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Palgrave Macmillan

The Illiberal Public Sphere

Media in Polarized Societies

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  • Open Access
  • © 2024

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  • Provides empirical data on news media audiences, specifically social media users
  • Focuses on Eastern Europe and the resurgence of illiberal nationalism
  • Supplies reccomendations for journalists and media regulators based on key findings
  • This book is open access, which means that you have free and unlimited access

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About this book

This open access book provides the first systematic analysis of the role of the media in the rise of illiberalism, based on an original theoretical framework and extensive empirical research in Eastern Europe – a region that serves as a key battleground in the global advance of illiberalism. Liberal democracies across the world are facing a range of challenges, from the growing influence of illiberal leaders and parties to deepening polarization and declining trust in political elites and mainstream media. Although these developments attracted significant scholarly attention, the factors that contribute to the spreading of illiberalism remain poorly understood, and the communication perspective on illiberalism is particularly underdeveloped.

Štětka and Mihelj address this gap by introducing the concept of the illiberal public sphere, identifying the key stages in its development, and explaining what makes illiberalism distinct from related phenomena such as populism. Their analysis reveals how and why the changing communication environment facilitates selective exposure to ideologically and politically homogeneous sources, fosters changes in normative assumptions that guide media trust, increases vulnerability to disinformation, and goes hand in hand with growing hostility to immigration and LGBTQ+ rights. The findings challenge widespread assumptions about digital platforms as key channels of illiberalism and suggest that their role shifts as the illiberal sphere progresses.

The arguments presented in this book have important implications for future research on challenges to liberal democracy, as well as for journalists, media regulators and other professionals committed to rebuilding media trust and containing the forces of polarization.


Table of contents (9 chapters)

Authors and Affiliations

  • Centre for Research in Communication and Culture, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK

    Václav Štětka, Sabina Mihelj

About the authors

Václav Štětka is Reader in Comparative Political Communication at the Centre for Research in Communication and Culture at Loughborough University, UK.
Sabina Mihelj is Professor of Media and Cultural Analysis at the Centre for Research in Communication and Culture at Loughborough University, UK.

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: The Illiberal Public Sphere

  • Book Subtitle: Media in Polarized Societies

  • Authors: Václav Štětka, Sabina Mihelj

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Cham

  • eBook Packages: Literature, Cultural and Media Studies, Literature, Cultural and Media Studies (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2024

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-031-54488-0Published: 11 June 2024

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-3-031-54491-0Due: 12 July 2024

  • eBook ISBN: 978-3-031-54489-7Published: 10 June 2024

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XVII, 266

  • Number of Illustrations: 15 b/w illustrations

  • Topics: Digital/New Media, Political Communication, Social Media, Media and Communication

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