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date: 17 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines the epoch-making sense of Barack Obama’s historic election as U.S. president in 2008 and the heightened solidarity it produced, as well as the role of the mass media in creating such meanings. It first describes a sociological model of the public sphere by combining insights from field analysis and the Strong Program in cultural sociology, focusing on the theories advanced by Jürgen Habermas, Pierre Bourdieu, and Jeffrey C. Alexander. It then considers how intellectuals, acting through media institutions, define and expand public spheres before discussing the interrelationships among autonomy, rationality, and democracy. It also explores how the autonomy of cultural production can influence the autonomy of the journalistic field and, therefore, the autonomy of the political public sphere. Finally, it explains how civil society, and its public sphere institutions more specifically, produces solidarity by making distinctions between civil and uncivil things.

Keywords: Solidarity, Barack Obama, mass media, public sphere, cultural sociology, intellectuals, autonomy, rationality, democracy, civil society

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