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Media, Monarchy and Power
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Price £30, $43
ISBN 9781841500430
Hardback 192 pages

Published February 2003
Imprint: Intellect
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Is obsession with the Royal Family in Britain a fact of culture or an illusion of media culture? What interest do the European media display in their royal families? Does twenty-first century monarchy remain a political and ideological force - or is it just an economic commodity?

Media, Monarchy and Power provides a radical insight into the cultural and political functioning of royalty in five countries. Blain and O'Donnell examine the bonds between monarchies and their 'subjects' or 'citizens', and the relationships between royal families, the media, and nation-states.

Numerous case-studies from press and television in Europe and the UK support a theoretical account of the operation of monarchy and royalty in the media. Central to the concerns of Media, Monarchy and Power are the complex relationship between Britain and Europe and the limits of British political modernization.

Topics include:

* monarchy in the British, Spanish, Dutch, Belgian and Norwegian media
• Britain and Europe; new postmodern developments in European political culture
• new trends in media celebrity; issues of authenticity in reportage
• many illustrated applications of major themes in contemporary cultural theory

Uneven development (modern and postmodern) between Britain and its neighbouring monarchies is investigated in a study which spans more than a decade, concluding with a retrospect on the Queen Mother's funeral, and the Golden Jubilee.


Contents and Further Information

The book constructs an argument about how royalty functions culturally. It illustrates in particular the debate between 'modern' and 'postmodern' accounts of culture and power. It proposes that a more subtle handling is required of the modern/postmodern distinction than is often found in anglophone cultural analysis.

The main theoretical question in this book is whether royalty should be understood in a traditional materialist sense as an 'ideological' phenomenon, or as a postmodern, 'post-ideological' commodity form. It argues the need to avoid either/or propositions over this central theoretical question and proposes that while postmodernists are right to portray cultural circumstances as radically changed since the 1960s, it is nonetheless true that royalty continues to carry great ideological significance in Britain as a component of a deeply unequal society which still requires to be understood in political terms. By contrast, in Spain for example, monarchy signals something quite different, namely a commitment to the politically modern.

The book explores the possibility that Britain is distinct from much of the rest of Europe in having a problematic relationship with political modernity. The work of Tom Nairn and Perry Anderson forms an early reference point for this part of the discussion, though the trajectory of their work is considered in the perspective of postmodernist theory, and the authors handle this tradition in a critical as well as sympathetic manner. The book ranges widely in its theoretical argument, applying to the topic work on culture by among others Debord, Baudrillard and Jameson as well as media theory (eg 'star theory' in the form developed by Richard Dyer). However it is intended to handle theory with a light touch, with the aim of illustrating abstract notions in concrete form, and introducing alternative stances in different chapters for the sake of readability, with a degree of summing-up in the final chapter. Charles Jencks's notion of 'double-coding' - of postmodernity as a continuation of the modern period - will be of central importance to the argument.

In places the book looks very closely at British and European television constructions, and at quality (and in the UK, popular) press accounts of royalty. Many representative instances rather than detailed analysis of any single events will be favoured. There will be consideration of key moments in the development of royal narratives, for example the Royal separation between Diana and Charles, Spanish and Belgian royal occasions, more recently the media events surrounding the Prince of Wales's fiftieth birthday, the marriage of Sophie and Edward, and other as yet unpredictable events which may occur during the book's preparation, to which the book may offer an early response. In making European comparisons the book will also examine a number of issues associated with differences between the British media and their European neighbours specifically in terms of journalistic and editorial approach, which in turn provide further evidence of politico-cultural discrepancies between the UK and the rest of Europe. 

Chapter titles
Chapter 1: 'Modern and Postmodern Monarchy'
Page 11
Chapte 2: 'The Ideological Realm'
Page 37
Chapter 3: 'The Gnawing Absence of Reality: Fables of the Royal Boudoir in The British Media'
Page 59
Chapter 4: 'The UK, Spain and Beyond: Monarchy and Modernity'
Page 77
Chapter 5: 'Spain - Two Weddings and a 'Friendship': From the Modern to the Postmodern'
Page 93
Chapter 6: 'Belgium - A Country Reunited?'
Page 121
Chapter 7: 'Norway - A Different Land?'
Page 137
Chapter 8: 'The Netherlands: The Prince and the Politicians'
Page 147
Chapter 9: 'Royalty and Celebrity'
Page 159
Conclusion: 'Royal Poweer and Media Power'
Page 179
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