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Voting alone: the decline of bodily mass communication and public sensationalism in presidential elections

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The congregational crowd was a powerful mode of political communication in the nineteenth-century US until banished by the imposition of literate modes on popular electoral politics by Progressive reformers. We examine its major channels of expression, bodily mass communication and public sensationalism, within a framework of class-based struggle, observing that the practice of live bodily assembly created broad points of entry into political life, socialized the young, and successfully conveyed the importance of voting. A text-based normative model of the informed deliberative voter, we argue, offers too narrow a conception of participation compared to a more spaciously conceived democratic community.

Keywords: Bodily Communication; Civic Participation; Class Struggle; Democracy; Public Assembly; Voting

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2004

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