Abstract

The liberal imaginary generates phantom actors, both virtuous and dangerous, as substitutes for the real people excluded from the political arena. A special case is the bogey, a negative phantom openly acknowledged as false but attributed to popular belief and used to blame public opinion for bad political outcomes. I demonstrate that the “Polish plumber,” fear of whom supposedly caused the French public to reject the European Constitution in a 2005 referendum, circulated intensively in elite discourse with minimal popular uptake. Nonetheless, when phantoms and bogeys occupy the arena, excluded persons may be forced to engage with them in order to achieve visibility of their own.

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