Political agency and communication
Downing, John (1996) Internationalizing Media Theory. London: Sage.
Gledhill, John (2000) Power and its Disguises. London: Pluto.
p. x. According to Downing, questions of state, of totalitarian systems, of political activism, etc, have often been studied without reference to communication, ‘as though politics consisted of mute pieces on a chessboard’.
On reading this passage I was reminded of Gledhill’s point about Bourdieu’s theory of the political field. Gledhill argues that Bourdieu’s use of his notion of habitus in the study of politics is problematic because it sees humans as being programmed through socialisation and downplays the role of communication in the activities of political agents.
How do we account [if we use the notion of habitus] for the unusually persuasive nature of the ‘messages’ of certain prophets and party leaders at particular moments in time, and for the fact that the same community (say French industrial workers) can be mobilized by communists in one period and racists and fascists in another? (Gledhill 2000: 141)