"This volume encompasses a rich world of political culture, from the Spanish kings of the Reconquest to German metal-workers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. . . . A welcome contribution to the interdisciplinary study of ritual, symbolism, and power."—Journal of Ritual StudiesRites of Power provides a sweeping overview of the symbolism of power from tenth-century France to modern Britain. Approaching their topic from an eclectic range of intellectual traditions, the authors turn the study of politics, social relations, and cultural creation into a single endeavor.
The essays begin with three assumptions: that all societies are ordered and governed by "master fictions" (divine right, equality for all) which make political hierarchy appear natural; that political rhetoric includes nonverbal communication (royal portraits, statistics on crop yields); and that common rhetoric can mean different things to various segments of a culture ("states' rights" during the American Civil War).
Societies studied include France and Spain in the Middle Ages, post-Revolutionary France, the modern British monarchy, tsarist Russia, colonial Virginia, and industrial Germany. The essays were selected to provide methodological as well as historical coverage; the result is a comprehensive treatment along the cutting edge of several disciplines. This book will appeal to scholars and students in the fields of history, political science, sociology, anthropology, and art history.
Sean Wilentz is Director of the Program in American Studies, and Professor of History, at Princeton University. He is coauthor, with Paul E. Johnson, of The Kingdom of Matthias: A Story of Sex and Salvation in Nineteenth-Century America and, with Michael Merrill, of The Key of Liberty: The Life and Democratic Writings of William Manning, "A Laborer," 1747-1814.