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Niccolo Machiavelli, cultural intermediaries and the category of achieved celebrity

Rojek, C. (2014). Niccolo Machiavelli, cultural intermediaries and the category of achieved celebrity. Celebrity Studies, 5(4), pp. 455-468. doi: 10.1080/19392397.2014.923163


The escalating interest in celebrity studies has not translated into a serious enquiry into the origins of the subject in social and political theory. Instead, celebrity has been usually explained as either the reflection of industrialisation or the expression of timeless, unchanging fate. The result is a distorted, compressed time frame in which the phenomenon is located in unsatisfactory, metaphysical accounts of the position of celebrity in the social order. This paper aims to redress the balance by demonstrating the profound importance of cultural intermediaries in the social construction of celebrity. I argue that the birth of cultural intermediaries lies in Florentine civic humanism. Machiavelli’s The Prince has been celebrated as a major contribution to the acquisition and effective management of tyrannical power. There is ample reason to hold this view. At the same time, this interpretation is too limiting. When read from the standpoint of the rise of Florentine civic humanism, the text is also, transparently, a contribution to the successful engineering of renown. More particularly, in this respect, it offers a prototypical understanding of cultural intermediaries. As such, this paper contends that Machiavelli’s study is a seminal contribution to the study of celebrity. Machiavelli formulates impersonal principles on exposure management and the accumulation of attention capital that are presented as the preserve of civil experts. Far from being the high-water mark of tyrannical power, The Prince is evidence of the growth of civic humanism and the ascending importance of expertise in managing fame. The paper aims to revise the boundaries of celebrity studies by demonstrating the canonical significance of Machiavelli’s text. Further, it proposes that cultural intermediaries are seminal in the emergence and development of the fame economy.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in 'Celebrity Studies' on 17 Jun 2014, available online:
Publisher Keywords: Machiavelli, cultural intermediaries, expert systems, exposure management
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
Text - Accepted Version
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