Imagined relationships: political leadership in contemporary democracies

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-133
Number of pages14
JournalParliamentary Affairs
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • 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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