Beyond the Modern Era?: An Analysis of the Concept of the Postmodern Presidency

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Virginia Tech


Over the past two decades, the term postmodern has crept into presidential studies. Despite this, the notion of applying the term to the presidency may obscure more than it reveals. Throughout this period, various political scientists such as Rose, Barilleaux, Schier, Bruce Miroff, and others, as well as communications scholars like Shawn Parry-Giles and Trevor Parry-Giles have merged the term postmodern with the study of the presidency; yet there continues to be no agreement on what exactly the postmodern presidency is or represents. For some, the postmodern presidency signifies a distinct era, fundamentally different from those of the past. For others, the postmodern characteristics and leadership style necessary to govern in a changing political and social landscape define the contemporary presidency. Thus, despite being used for nearly two decades, the term postmodern continues to be mired in ambiguity. With the many differing views that make up the literature of the postmodern presidency, numerous questions arise. Is the onset of the postmodern presidency a result of a fundamental shift in the presidency, occurring regardless of who occupies the Oval Office, or is it better characterized as a shift in the individual traits of presidents necessary to govern during a newly emerging era? Does the core of the postmodern presidency center on foreign policy as a reflection of the end of the Cold War, or can it be better attributed to the rise of public politics, the decline of political parties, and the onslaught of media coverage that surround the contemporary presidency? The following chapters attempt to analyze the concept of the postmodern presidency, comparing the many definitions and timeframes that surround the term as a means of critically examining the existing work on the postmodern presidency.



Clinton, U.S. presidency, postmodern