The Performative Presidency

Crisis and Resurrection during the Clinton Years

The Performative Presidency

The Performative Presidency brings together literatures describing presidential leadership strategies, public understandings of citizenship and news production and media technologies between the presidencies of Theodore Roosevelt and Bill Clinton and details how the relations between these spheres have changed over time. Jason Mast demonstrates how interactions between leaders, public and media are organized in a theatrical way and argues that mass mediated plot formation and character development play an increasing role in structuring the political arena. He shows politics as a process of ongoing performances staged by motivated political actors, mediated by critics and interpreted by audiences, in the context of a deeply rooted, widely shared system of collective representations. The interdisciplinary framework of this book brings together a semiotic theory of culture with concepts from the burgeoning field of performance studies.


"Given the large number of books that examine Bill Clinton and his presidency, it is extraordinary that Jason L. Mast tells us something new in his compelling account. By viewing Bill Clinton through the lens of performance theory, Mast manages to elucidate in new ways the "disconnect" between the public and private Clinton that continues to intrigue his friends and foes."
Mabel Berezin, Cornell University

"The Performative Presidency is essential reading for anyone concerned with leadership, media, and publics in modern democracies. Jason L. Mast’s fascinating study of the drama of the Clinton years demonstrates convincingly that presidential power is cultural power, created and challenged in extended performance."
Lyn Spillman, University of Notre Dame

"Drawing on recent work in cultural theory, The Performative Presidency is a breath of fresh air for the study of Bill Clinton’s rise and fall, and it casts new light on the problems and prospects of presidential leadership more generally. An innovative, provocative and absorbing book!"
Jeffrey K. Tulis, University of Texas, Austin

"In a field carved with well-worn paths, Mast manages to mark a new trail with this interdisciplinary approach to presidential leadership … this is an important work that will prove valuable or scholars as well as graduate and undergraduate students in a variety of majors. Summing up: highly recommended."
P. F. Campbell, Choice

"The Performative Presidency is a clearly written and compact book on an important topic too often ignored by social scientists: the performative dimension of politics … Mast’s book is a welcome contribution to the study of politics, and a fine example of the value of inter-disciplinary work. It ought to be read outside sociology by political scientists as well as media and communication scholars."
Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, Media, Culture and Society


Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2013 - Winner