1st Edition

Legitimacy in Crisis Case-Studies in American Political Culture

By Lawrence Rosen Copyright 2023
    230 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    230 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book takes a case study approach to explore the crisis of legitimacy in American political culture. The question of legitimacy resides at the heart of any political system. However, understanding why an individual should recognize another’s power over them is not solely limited to the analytically political but is deeply embedded in the larger cultural context of any society. Through a series of ethnographic case studies focused on the United States – from those involving the rhetoric of presidential prophecy and abuse of power to the dispute over a local sewerage authority’s reach and a case of classroom blasphemy – the book aims to demonstrate both a ground-up approach to the problem of legitimacy and to capture some of the common cultural features that bond the examples together. The book will, therefore, be of interest to scholars of anthropology, sociology, political science, and socio-legal studies.


    Part I. Legitimacy Based on Personhood

    1 ‘Borked’: Judicial Temperament and the Quest for Certainty

    2 Sin and Struggle: Bill Clinton and the Abuse of Power

    3 The Prophets that Failed

    4 The Prophet that Prevailed

    5 Mistaken Legitimacy: Are American Politics Really ‘Tribal’?

    Part II. Legitimacy Based on Knowledge

    6 By Whose Authority? The Case of the Public Nuisance

    7 Blasphemy in the Classroom

    8 Expertise as a Warrant for Legitimacy

    9 ‘My Culture Made Me Do It’: Free Will and the Expert Witness’ Dilemma

    10 Continuing the Conversation: Creationism and the Politics of Culture

    Conclusion: Rethinking Legitimacy


    Lawrence Rosen is the William N. Cromwell Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Princeton University, U.S.A, and Adjunct Professor of Law Emeritus at Columbia Law School, U.S.A. As an anthropologist, he has worked on Arab social life and Islamic law; as a legal scholar, he has worked on the rights of indigenous peoples and American socio-legal issues. He is a member of the bar of the State of North Carolina and the U.S. Supreme Court.