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Media and Politics, Vol. 4 - 1997, No. 3

Anti-Politics or the Triumph of Postmodern Populism in Promotional Cultures

, , pages: 5-25

Promotional cultures, to use Wernick.s expression, have transformed communication, as the ideology of the market seeps into every facet of social life. Promotional texts, whether verbal, written or visual, now have great impact upon cultural formation and are contributing to a reflexive transformation of both individual and collective political identities. Much commentary on political change (and especially electoral change) is exercised by a powerfully normative concern with the alleged death of modernist forms of politics and political discourse. This paper goes beyond metaphorical hand-wringing to examine changes in the cultural currents which are transforming the politics of many post-historical societies, and which are conveniently summarised in the changing character of electoral politics and campaign discourses. Although frequently discussed as a kind of anti-politics, these currents, and their phenomenal appearance in the guise of media parties and forms of lifestyle marketing are producing a highly selfreferential style of electoral discourse, and are better understood as imitations of postmodern populism, where that involves: (1) a growing reliance on the techniques and outputs of culture industries to provide sites where meaning is constituted, (2) a de-centring of ideas and outputs about authentic forms of publicness, and (3) the side-lining of palpable modern forms of politics, like mass political parties.

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