Rebecca Fisher (ed.), Managing Democracy, Managing Dissent: Capitalism, Democracy and the Organization of Consent.

Author:Gordon, Uri
Position:Book review

Rebecca Fisher (ed.), Managing Democracy, Managing Dissent: Capitalism, Democracy and the Organization of Consent London: Corporate Watch, 2013; 379pp; ISBN 978-1907738098.

This edited collection is the first book-length project from Corporate Watch, a research group producing 'information for action' against corporate power. A small workers' cooperative with no remaining original members, Corporate Watch began in 1996 as an outgrowth of the British anti-roads movement, whose activists had encountered the corporate front-end of the Conservative government's roads programme at Twyford Down, Newbury and elsewhere. During the eighteen years since its formation, Corporate Watch has provided activists in the UK and beyond, with investigative journalism on the social and environmental impacts of multinationals, critical reports on issues including corporate law and structures, Corporate Social Responsibility and 'techno-fixes' for environmental issues and analyses of corporate sectors from farming and supermarkets to public relations and nanotechnology.

This collection could be described as a theoretically informed analysis of the neoliberal consent industry. Its chief argument is that under capitalism, a 'hollowed out, carefully managed version of "democracy"' (p 1) functions to 'limit or repress the imagination of the possible or even conceivable' (p 4) and, through co-optation and repression, to 'protect the unequal power-structures of capitalism from the potential force of participatory democracy' (p 6). The book is divided into five sections. The first offers historical background and wider theoretical and strategic reflection on managed democracy as a legitimating discourse of capitalism. The second takes stock of the latest developments in the manufacture of consent, with chapters on the liberal corporate media, the entertainment industry, celebrity philanthropy and the tropes of legitimation rhetoric. Chapters in the third part deal with co-optation, focusing on what has come to be known as the 'Nonprofit Industrial Complex'. It highlights the complicity of foundations and of development and human rights NGOs in domesticating civil society and social movements. The fourth part moves to co-optation's counterpart, repression, and offers a sobering view of how war-on-terror logics have reshaped state responses to unarmed political groups--from specialised legislation and police forces, to infiltration, politicised sentencing and the...

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