Political Scandal: Power and Visability in the Media Age
December 2000, Polity
In this major new book Thompson develops a systematic and
wide-ranging analysis of the phenomenon of political scandal. He
shows that the rise of political scandal is linked to the changes
brought about by the development of communication media, which have
transformed the nature of visibility and altered the relations
between public and private life. He analyses the characteristics of
scandals as mediated events and he explains why mediated scandals
in the political field have become increasingly prevalent in recent
Distinguishing between three basic types of political scandal,
Thompson reconstructs the development of sex scandals, financial
scandals and what he calls 'power scandals' in Britain and the
United States, showing how scandals unfold and how they form part
of distinctive political cultures of scandal. In the final chapter,
Thompson develops an original theoretical account of political
scandal and its consequences which highlights the connections
between scandal, reputation and trust.
This book is a path-breaking analysis of a troubling phenomenon which has become a central feature of public life in our societies today. It will be of great interest to students of sociology, politics, and media and cultural studies. It will also appeal to a wider readership interested in social and political issues.
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.
'This is the most thoughtful, best grounded work ever on the
subject of political scandal. It is indispensable for anyone who
seeks to understand the growing place of scandal-centered politics
in our time.' Michael Schudson, University of California, San
'This is an incisive and disturbing book. John Thompson goes far
beyond newspaper accounts of scandal. He makes of scandal a subject
which unlocks important secrets about political power. A must
read.' Richard Sennett, London School of Economics
'[A] cool, shrewd and revealing exposé of the apparatus of
scandal ... In a climate of almost perpetual moral indignation,
there is an undeniable frisson to reading a text on scandal that
does not sermonise and denounce dodgy politicians and/or
unscrupulous muckrakers. Thompson's work is virtually a compact
encyclopaedia of modern scandal, but it is above all an overarching
theory of the genre, keeping a detached but sympathetic distance
from heroes, clowns and victims alike ... an illuminating book.'
Andy Martin, The Independent
'Excellent analysis ... from Polity, at the cleverer end of the
trade.' Andrew Marr, booksonline
"What is unique about this work is not just that the author
focuses on the role of the media...but that the author brings many
of these disparate elements together in what is perhaps the first
systematic and comprehensive theory of scandal available to
scholars" C.J.Spiliotes. Canadian Journal of Political
Political Scandal has been awarded the coveted European
Amalfi Prize for Sociology and Social Sciences for
"Thompson's aim is not simply to re-narrate and codify, rather
to refelct on what scandal's prominence reveals about the character
of power in the "media age", developing a "social theory" of
scandal's "conditions and consequences." The Times Higher
"This book has a lot to say about mediated political scandals
-including their roots and consequences in liberal democratic
societies- and his author says it very, very well....highly
illuminating journey through media, political and cultural
history.... I cannot recommend this book highly enough for any of
several audiences..." Amy Binder, Social forces
"Thompson's approach to the analysis of political scandal brings together social science and discourse theories in a dynamic combination, thus illustrating how discourse analysts can learn from social scientists, and vice versa. The volume is a very useful reference for practitioners and students in media, political and critical discourse analysis." Discourse & Society