Politics, leadership and power

Wheeler, Mark (2020) Politics, leadership and power. In: A cultural history of Fame. Cultural history, 2 . Bloomsbury, London. (In Press)


The utilisation of fame, renown and performance in political affairs should be recognized as being a historical phenomenon. Niccolò Machiavelli’s treatise on state-craft, The Prince (1532), contended that an apparently virtuous persona was a requirement of political leadership even while exercising coercive force to maintain power (Corner and Pels 2003: 68). Such forms of political capital were transformed to the cross-fertilisation of the extension of the franchise along with the expansion of newspapers, radio, film and television. Consequently, political leaders could use their fame to enhance their charismatic authority which, as outlined by Max Weber, rests on the individual’s ability to continuously “prove” their legitimacy (Weber [1946] 1998: 78).

This chapter will conclude on what lessons may be drawn from the past in this utilisation of celebrity politics, performance, and power. Most pertinently, it will ask how they can be employed to indicate the potential democratic trajectories for contemporary political leadership. These dynamics are operating in the context in which a new variable --- social media --- is becoming a key information resource wherein normative democratic values are being contested. In particular, modern political communications have been characterized as much by “post-truth politics” as they have been described as a means for the presentation of authenticity. In this more negative view, this deployment of new media has facilitated populist form of demagogy rather than credible leadership, poisoning public discourse and the roots of a democratic culture (Ball 2017).

Politics, leadership and power.pdf - Accepted Version
Restricted to Repository staff only until 31 December 2024.
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 4.0.

Download (310kB)
View Item View Item