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The Performance of PoliticsObama's Victory and the Democratic Struggle for Power$
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Jeffrey C. Alexander

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199744466

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199744466.001.0001

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Becoming a Collective Representation

Becoming a Collective Representation

(p.17) Chapter Two Becoming a Collective Representation
The Performance of Politics


Oxford University Press

Those who struggle for power in democracy frequently do establish powerful connections with citizen audiences, despite the enormous increase in mass mediation and the uncertainty it exacerbates. To struggle for power in a democratic society one must become a collective representation—a symbolic vessel filled with what citizens hold most dear. Candidates experience and channel the energy of human contact. These intense, face-to-face encounters look a lot like old-fashioned rituals. The emotions they generate are connected to civil discourse, and culture and emotion are digitized and circulated. The sounds and images of audiences whistling and applauding and of beaming, back-slapping, and fist-pumping candidates reflect a collective psychic energy to the candidate and these channel upward, via communicative institutions, into the broader civil sphere. While virtual, digitally created political performances are technically feasible, it would be considered immoral to employ them. They would not trigger the recursive processes of ritual and symbolic representation so critical to performative success.

Keywords:   power, democracy, mass mediation, collective representation, citizens, rituals, culture, emotion, civil sphere

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