The listening cure

Justine Lloyd*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores how the recent problematization of listening can be understood as a form of therapy beyond politics, and outlines some strategies for counteracting this tendency. Departing from Claus Offe's observation that increasingly the state addresses policy not to 'constituted collective actors, but directly to the everyday life praxis of individuals ... [giving] the impression that the state is incapable of steering, or that conditions in its problem environment are irremediable', I ask whether listening in and of itself is being offered as a 'remedy', and for what? Susan Bickford's attention to listening as 'communicative interaction' and Roger Silverstone's interest in the mediation of everyday life both raise the possibility of listening as a sort of symptom and panacea to social discord. I suggest that the historical formation of practices of listening around management point to a need for a new, culturally historical approach to understanding contemporary anxieties over representation and reception. The question of 'listening' rather than 'speaking' positions in a mediated society underpins these changing social dynamics, which challenge established frameworks of rights, responsibilities and social action. The earwitness makes no effort to look, but he hears all the better. He comes, halts, huddles unnoticed in a corner, peers into a book or display, hears whatever is to be heard, and moves away untouched and absent. One would think he was not there for he is such an expert at vanishing. He is already somewhere else, he is already listening again, he knows all the places where there is something to be heard, stows it nicely away, and forgets nothing. Elias Canetti, Earwitness, 43.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)477-487
Number of pages11
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2009


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