In the opening pages of his 1971 study, Politics as Symbolic Action, Murray Edelman underlines his belief that “psychological characteristics, social interaction, and political acts are alternative expressions of the same phenomenon.” In the discussion that follows, however, he tacitly privileges the political aspect of the transaction to an extent that quite undermines his initial image of an interdependent network of reactive/responsive processes. The bias is an understandable one, given his anxiety to counter the naive view of “governmental acts as reflections of people's cognitions.” It is also, unfortunately, a problematic one, insofaras its implication of a self-consciously Machiavellian political leadership deliberately manipulating public affect to its own ends simply substitutes for one misapprehension another equally naive.
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