The role of the media has become a central part of politics and policy in the twenty-first century. That dominance has led many to suggest a trend of 'dumbing down': the privileging of style over content. In this provocative new book, Maarten Hajer ...
takes issue with the 'dumbing down' thesis both on theoretical and empirical grounds. He aims to show how authoritative governance remains possible in crisis driven circumstances and a highly 'mediatized' world. The book elaborates a communicative understanding of authority, which, the author argues, can create a new basis for authoritative governance in a world marked by political and institutional fragmentation. Extending his discourse-analytical framework, Hajer uses both discursive and dramaturgical methods to study policymakers in their struggle for authority. Three detailed case studies-the plans to rebuild Ground Zero, the aftermath of the assassination of Theo Van Gogh, and the recent role of the British Food Standards Agency -provide a wealth of detail of the dynamics of authority in today's mediatized polity and bring out the peculiar role that crises now play. The argument of the book is that in the age of mediatization governance needs to be 'performed'. Hajer describes a genuinely new authoritative governance that breaks with existing interpretations. He demonstrates ways in which the traditional government of standing institutions and notions of network governance can be combined in actively creating relations with a variety of publics.