Article on the Power of Celebrities by Lena Partzsch

Lena Partzsch has an article out in the current issue of Global Goverance, a top journal in the field of international organization. It was designated as the best article in the journal in 2018. Congrats to Lena.

Take Action Now: The Legitimacy of Celebrity Power in International Relations

Global Governance 24 (2018), 229–248

by Lena Partzsch

Celebrities are able to mobilize a wide range of people on a global scale. In his Oscar acceptance speech, Leonardo DiCaprio urged his international audience to work collectively to combat climate change. Another example of celebrity activism is Daryl Hannah’s support for biofuels and the campaign against the Keystone XL pipeline. In this article, I analyze the legitimacy of such celebrity power in international relations along three criteria (political impact, broad participation, and control and accountability). I argue that, as long as celebrities’ claims are vague and do not go further than UN consensus, celebrity power can be considered legitimate through the political impact. In addition, DiCaprio and Hannah contribute civil society perspectives to the international agenda while, however, not necessarily voicing the most marginalized positions. Finally, by urging governments to comply to international agreements, as DiCaprio does, he holds governments accountable on behalf of the public. However, both DiCaprio and Hannah claim to speak on behalf of affected people who cannot hold the celebrities themselves accountable for their political action. This lack of control is problematic if celebrities convey more radical positions that are not generally endorsed by the international community, as Hannah does when protesting against Keystone XL and promoting biofuels. KEYWORDS: celebrity, climate change, legitimacy.

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