Celebrity, Democracy, and Epistemic Power

A. Archer, A. Cawston, B. Matheson, M. Geuskens

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


© 2019 American Political Science Association.What, if anything, is problematic about the involvement of celebrities in democratic politics? While a number of theorists have criticized celebrity involvement in politics, none so far have examined this issue using the tools of social epistemology, the study of the effects of social interactions, practices, and institutions on knowledge and belief acquisition. We will draw on these resources to investigate the issue of celebrity involvement in politics, specifically as this involvement relates to democratic theory and its implications for democratic practice. We will argue that an important and underexplored form of power, which we will call epistemic power, can explain one important way in which celebrity involvement in politics is problematic. This is because unchecked uses and unwarranted allocations of epistemic power, which celebrities tend to enjoy, threaten the legitimacy of existing democracies and raise important questions regarding core commitments of deliberative, epistemic, and plebiscitary models of democratic theory. We will finish by suggesting directions that democratic theorists could pursue when attempting to address some of these problems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-42
Number of pages16
JournalPerspectives on Politics
Issue number1
Early online date29 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


Alfred Archer is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Tilburg University and a member of the Tilburg Center for Logic, Ethics, and Philosophy of Science (a.t.m.archer@uvt.nl). His primary research interests are in moral philosophy and moral psychology, particularly supererogation, the nature and ethics of admiration, and the ethics of fame. He also has research interests in applied ethics, political philosophy, and the philosophy of sport. His work for this paper was supported by the NWO (The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research; Grant Number 016.Veni.174.104).

FundersFunder number
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek


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