Sincerity, Self and Celebrification: The Demotic Turn and Political Authority in Austerity Narratives

Carlton Brick, Kelly Davidson

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This paper is concerned with the ‘Demotic Turn’ as an expression of contemporary austerity politics in Britain and Ireland. Celebrity culture is often conceptualised as a contemporary form of ‘democratisation,’ organised around and expressing the themes of validation, authenticity and ‘the ordinary’. Turner (2010; 2014) suggests the ‘Demotic Turn’ can help better understand the cultural function of a commercial media and the production of cultural identities. This paper uses the emergence of forms of demotic celebrity as a prism through which to interrogate the restructuring of political discourse through celebrification austerity narratives. Following Turner, we suggest the ‘demotic turn’ can help us understand and identify shifts that have occurred in the discursive exercise of political authority in increasingly de-legitimised democratic political systems.

McKernan (2011) suggests that the conflation of politics and celebrity culture should not be that surprising as both employ the same techniques of media and image promotion. However Furedi (2010) argues that the contemporary relationship between celebrity and politics express historically specific contradictions that amplify a perceived crisis of political legitimacy and accountability in ‘Western’ democracies.

The requirements of contemporary political culture exhibit an acute contradiction: a demand for authority and aspiration for authoritative answers, which co-exists with a profound suspicion of the exercise of authority. In Britain and Ireland an increasingly prevalent solution has been sought in the turn towards demotic celebrity as a means of providing politics with an alternative source of validation. Yet this demotic turn brings to the fore its own contradiction, expressed in the tendency for popular celebrities, onto whom a certain cultural uniqueness is conferred, to validate their political arguments by stressing their of-the-people ordinariness.

This paper suggests that while the ascendency of demotic celebrity can serve to problematise official forms of political authority, it also provides a discreet sphere in which to circumvent the problem of political legitimacy.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2017
EventEUPOP2017: 6th International Conference of the European popular Culture Association - University of the Arts , London, United Kingdom
Duration: 25 Jul 201727 Jul 2017


Abbreviated titleEPCA
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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