Slovene Suplement, Vol. 11 - 2004, Suplement
This short essay describes the contemporary process of communication in (American) society and its relations to power in the guise of democratic practice. It offers a suggestive rather than exhaustive critique and argues for a turn of communication studies to a social and cultural critique of power, not only to enhance its theoretical position and validate its political standing in society, but to suggest revolutionary alternatives to present conceptions of (mass) communication that reinvent a democratic vision of communication in society.
The article discusses the relationship between the visible and clandestine executions of power, between the normative and instrumental visibility, and how the mechanisms of visibility and execution of power are embedded in public opinion processes. It is developed as a critique of those public opinion theories that are limited to their normative and repressive powers, and neglect concurrent dimensions of the execution of power. The critique is illustrated by results of a survey focused on the importance of the power of competence for public opinion.
The article confronts Plato’s early critical rejection of rhetoric and Aristotle’s response to that critique with a positive definition of rhetoric in his philosophical system. In the first part, Plato’s critique of rhetoric in a dialogue with Gorgias is presented, which he builds on the opposition between the persuasiveness of rhetoric and true knowledge. He develops the argument that rhetoric manipulates the audience and is, therefore, unethical. The second part of the article focuses on Aristotle’s understanding of rhetoric in the context of his system of three categories of human knowledge and in relation to three methods of reasoning. The article sides with Aristotle’s claim that because of the contingent nature of public issues and popular audience, rhetorical argumentation cannot fulfil those lofty criteria proposed by Plato. But, according to Aristotle, this does not degrade the status of rhetoric.
The article presents a critical analysis of proceduralist theories of deliberative democracy, which are built on the notion of public discussion as a fair procedure. Advocates of this idea -- Habermas, Rawls, Cohen, Estlund and others -- claim that the rational transformation of opinions in discussions grants legitimacy to democratic decision-making. In this respect, they enter the domain of communication studies. Thus, does proceduralism assume social integration or contribute to it? The question is operationalised with the notions of power and universalism. It turns out that public discussion as a democratic procedure enables contact between incommensurable forms of power. This is achieved by consenting to a democratic procedure, if it does not lead to additional homogenisation. It is argued that to save proceduralism from a critique of its impartiality one needs to demonstrate that public discussion integrates social actors in transactions and also in the consequences of decisions.
The article reflects on the power of risk communication interventions, by which public health authorities aim to regulate the population’s health. According to the medical model, which is the prevailing approach in Slovenia’s public health promotion, healthy behaviour occurs in accordance with people's knowledge of a healthy way of life and health risks. This relation is far from linear, however. Many factors prevent people from engaging in recommended, preventive behaviours. The article illuminates some of these factors with the help of a qualitative, empirical study of food-related concerns in Slovenia and introduces seven main categories of lay risk prevention relativisation: laborious and unhealthy discipline; corrupt and mistaken science; all-inclusive, unavoidable risk; primacy of male taste; body wisdom; optimistic bias; and expensive health management.
The article explores the meaning of specific, emerging sites for communication in the context of everyday life among the young generation. Within the so-called chat-rooms, a dynamic, talkative culture is being developed, and a new context for interpersonal relations is being built. Through analyses of several debates and concrete empirical studies, the author illustrates the potentials and possible implications of these communication sites. At least three types of interpersonal culture are significant for the new “chat-room” generation: they offer a refuge in a fantasy world, a search for therapeutic ties and friendship, and experimentation with intimate relationships. A common characteristic of these forms of social relationships is their false image of power offered to participants.
The author supports the thesis that media and cultural studies should embrace the analysis of subjective characteristics of cultural production, that is, the analysis of individuals employed in cultural industries and mass media, who significantly determine the form and content of cultural products. The article addresses the question of how to approach cultural intermediaries, or contemporary creative workers in the (re)production cycles of symbolic goods. In earlier studies cultural intermediaries were regarded as part of a class responsible for the quick expansion of consumer capitalism and the rise of postmodern life-styles. Today, cultural intermediaries, according to the author, are a highly heterogeneous professional group, whose common denominator could hardly be found in a class habitus. Therefore, cultural intermediaries should be studied in accordance with their specific roles, values, and working and consumer habits in each culture of production.
Among the strongest individual memories of life in state-socialism was the lack of desired goods, the culture of shortages, and the “dictatorship” over needs. With the gradual opening of the border between Italy and Yugoslavia after 1955, shopping trips to Italy became regular social events and cultural phenomena. The article analyzes the formal properties of the cultural and communicative practices of “going shopping to Trieste” and draws on personal memories of former shoppers. It explores social experiences of a culture of shortages, the symbolic value and public meaning of goods, the system of interaction between border officials and shoppers/smugglers, gender divisions, and ethnic and class differentiation involved in shopping expeditions. The article treats everyday life as a critical arena for the communicative construction, reproduction and transformation of power, and elaborates on resistance strategies as a metaphor for power relations and surveillance at the level of everyday life in socialism.