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Politics, as currently practiced, is no longer the art of the possible, but the art of the fictive. Its aim is not to change the world as it exists, but to affect the way it is perceived.
This is the subject of Christian Salmon’s Storytelling, which looks at how the creative imagination has been hijacked in the twenty-first century. Salmon anatomizes the timeless human desire for narrative form and how it is abused in the marketing mechanisms behind politicians and products: luxury brands trade on their embellished histories, managers tell stories to motivate employees, soldiers in Iraq train on computer games conceived in Hollywood, and spin doctors construct political lives as if they were a folk epic.
Salmon unveils the workings of a “storytelling machine” more effective and insidious as a means of oppression than anything dreamed up by Orwell. The “reality-based community”—to use a phrase coined by an aide to George W. Bush—is now regularly outmaneuvered by public relations gurus and political advisers, as they construct story arcs for a population that has come to expect them.
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Christian Salmon is a writer and researcher in the Centre for Research in the Arts and Language at the CNRS in Paris. He is the founder of the International Parliament of Writers, of which he was president from 1993 to 2003, and is the author of several works, including Tombeau de la fiction, Devenir minoritaire, Verbicide and Storytelling. He writes a regular column for Le Monde.From Publishers Weekly:
Salmon (Verbicide), a columnist for Le Monde, makes a riveting case for how public relations (or more euphemistically, storytelling) has come to dominate statecraft and business in the West. He traces the political uses of narrative to the end of the 20th century, when the declining value of branding led to product narratives taking priority over logos—a practice made ubiquitous by a generation of Orwellian management and political gurus who recognized how appropriate narratives could increase efficiency and even legitimize various questionable practices. Attributing the success of these techniques to a hunger for stability in a postmodern era where grand narratives have collapsed, the book examines the cozy relationship between modern politics and storytelling, where personal narrative trumps policy and movie makers advise politicians on possible terrorist plots. Despite the value of his insights, the author's claims about the novelty of such practices are questionable, as he ignores the long history of propaganda and public relations. Furthermore, the current religious climate in the U.S. alone suggests that grand narratives are a long way from collapsing. The story of storytelling needs to stretch far beyond the recent past. (May)
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