Political Scandal

Political Scandal : Power and Visability in the Media Age

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Political scandals have become a pervasive feature of manysocieties today. From Profumo to the cash-for-questions scandal, from Watergate to the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, scandals have cometo play a central role in politics and in the shaping of publicdebate. What are the characteristics of political scandals and whyhave they come to assume such prominence today? What are the socialand political consequences of the preoccupation with politicalscandal in the public domain?

In this major new book Thompson develops a systematic andwide-ranging analysis of the phenomenon of political scandal. Heshows that the rise of political scandal is linked to the changesbrought about by the development of communication media, which havetransformed the nature of visibility and altered the relationsbetween public and private life. He analyses the characteristics ofscandals as mediated events and he explains why mediated scandalsin the political field have become increasingly prevalent in recentyears.

Distinguishing between three basic types of political scandal, Thompson reconstructs the development of sex scandals, financialscandals and what he calls 'power scandals' in Britain and theUnited States, showing how scandals unfold and how they form partof distinctive political cultures of scandal. In the final chapter, Thompson develops an original theoretical account of politicalscandal and its consequences which highlights the connectionsbetween scandal, reputation and trust.

This book is a path-breaking analysis of a troubling phenomenonwhich has become a central feature of public life in our societiestoday. It will be of great interest to students of sociology, politics, and media and cultural studies. It will also appeal to awider readership interested in social and political issues.
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Product details

  • Electronic book text | 336 pages
  • Polity Press
  • United Kingdom
  • 0745674437
  • 9780745674438

Table of contents

List of Illustrations. Preface.



1. What is Scandal?.

2. The Rise of Mediated Scandal.

3. Scandal as a Mediated Event.

4. The Nature of Political Scandal.

5. Sex Scandals in the Political Field.

6. Financial Scandals in the Political Field.

7. Power Scandals.

8. The Consequences of Scandal.



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Review quote

'This beautifully written book explains a central paradox of modernpolitical life: why the most powerful men are threatened by therisk of scandals which undermine their power. I won't give away theargument because it reads like a thriller.' Ulrich Beck, University of Munich
'This is the most thoughtful, best grounded work ever on thesubject of political scandal. It is indispensable for anyone whoseeks to understand the growing place of scandal-centered politicsin our time.' Michael Schudson, University of California, SanDiego

'This is an incisive and disturbing book. John Thompson goes farbeyond newspaper accounts of scandal. He makes of scandal a subjectwhich unlocks important secrets about political power. A mustread.' Richard Sennett, London School of Economics

'[A] cool, shrewd and revealing expos of the apparatus ofscandal ... In a climate of almost perpetual moral indignation, there is an undeniable frisson to reading a text on scandal thatdoes not sermonise and denounce dodgy politicians and/orunscrupulous muckrakers. Thompson's work is virtually a compactencyclopaedia of modern scandal, but it is above all an overarchingtheory of the genre, keeping a detached but sympathetic distancefrom heroes, clowns and victims alike ... an illuminating book.'Andy Martin, The Independent

'Excellent analysis ... from Polity, at the cleverer end of thetrade.' Andrew Marr, booksonline

"What is unique about this work is not just that the authorfocuses on the role of the media...but that the author brings manyof these disparate elements together in what is perhaps the firstsystematic and comprehensive theory of scandal available toscholars" C.J.Spiliotes. Canadian Journal of PoliticalScience

Political Scandal has been awarded the coveted EuropeanAmalfi Prize for Sociology and Social Sciences for2001.

"Thompson's aim is not simply to re-narrate and codify, ratherto refelct on what scandal's prominence reveals about the characterof power in the "media age," developing a "social theory" ofscandal's "conditions and consequences." The Times HigherEducation Supplement

"This book has a lot to say about mediated political scandals-including their roots and consequences in liberal democraticsocieties- and his author says it very, very well....highlyilluminating journey through media, political and culturalhistory.... I cannot recommend this book highly enough for any ofseveral audiences..." Amy Binder, Social forces

"Thompson's approach to the analysis of political scandal bringstogether social science and discourse theories in a dynamiccombination, thus illustrating how discourse analysts can learnfrom social scientists, and vice versa. The volume is a very usefulreference for practitioners and students in media, political andcritical discourse analysis." Discourse & Society
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About John B. Thompson

John B. Thompson is Reader in Sociology at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge.
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15 ratings
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3 53% (8)
2 7% (1)
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