Acclamation, Social Media and the Manifestation of Truth

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference abstract in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


    This paper builds upon previous work that has sought to understand social media in contemporary liberal and democratic politics through the concept of “acclamation”, a central element in both religious and political liturgy. Acclamation is a specific public “mode of veridiction” (to use Michel Foucault’s term) or “truth-telling”, akin to prayer, hymns, oaths, pledges and vows. It has oral and gestural elements, such as tripartite chants and the raising of hands or waving of flags, that accomplishes the democratic (or, if you like, “populist”) identification of the ruled and ruler, of citizen and nation. I have argued that acclamation is a practice that forms democratic publics, whether as the direct presence of the “people” in public assembly (emerging from the Greek and Christian ekklēsiae), or as the “public opinion” (Walter Lippmann) of the mass media of the twentieth century and the liberal-democratic public sphere, or today as what I have termed the more volatile and evanescent “public mood” decipherable through countless social media postings, “likes”, and so forth. This line of thinking is fruitful in understanding the links between the simple, individual act of “liking” and cornerstone events such as the 2016 presidential election in the United States, Brexit, and recent public controversies over the use of Facebook data by Cambridge Analytica. Here I focus on how approaching acclamation as a mode of veridiction displaces the analytical terrain from the opposition of truth and “untruth”, real and “fake news”, to different modes of the manifestation of truth. The current paper shifts the focus to the wider aspects of public service (leitourgia) that is called liturgy and what Nicholas Heron has called “liturgical power”. Liturgical power distributes and apportions sovereignty in a vicarious and “economic” form that can only be enacted but never possessed. Liturgical power opens the “fan” between sovereignty and government (Roberto Esposito). Today, social media occupies that space in contemporary liberal democracies. It at once performs a theological-political function of the enactment of glorification and an economic-theological one that establishes the circuit that converts the accumulation of accumulation into the accumulation of capital. While users of social media are formal equals, the pastoral relation of shepherd and flock is everywhere attested.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationDigital Cultures: Knowledge / Culture / Technology : Conference Program and Book of Abstracts
    Number of pages2
    Place of PublicationLüneburg
    PublisherLeuphana University of Lüneburg
    Publication date2018
    Publication statusPublished - 2018
    EventDigital Cultures: Knowledge / Culture / Technology. KCT18 - Leuphana University Lüneburg, Lüneburg, Germany
    Duration: 19 Sept 201822 Sept 2018


    ConferenceDigital Cultures
    LocationLeuphana University Lüneburg

    Cite this