SOC315 – The Political Spectacle: Symbols in Politics


Politics, politics, politics– what a fascinating part of our society that feels all-consuming sometimes. This week we’re going to explore politics using a Symbolic Interactionist lens and the fantastic work of Dr. Murray Edelman to make sense of what’s going on in our state and federal governments every day. Is politics an earnest attempt at changing our society for the good? Is it just a spectacle meant to distract us? Or maybe somewhere in between? Tune in here to learn more and stay healthy out there!


  • For a refresher on what Symbolic Interactionism is, check out:
  • Murray Edelman’s biography
  • We used two of Edelman’s books quite a bit in this episode, they are:
  • Edelman argues that politics is made up of two types of symbols:
    • Referential Symbols: “economical ways of referring to the objective elements in objects or situations: The elements identified in the same way by different people. Such symbols are useful because they help in logical thinking about the situation and in manipulating it” (Edelman 1967:6). 
    • Condensation Symbols: “evoke the emotions associated with the situation. They condense into one symbolic event, sign, or act patriotic pride, anxieties, remembrances of past glories or humiliations, promises of future greatness: some one of these or all of them” (Edelman 1967:6). 
  • Penn read a quote from Joel Best’s article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Telling the Truth About Damned Lies and Statistics
  • Kellyanne Conway’s misleading ignorance of where COVID-19’s name comes from can be read about here.
  • Ellen’s sci-fi obsession was recently quenched with VOX by Christina Dlacher, which has relevant themes about the power of language in politics
    • Other great dystopian sci-fi books surrounding politics and power? The Power by Naomi Alderman, The Handmaid’s Tale & The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, and many many more. If you wanna geek out or have more recommendations, contact Ellen!
  • Virtual dating platforms are taking off according to the NY Times!
  • Movie star Matt O’Damon?
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