Mediatized Politics and Collective Speculation

Standard concepts like the „mediatization” or „professionalization” of politics express the commonly held idea that political actors in the last decades have adapted themselves to the popular media environment surrounding their media-using electorates. Standard theories of „adaptation”, however, have neglected a key recognition of today’s post-crisis era, namely that actors’ adaptation to today’s late capitalist world can be fundamentally undermined by collectively held misconceptions. These adaptation problems manifest themselves in processes of collective speculation that have recently trembled financial markets, and also destabilized, as this essay argues, mediatized politics. Today’s politicians, experts and observers commonly speculate on “the people” and “the popular”, on how to win the „popularity contest” of politics and how to appeal to the hearts and minds of their popular media using constituencies. This speculative process has detached itself from the real trends of public opinion formation – and betrayed the “fundamentals” of the political field just as it has been the case with financial bubbles and real economy. Collective delusion, that is, the rise of a speculative „bubble” that systematically misinforms its participants about the „popular” realm they incessantly speculate upon, is a key structural feature of today’s mediatized democracy, with a binding force and long-reaching consequences to our daily lives as citizens.

Released: Replika 95, 59–78.