Politics functions, in part, by controlling the symbolic containers, providing MEANING to events
Symbolic interaction is the Reality in Which we Act What is Government? What is Democracy What is Freedom?What is Nation Building?
Point of View Not a Political Science point of view –structure of institutions, e.g. parties, –tactics, strategies, socialization, etc.. Not a Sociological point of view –statues, groups, socio-economic determinate Not a Psychological point of view –motives, drives, traits, as determinate Rather a Symbolic/Communicative approach
Politics as Ritual “Politics in America is the binding secular religion.” Theodore White, Historian/Journalist “A National Campaign is better than the best circus ever heard of, with a mass baptism (the convention) and a couple of hangings thrown in. It is better, even than war.” H. L. Mencken People Symbolically involved in a common enterprise: voting, inaugurations, debates, conventions, collective grieving
POLITICS AS MYTHS “The Founding Fathers” “The American Dream” “Free-enterprise” “Wisdom of the Common Man”
Kenneth Burke THE SYMBOL USING (SYMBOL-MAKING, SYMBOL- MISUSING) ANIMAL INVENTOR OF THE NEGATIVE (OR MORALIZED BY THE NEGATIVE) SEPARATED FROM HIS NATURAL CONDITION BY INSTRUMENTS OF HIS OWN MAKING GOADED BY THE SPIRIT OF HIERARCHY (OR MOVED BY THE SENSE OF ORDER) AND ROTTEN WITH PERFECTION “Definition of Man” in Language as Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature, and Method
Dramatistic Perspective Inherent to symbolic life is tension between identification & division. Identification. consubstantiation--become the other symbolically Naming - is inherently rhetorical Motive toward perfection, order, hierarchy The “Negative” invokes a moralistic world, People are “Rotten with perfection”: Piety, Guilt, Redemption, Victimage, Salvation
“What must be made absolutely clear … is that politics is not somehow unreal or false because it is freighted with symbols and visualized in images. We cannot somehow dismiss showmanship, political ritual, speeches, and televised debates as ‘mere politics.’ Politics, after all, is a human or social activity.” Arthur Miller & Bruce Gronbeck, 1994.