings, but they are vitally needed for conducting policies., symbolic politics is not likely to be a spontaneous type of communication, but a purposeful use of the aesthetic symbolic resources for legitimization and enforcement of power. Every symbolic politics performed by power implies the asymmetry of social communication, when a real communication exchange between higher and lower levels of society is problematic or impossible. Sometimes, power tries to feign state functions (e.g. welfare services, personal or environmental security etc.) that are demanded by citizens, but power cannot or do not want to perform them.politics actively uses aesthetic capacities of the symbol and is one of the most important forms the aethetization of politics. Aesthetical politics give all the social and political phenomena aesthetical (symbolic and irrational) but not political (practical and rational) characteristics. As a result, political actions are evaluated according to criteria of entertainment and public popularity.mentioned above, symbolic politics has been always embedded in and existed as an inherent part of political power. However, if in ancient times power used statues, medals and triumphal arches, today power uses modern media. By this time television has become the most effective and appropriate channel for conducting symbolic politics. Furthermore, television acts not just as a medium, but plays an independent role as the powerful institution for mass communication with its own rules and principles.

and political systems: shift in balance of power

to system theory in social sciences, the society can be viewed as the systematic unit of elements, each of which has its own prescribed function. Political system has the function of decision making, putting the society into order using political power, while media system is to perform the function of political communication, which would serve to consolidate society and its parts.subsystem within the social system should undergo certain innovations in order to support the common equilibrium based on relations between subsystems. Hence, this principle guarantees normal functioning of the society. Additionally, we can also assume that subsystems of the society may compete between each other: social complexity is tied to the functional differentiation of society and the development of specialized competing and overlapping systems .political systems of Western liberal democracies experience serious difficulties while performing their tasks -a phenomenon of a widening legitimacy gap : a decrease of the citizens support for the state and its institutions. When the welfare state was established, the necessity for political activism and the audience s interest in serious political and socially important topics significantly dropped. More and more segments of society turned towards apolitical life comforted by the economic and social stability brought about by a protective nature of the welfare system.the political system became weaker the media system grew stronger. The transformation of modern media system has all the reasons to be called media revolution . Media became more powerful in public sphere: they turned out to be the most influential, if not the only method of effective political communication in our days. Moreover, liberalization and economic development created the media market, which continues to grow and to form the competition environment, producing enormous amount of abundant information good . If before the 1980s technical and economic conditions restrained the development of mass media, nowadays such restrictions are minimal - the cost of information production and distribution dropped and quantities of information skyrocketed.factors, described above, inevitably cause the situation in which the functions of political and media systems are either overlapping or not well balanced. This is the starting point for the mediatization theory that looks at the increasing influence of media on politics. The basic claims are the following: firstly, if one system (political) becomes weaker the other system (media) will overtake its functions; secondly, if one system (media) is getting more important for the society the other system (political) will try to strengthen itself too using every possible tools (even if these tools belong to the media system); thirdly, if one system changes the change of the other is inevitable due to competition and cooperation modes that exist in social system. Eventually, widely accepted but controversial assumption is that changing systems can converge (create a symbiosis/unity), not overlap (duplicating their functions). Notably, such convergence theory generally emphasizes the importance of mass media: usually, media-political system forms because of the existence of a weak state.

Television in postmodern political communication

symbolic politics belongs to the phenomenon of post-modern communication era. A large part of messages in the flow of political communication is aimed not at providing a description of reality, but at creating some desired images, emotions and symbols. This post-modern era could be characterized by features such as: fragmentation of audiences, tabloidization of news, permanent political campaigns, fierce commercial pressure. No matter how called, media revolution , media-saturated age or postmodern the existence of this era with its specific rules and images influences the form and the content of the news media.politics transformed not only because of the political and social factors but also as a result of the existence of so called McLuhan s Galaxy , the reality that emerged in the era of electronic media (primarily television) supremacy. McLuhan s theory about the TV medium allows us to better understand the nature of symbolic politics transformation. McLuhan sees television as the dominant medium that forms the message of our epoch. Although today this medium is seriously challenged by newer inventions (internet, mobile technology), its influence on the culture lasts. According to McLuhan, the most significant feature brought to the culture by electronic media is irrationality. Characteristics of MacLuhan s Galaxy such as mosaic perception, unification and simplification of reality, lack of logic and chronology contradict rational political activism and thus, forces society and its members out of a political space.

Chapter 2 EFFECTS



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