The problems of populism: celebrity politics and citizenship

  • Nolan D
  • Brookes S
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In contrast to approaches that frame the 'populism' of celebrity politics as a 'dumbing down' of politics, this article draws on an approach that seeks to understand the social conditions, political rationalities, and organizational networks that shape populist mobilisations. In light of this approach, it considers two case studies of contemporary populist politics from the US and Britain, both of which implicated celebrities (albeit in notably different ways): Bruce Springsteen's response to the 'Bridgegate' scandal surrounding New Jersey Governor and aspirational Republican Presidential candidate Chris Christie in 2013; and the interventions of comedian and actor Russell Brand in the lead-up to the 2015 British general election. In addressing 'the problems of populism', it highlights two issues: firstly, the fraught and risky nature of market-oriented celebrity politics that appeal to the affective investments of consumer-citizens; and secondly, the necessarily reductive nature of populism itself.




Nolan, D., & Brookes, S. (2015). The problems of populism: celebrity politics and citizenship. Communication Research and Practice, 1(4), 349–361.

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