2004
Volume 114 Number 4
  • ISSN: 0002-5275
  • E-ISSN: 2352-1244

Abstract

Abstract

What role does television play in liberal democracy? This topical question is the focus of two essays, one by the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu and another by the Italian political philosopher Giovanni Sartori. Bourdieu’s position, in short, is that the television medium manipulates information from which a structural corruption emerges. Sartori, in turn, argues that television modifies thought at best and impoverishes it at worst. In this contribution, the essays of both authors are taken as the starting point for a comparison. First the article discusses the ‘primacy of the image’, and it elucidates how both thinkers relate to the ubiquitous visual culture. It then examines ‘tele-directed opinion’ and offers a deeper insight into the ‘public opinion’, and in turn the ‘opinion poll’. Here their thinking on what is called media logic unfolds: the idea that media, instead of merely reporting the course of things, influence it. In the third part, the article explores the question of what Bourdieu’s and Sartori’s insights imply for politics and democracy. It discusses the electoral and political influence that television exerts in their view. The article concludes the discussion by asking to what extent Bourdieu’s and Sartori’s essays are still relevant and whether their commentary on television can be applied one-to-one to social media. Thus, the authors are compared not only textually, but also temporally (1990s and 1920s). Despite their differences, we have found that there are striking resemblances between television and social media, especially when it comes to the influence both media have on society and liberal democracy.

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