The Cult of Personality

Courtesy Fine Art America


Politics in the world of industrialized neoliberal states is subject to a sort of compression. Neoliberalism, as a mode of thought and organization, is characterized by the shifting of ever greater regions of the social order out of the realm of political deliberation and into the ostensibly more “objective” realm of economic competition. At the same time and, in a certain sense, as a mirror image of this process, the political residuum is transformed into an ever-amplifying spectacle, expanding to fill the space evacuated by substantive politics.

The cult of personality is central to this process of spectacularization. Instead of politicians, in the Weberian model, espousing substantive positions and bearing a responsible commitment to the necessity of compromise, the personages put forward by the major political parties (and here we are primarily speaking of the United States although the point could well be extended) become merely a complex of images intended to acquire value rendered in terms of electoral share. And in this way the political itself becomes an expression of economization, even in regions of political practice not structured by outright bribery.

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