Couldry, Nick. Why Voice Matters: Culture and Politics after Neoliberalism. Los Angeles: Sage, 2010. Pp. viii, 176. ISBN 978-1-84860-661-6 (cloth) $108.00; 978-1-84860-662-3 (paper) $40.95.
The challenge of this book comes in the first sentence: "Human beings can give an account of themselves and of their place in the world: 'we have no idea,' writes Paul Ricoeur, 'what a culture would be where no one any longer knew what it meant to narrate things'" (p. 1). It is this theme that pulls the argument along through seven chapters and gives a very interesting analysis of the challenge of "voice" in our times. What is perhaps less compelling is the precise role of neoliberalism in the suppression of peoples' voices. It is not the author's critique of neoliberalism in the realms of economics, democracy, and the media (in Chapters 3, 4, and 5) that gives pause but the claim that it is neoliberalism's role in suppressing voice. The author's argument is best seen in the structure of the book.
In Chapter 1 the basic argument is laid out. Neoliberalisms's rationality "relies on an excessive valuation of markets" so much so that "there is no other valid principle of human organization than market functioning" (p. 11). It is here, perhaps, early in the book that the issue of an implied causal connection between neoliberalism's ideology and the many miseries of modern life (including the suppression of voice) in the exemplar neoliberalism countries of the UK and the USA suggests closer reading. In Chapter 2, Couldry takes on neoliberalism's economic foundations, but not to critique the current crisis but to begin what he calls a "cultural critique" of its "economic discourse" (p. 23). The chapter begins to demonstrate the wide base for the author's scholarship not only with its 173 footnotes in a little more than 20 pages of text but also in his ability to arrange a wide array of authors in a way to make his argument compelling. In Chapter 3 the same kind of argument continues in the arena of politics. The author makes the case about the Blair years, arguing that despite a Labor platform that promoted equality and justice, the actual policies of the government were contradictory to those goals. He finishes the chapter with a look at some theoretical proposals for a new democracy. Finally in Chapter 4, the author gets to an area of his professional expertise, the media. …