Internet Politics: States, Citizens, and New Communication Technologies

Andrew Chadwick

“In the developed world, there is no longer an issue of whether the Internet affects politics–but how, why, and with what consequences. With the Internet now spreading at a breathtaking rate in the developing world, the new medium is fraught with tensions, paradoxes, and contradictions. How do we make sense of these? In this major new work, Andrew Chadwick addresses such concerns, providing the first comprehensive overview of Internet politics. Internet Politics examines the impact of new communication technologies on political parties and elections, pressure groups, social movements, local democracy, public bureaucracies, and global governance. It also analyzes persistent and controversial policy problems, including the digital divide; the governance of the Internet itself; the tensions between surveillance, privacy, and security; and the political economy of the Internet media sector. The approach is explicitly comparative, providing numerous examples from the U.S., Britain, and many other countries. Written in a clear and accessible style, this theoretically sophisticated and up-to-date text reveals the key difference the Internet makes in how we “”do”” politics and how we “”think about”” political life. Featuring numerous figures, tables, and text boxes, Internet Politics is ideal for undergraduate and graduate courses in political science, international relations, and communication studies.”


Reader Comments

Review of Internet Politics: States, Citizens, and New Communication Technologies by Andrew Chadwick.

I found that the clear organization and accessibility of this book would serve both academics conducting their own research and students in the classroom at the advanced undergraduate or graduate level equally well. The book is written in three parts. The first section covers context. The chapters discuss networks, politics, and issues concerning the digital divide, inclusion, and access. The second section is titled “Institutions” and addresses issues of relevance to political scientists and sociologists including social capital, e-mobilization, and how the Internet is used in elections, campaigning, and political bureaucracies. The third section covers current issues and seeks to debunk some common myths about the effects of technology. While some of the sections seem disparate, Chadwick uses a good introduction to set up the text and a satisfactory conclusion to tie the ideas together. Overall, the text is very well written.

This book has two obvious strengths. First, Chadwick does a good job of using social theory to address many of his central issues and themes throughout the book. For example, in the discussion of technological versus social determinism, he uses Karl Marx’s work as deterministic in juxtaposition to that of the work of Lewis Mumford. A second example comes from his discussion of e-democracy, where he draws on the concept of social capital, a well-worn idea in the study of Internet politics; however, he contrasts the ubiquity of social capital with Habermas’ social sphere. There are examples such as these throughout the text.

The second strength of this book is its ability to cover a wide range of material, yet pervasively show that the Internet has the ability to complement rather than replace long-standing ways of accomplishing tasks. For example, Chadwick covers political blogging, hactivism, new organizational hybridity (e.g., MoveOn) and so forth as extensions of previous means, not replacements. Indeed, I found that this is a theme that transcends all three sections; however, it is particularly evident in the e-government and e-mobilization sections.

For everything that this book does right, I feel that more attention should have been paid to digital inclusion and inequality. The chapter that covers these issues is largely a reiteration of Pippa Norris’ Digital Divide: Civic Engagement, Information Poverty, and the Internet Worldwide and thus focuses on the global picture too much (not exclusively) even though the book is supposed to focus largely on the UK and US. As a result, the book pushes through e-democracy without, in my opinion, appropriate attention given to how lack of access or skills limits one’s ability to engage in democracy.

I suggest that this book make the first cut and I found it informative/useful. I would also use it in the classroom without reservations, but with other supplementary materials.