chapter  4
16 Pages

The production of policy and news: Liquid politics and the working cultures of the new capitalism

This chapter looks at the daily working practices of MPs, ministers and journalists as they are engaged in the production of legislation and news coverage. Despite their privileges and positions of power, in many ways they operate as skilled, professional ‘wage labourers’. Therefore, the changing conditions of work in politics and media are likely to affect how MPs and journalists engage with their publics, and how they produce and report law. This chapter thus outlines two contrasting accounts of work in capitalist democracies and applies such descriptions to political actors. As described below, like many other employees, journalists and politicians

operate in restrictive, hierarchical environments, and are continually expected to be more productive with their time; i.e., to be more cost efficient and produce quantitatively more with less. At the same time, many aspects of what they produce are not quantifiable as they are oriented around human exchanges, information-gathering and public audience connection. Both, accordingly, try to have more human exchanges, and to learn, deliberate and write about more policy issues in an increasingly complex policy sphere. Over time, the expectations and demands have crept up, putting individual resources under strain. In trying to fulfil these increasingly elusive goals, politicians and journalists are adopting new working practices and technologies to cut corners; in effect, appearing to manage the unmanageable. This, in turn, affects information-gathering, understanding and expertise, and human interactions. Such activities are becoming transformed in practice. Thus, politician-citizen engagement, the policy process and political reporting are increasingly more ‘liquid’ than ‘solid’, more ‘symbolic’ than ‘substantive’, based on ‘thin’ rather than ‘thick’ social ties, built on ‘flexibility’ and ‘abstraction’ in place of ‘craftsmanship’ and ‘specialist knowledge’. Such developments in turn have implications for the democratic process.