The State of Representation
: The News Media and the Construction of Political Community

  • Daniel McCarthy

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Economic and Social Studies


International relations theory's study of the norms of international society has typically focused on their construction by elite groups through diplomatic practice and academic discourse. In the process, IR theory neglects the importance of news media representations in creating the norms of political community that shape conceptions of political possibility in everyday interactions. This is an important area of investigation; the manner in which national societies are constructed and granted moral meaning has resonances in the range of political actions publics will support and their sense of moral obligation. This paper will outline the manner in which IR could approach such research from a critical perspective. It asserts that the meaning of representations must take into account the status of media as a social product. The authority invested in the media lends its representations legitimacy as fact. The picture of the world conveyed by the media appears as natural and immutable. Oriented towards national markets, the news media assumes the nation as its audience, constructing the nation as a territorially bound entity distinct from other communities. The cultures of news journalism work to reinforce this process through their conservatism and disposition to the status quo. A case study investigation of the American news media's representation of Operation Restore Hope from December 1992 to May 1993 will draw out these aspects of media representation. The causal narrative of the failure of the Somali state is explained in terms of human agency, neglecting the role of structural factors in the collapse of the state. Tying together the meaning suggested by the news media's presentation and inability to trace social and historical complexities, the final aspect of the work will note that the news media presents states as Hegelian expressions of ethical community. The news media thereby works to reinforce systems of exclusion in international society on an everyday level
Date of Award2006
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorAndrew John Priest (Supervisor) & Howard Williams (Supervisor)

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