The Media and the Crisis of Democracy

Rethinking Aesthetic Politics

in Theoria

This essay reassesses the German-Jewish social and cultural critic, Walter Benjamin's famous, yet widely misunderstood thesis of the aestheticisation of politics with reference to the development of the mass media and the crisis of democracy. I argue that his thesis of the aestheticisation of politics represents the focal point of his account of both the crisis of liberal democracy as a deliberative and representative political system and the emergence of fascism as a form of direct political communication between a political power and the public. My examination of Benjamin's analysis of the interplay between fascist politics and the mass media leads to a wider critical consideration of the function of political spectacle in the media age. In so doing, I seek to draw out its theoretical relevance for our critical understanding of the linkage between new media and democracy, be it 'new' or 'old' democracy.

Theoria

A Journal of Social and Political Theory

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