Celebrity and Organizations

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 14:15-15:45
Location: Seminar 31 (Juridicum)
RC17 Sociology of Organization (host committee)

Language: English

Celebrity plays a central role in the structure and dynamics of contemporary social, political, economic and organizational life. Various forms of violence are generally organized around highly visible, charismatic individuals, and political as well as organizational order is increasingly structured in relation to the construction of the celebrity of celebrated leaders.

This session builds on the two earlier very successful sessions at the 2010 and 2014 World Congresses, aiming to develop the theorization of celebrity within the sociology of culture and consumption, seeing it as central to the sociology of state formation, organizations, power and recognition. A great deal of literature touching on the celebrity dimensions of organizational life has been generated over this period, and this session aims to provide an up-to-date overview of the more recent developments, as well as consolidation of earlier conceptual innovations.

The overall orientation is to look beyond celebrities as unique individuals to examine the circuits of power which produce celebrity as a social, political, economic and organizational phenomenon, as well as the logic underpinning its production, a certain kind of “celebrity function” or role, independently from the specific individuals who become celebrities at any particular time and place. The session will examine the social positions that celebrities occupy, how they are constituted as a group, and what underpins celebrity as a central aspect of everyday life.

The analysis drawn upon in the session will be coupled to concepts such as visibility, attention, status, recognition, but also power, symbolic capital, the constitution of the self, social networks, and it will approach celebrity as a central aspect of a range of features of modern social life, such as democracy, individualism, state formation, long-distance intimacy, imagined community, the public sphere, and of course the changing technologies of the mass media.
The session will be open, but not restricted to current research on the following topics:

  • The use of network analysis to understand the dynamics of celebrity.
  • The logic of celebrity across differing celebrity sectors: entertainment, sport, music, science, politics, commerce, non-government organisations.
  • Comparative and historical sociology: celebrity in differing social, cultural and historical contexts, the roots of celebrity society in court society, celebrities as democratic aristocrats.
  • The economics of attention: celebrity as “interest” on original accumulation.
  • Celebrity and sociological theories of “recognition”: celebrity as “excess” recognition.
  • Imagined community and long-distance intimacy, and the sociology of para-social interaction. 
  • Celebrity and status, celebrities and elite theory.
  • Power in the “viewer society”, celebrity as self-surveillance.
  • Celebrity humanitarianism and North-South relations.
  • Political celebrity: competing logics of attracting attention in democracies, and the use of celebrity in social movements and non-government organisations.
  • Theorizing celebrity: the ways in which celebrity can be understood from a variety of theoretical perspectives, including Simmel, Elias, Adorno and Horkheimer, Mills, Foucault, and Bourdieu.
Session Organizer:
Robert VAN KRIEKEN, University of Sydney, Australia