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In the Twilight of Democracy. Public Affairs Consultants in Switzerland


Steiner, A; Jarren, O (2009). In the Twilight of Democracy. Public Affairs Consultants in Switzerland. Journal of Public Affairs, 9(2):95-109.

Abstract

Modernization processes within different fields of political communication rise new
challenges. Public affairs consultants are said to meet these challenges in both an
effective and efficient way. Nevertheless, the rise of public affairs consultants also
poses the question of their accordance with basic principles of modern democracy. Do
public affairs consultants foster or impede the democratic process with respect to
participation and representation? This question is answered on the basis of empirical
data on public affairs consultants in Switzerland. The analysis points out three
distinguishable fields of service: lobbying, political public relations and campaigning.
Whereas campaigning has the strongest public-orientation and emphasizes direct
democratic institutions, the other two fields tend to be more in the backstage of the
public. Results regarding public affairs services suggest a structural discrepancy
between public and non-public forms of communication, which according to normative
democracy theory has to be judged critically. With view to clients, policy fields
and party affiliations, the results show strong imbalances in interest representation,
which seem to have mainly structural and economic reasons. In the conclusion, these
results are discussed with view to the necessity of more transparency and a further
professionalization.

Modernization processes within different fields of political communication rise new
challenges. Public affairs consultants are said to meet these challenges in both an
effective and efficient way. Nevertheless, the rise of public affairs consultants also
poses the question of their accordance with basic principles of modern democracy. Do
public affairs consultants foster or impede the democratic process with respect to
participation and representation? This question is answered on the basis of empirical
data on public affairs consultants in Switzerland. The analysis points out three
distinguishable fields of service: lobbying, political public relations and campaigning.
Whereas campaigning has the strongest public-orientation and emphasizes direct
democratic institutions, the other two fields tend to be more in the backstage of the
public. Results regarding public affairs services suggest a structural discrepancy
between public and non-public forms of communication, which according to normative
democracy theory has to be judged critically. With view to clients, policy fields
and party affiliations, the results show strong imbalances in interest representation,
which seem to have mainly structural and economic reasons. In the conclusion, these
results are discussed with view to the necessity of more transparency and a further
professionalization.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Mass Communication and Media Research
Dewey Decimal Classification:700 Arts
Date:May 2009
Deposited On:12 Aug 2009 12:17
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 13:19
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:1472-3891
Additional Information:Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Publisher DOI:10.1002/pa.316
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-20058

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