Natasha Lushetich


To say that in the current era of economic Darwinism, in which economics drives politics transforming citizens into superconsumers, authority is diffuse, is by no means new. But how is this diffuse set of relationships, uncannily reminiscent of gravity in the sense that it is both invisible and intangible but nevertheless ‘pulls’ all the time, produced?

The aim of this paper is to articulate the processes by which networked society produces subtextual authority through engaged followership.  Bypassing the active-passive, external-internal polarity characteristic of overt authority (Milgram) as well as of internalised subjugation (Butler), engaged followership refers mostly to the new media’s viral ability to create tight feedback loops and in this way trigger dependent, addictive behaviour. It also refers to the unprecedented opportunities for behavioural citationality afforded by the new media. Building on Arendt’s work on citationality – in which the individual merely ‘cites’ or ‘re-enacts’ an already existing form of behaviour – and, on Agamben’s parallel between the concentration camps’ state of emergency and the state of permanent emergency favoured by contemporary politics, this paper argues for a residual form of authority. Arising from the ‘base’, such authority thrives on mistaken assumptions characteristic of pluralistic ignorance – the performatively and linguistically inaugurated belief that others know more or better.

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