Legitimating Identities: The Self-Presentation of Rulers and Subjects

Legitimating Identities: The Self-Presentation of Rulers and Subjects

Legitimating Identities: The Self-Presentation of Rulers and Subjects

Legitimating Identities: The Self-Presentation of Rulers and Subjects

Synopsis

From military despots to democratic presidents, rulers spend much time convincing themselves of their right to be in charge. This important and original new survey draws on a growing body of research in political science, history, and sociology to reveal how governments devote time, resources, and energy to cultivating their own sense of who they are, not for the benefit or persuasion of the public, but for their own self-justification and esteem.

Excerpt

There is a convention sometimes found amongst academics of beginning books and articles with an inaugural lecture in reverse. Whereas the inaugural lecture conventionally opens with a series of polite tributes to predecessors, showing how the speaker is doing no more than standing on the shoulders of giants, making an inadequate attempt to fill the majestic shoes of exceptional predecessors, and simplyacting as a feeble stand-in, the reverse can occur once the scholar is released from ceremonial restraints and unleashed on the wild world of monographs and journals. This reverse version lists all those who have in anywaytouched on the author's subject, and condemns them as theoretically impoverished, empirically threadbare, and intellectually sterile. Their crime usually turns out to have been the rather different one of failing to have contributed to the author's own enterprise because theywere in fact doing something quite different. Historians of the poor law are dismissed for not having provided policy recommendations for twentieth or twenty-first-century governments, writers on political rhetoric for not having dealt with the distribution of capital, and analysts of trade unionism for having ignored conspiracies in the cabinet. So might the author of Winnie the Pooh be dismissed for having failed to contribute anything to the analysis of tactical voting.

I am not going to be so self-denying as to refuse from the outset to make anycritical assessments whatsoever of anyprevious work. But mydiscussion of other authors will be designed to defend me against possible criticisms of the Winnie the Pooh kind, rather than . . .

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