Blinded by the stars? Celebrity, fantasy, and desire in neoliberal environmental governance

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Abstract

The growing prominence of celebrities within the global environmental movement – and their power to shape and advance this movement’s aims – has been a burgeoning focus of recent research. Thus far, such analysis has viewed the phenomenon primarily through a political economy lens, contending that celebrity is harnessed to further the agenda of a mainstream environmental movement which has become increasingly conjoined with neoliberal capitalism, as expressed in the mounting enthusiasm to address ecological decline through corporate partnership and incentive-based market mechanisms. This article draws on a psychoanalytic approach to offer the complementary suggestion that celebrity also functions as a form of transference helping to sustain the fantasy implicit in this neoliberal vision ‘that capitalist markets are the answer to their own ecological contradictions’. Through transference, the charismatic authority conferred to larger-than-life celebrities helps to conceal the gaps between Real and Symbolic in this vision and thus obfuscates contradictions inherent in the execution of neoliberal environmental strategies. From this perspective, cynical suspicion concerning celebrities’ authenticity may paradoxically enhance their authority, and thus this analysis helps to explain counterintuitive findings that widespread ambivalence towards celebrities does little to diminish their power to shape public sentiment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-470
JournalCelebrity Studies
Volume6
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2015

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