Celebrity Politics and Democratic Elitism

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Is there good reason to worry about celebrity involvement in democratic politics? The rise of celebrity politicians such as Donald Trump and Vladimir Zelensky has led political theorists and commentators to worry that the role of expertise in democratic politics has been undermined. According to one recent critique (Archer et al. 2020), celebrities possess a significant degree of epistemic power (the power to influence what people believe) that is unconnected to appropriate expertise. This presents a problem both for deliberative and epistemic theories of democratic legitimacy, which ignore this form of power, and for real existing democracies attempting to meet the standards of legitimacy set out by these theories. But do these critiques apply to democratic elitism? In this paper, we argue that recognition of celebrity epistemic power in fact represents a valuable resource for supporting the legitimacy and practice of democratic elitism, though these benefits do come with certain risks to which elite theories are particularly vulnerable.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33–43
Early online date11 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Celebrity
  • Democratic elitism
  • Epistemic power


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