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date: 24 April 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter concerns the nature and value of social constructionist approaches to political leadership. It begins with a very brief potted history of its philosophical origins, history, and academic development, including its application to leadership. The next section explores what this kind of intellectual heritage implies for the study of political leadership, especially in terms of its antagonism to ‘essentialist’ and determinist accounts, and it highlights the role of language, the role of narrative, storytelling, and performance. It suggests that politics cannot be ‘read-off’ from, or determined by, ‘structural’ issues, such as the distribution of social classes or the percentage of unemployed voters, but is something to be ‘brought off’ by the actions of those involved. The theory is illustrated with an array of examples from contemporary political events, including the invasion of Iraq, the election of Obama, and the revolution in Egypt. The conclusion summarizes the main conclusions and points towards future possibilities for this approach.

Keywords: leadership, social constructionism, narrative, performance, essentialism, symbols

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