Celebrity, academia’s new growth industry

As the world economy melts down, scholarly publishers have identified at least one new growth industry: the study of celebrity.

The Routledge empire, founded in 1836, leads the way. This is perhaps a natural step. Routledge has helped many academics to become celebrities. Its website explains: “We have published many of [the] greatest thinkers and scholars of the last 100 years, including Adorno, Einstein, Russell, Popper, Wittgenstein, Jung, Bohm, Hayek, McLuhan, Marcuse and Sartre.”

In November, the company will publish a four-volume, 1,600-page book called Celebrity – “destined to be valued by scholars, students and researchers as a vital research resource”. It explains why: “The study of celebrity has developed and cohered into a flourishing field of social and cultural analysis.”

The book tries to cover the entire range of this new, yet vast and complex field: “Celebrity brings together the best and most influential foundational and cutting-edge research on the aetiology and basic concepts of celebrity (including charisma, narcissism and commodification); theoretical and methodological approaches (eg Marxism, structuralism, semiotics and cultural materialism); the mechanics of celebrity (such as the sociology and psychology of showmanship); and key controversies and current debates (eg the politics of stardom; the superstructure of celebrity; and the interpellation of celebrity news and the media)”….

So begins this week’s Improbable Research column in The Guardian.