Imagined relationships: political leadership in contemporary democracies

Gaffney, John Imagined relationships: political leadership in contemporary democracies. Parliamentary Affairs, 54 (1), pp. 120-133.


The image and style of political leaders are important elements of leadership, and of politics generally. They are related to both political culture and institutions, and are framed in ritual and ceremony. In democratic policies, where there is choice rather than coercion, the mediation of leadership/people relations creates imagined relationships between imagined leaders and their equally imagined interlocutors, the people or the electorate (who also, of course, actually exist). These relationships form part of the political process. By identifying, and adapting, classical Aristotelian distinctions in rhetorical studies, we can better understand this element or moment of the process, in particular the creation of an imagined intimacy in contemporary politics between leaders and followers. Political science should draw upon other disciplines and subdisciplines such as political psychology, cultural studies, rhetorical analysis, and social anthropology in order to understand how mediated relationships are inscribed into political institutions and exchange.

Divisions: Languages & Social Sciences > Politics & International Relations
Languages & Social Sciences > Politics & International Relations research group
Languages & Social Sciences > French research group
Uncontrolled Keywords: image,style,political leaders,leadership,politics,political culture,institutions,democratic policies,electorate,classical Aristotelian distinctions,rhetorical studies,political psychology,cultural studies,rhetorical analysis,social anthropology,mediated relationships


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