chapter  8
17 Pages

Politics and communication between the national and the global: Determining the boundaries and significance of ‘international political communication’

This chapter focuses on the weakly-defined subject of ‘international political communication’. Whatever one’s views on globalisation and the durability of nation states it is clear that politicians and policy-makers must increasingly engage with transnational actors and respond to global trends and influences. The concern thus becomes to explore the part played by media and communication in these engagements. The questions asked here are: is there such a thing as international political communication?; if so, what form does it take?; and, what part does it play in regard to national and global politics? One response to these questions has focused on the perceived rise of global

civil society and the development of a transnational public sphere. A growing body of literature has recorded the emergence of a set of international political and communicative structures and actors. In documenting such trends observers both detect and positively promote an ideal, future vision of global governance and public communication. However, as argued here, a set of transnational structures and a sense of global interconnectedness may be evolving, but this does not in any way constitute an emerging transnational public sphere. Democratic political and communication systems, those linked to ‘public opinion-and willformation’, remain distinctly nation-state based. Instead it is ‘cosmopolitan elite networks’, international institutions and sites, which make most use of the new global communication apparatus for political and economic purposes. Therefore, investigation of international political communication needs to focus on the communicative practices of these networks and sites and, also, how they relate to national political arenas and publics. The chapter is in four parts. The first discusses the ‘idea’ of globalisation itself

and whether its multiple strands are steadily eroding the autonomy of the nation state or merely reconfiguring it. It concludes that, regardless of one’s analysis, political leaders are increasingly drawn into a series of transnational corporate and governance structures and networks which, in themselves, influence national policy agendas and possible responses. The second part presents the global civil society/public sphere position as it has emerged in response to these trends.

As argued, the positive perceptions of an emerging transnational public sphere are quite misplaced. Part three presents a more critical interpretation centring on ‘cosmopolitan elite networks’. Such networks, which generally lack in public transparency and accountability, operate at the heart of the international political communication system. Part four briefly looks at how this state of affairs influences UK politicians and publics in regard to their understanding of, and responses to, international affairs.