Throughout American history presidents have been accused of being liars, of deceiving others for political gain, of being corrupt, or of violating the Constitution. Such criticism is, to some extent, a facet of our political culture. Yet, in recent years the intensity and depth of hostility coming from news reporters, political pundits, and even academics seems unprecedented. It is the argument of The Making of the Postmodern Presidency that something more fundamental is occurring other than personal mendacity, character failures, or political errors; that, in fact, the model we have used to explain presidential behavior no longer works.
The dominant paradigm used to assess presidential behavior-the modern presidency-is no longer an adequate explanatory model. Nonetheless, those who study the presidency continue to use it to explain behavior. This book claims that the more relevant paradigm that should be used today is the postmodern presidency model. This book traces the origins and development of the postmodern presidency.
The heart of the book is composed of an examination of the presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to show how each has contributed to the evolution and formation of the postmodern presidency. A penultimate chapter analyzes the 2008 presidential election through the lens of postmodernism. The book concludes with speculation on the challenges that face the Obama presidency in light of the postmodern presidency and American democracy.
"Drawing on the ideas of postmodernist thinkers, John Freie has written a strikingly innovative and provocative study of presidential politics. Teachers and students of the presidency will greatly enjoy this book."
-Bruce Miroff, SUNY Albany
“Understanding the contemporary presidency is difficult, especially if we are using the wrong conceptual tools. Freie makes a powerful and convincing argument that this is precisely what we are doing. If we are to remove our intellectual blinders, Freie argues, we must see the presidency as a postmodern institution.”
--Michael Genovese, Loyola Chair of Leadership, Professor, Political Science, Loyola Marymount University and Director, Institute for Leadership Studies
“Professor Freie’s meticulous analysis of the emerging postmodern presidency is the most thorough to date. Using case studies with rich detail about different presidencies, he makes a persuasive case that the contemporary presidency is more about manipulating images than creating and implementing policy. Freie’s careful analysis of this paradigm shift obliges presidential scholars to pay more attention to the significant role of postmodernism in driving and explaining presidential behavior. I'll certainly be assigning this in my presidency course.”
--Caroline Heldman, Occidental College
“The ‘modern presidency’ paradigm, the dominant model for explaining US presidential behavior, is no longer convincing, argues Freie (political science, Le Moyne College), who proposes that by looking to postmodernism, no one can find better understanding of what presidents actually do (in other words, his task is descriptive and not normative). This application of postmodernism, one he contends, allows one to see that presidents react to the irrational elements of political life, utilize discourses separate from any fixed reality, recognize the electoral significance of personality over character, and operate in an environment of fragmented polity and policy. This shift from the modern presidency to the postmodern presidency has been relatively gradual, he notes, taking the reader through the presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama in order to show how it has developed.” --Eithne O’Leyne, June 2011 Reference and Research Book News