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The social theory of mass politics

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This paper argues the study of mass politics is currently weakened by its separation from debates in social theory. A preliminary attempt at reconnection is made. The implications of an interpretative turn in social theorizing are explored, and the interpretative perspectives of mentalism, intersubjectivism, textualism, and practice theory examined in detail, in particular regarding how they and their equivalents in political study differ on units of analysis and how to understand one of the key social practices, language. It is suggested that text- and practice-oriented perspectives are well placed to sidestep common difficulties of voluntarism or social determinism, the mysteries of individual consciousness, and the metaphor of language as medium, and that they offer rich and relatively unexplored possibilities for empirical study based on examining patterns of routinized behavior, their evolution, and reflexive individual responses to them. Arguments are made for their wider application to the study of mass politics, in conjunction with a number of compatible research methods.

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