Political Performance, Profanation, and Mundane Interaction: a Revised Cultural Sociology of the 2016 American Presidential Election

  • Clayton FordahlEmail author


For more than a decade, Jeffrey Alexander has been developing the cultural sociology of politics as an alternative to rationalist theories of political life. Nearly every part of the 2016 US presidential election offers some vindication for Alexander’s cultural sociology of politics. The election of Donald Trump suggested that performance, stage craft, and messaging might be more fundamental to presidential campaigns. Yet on closer examination, political performance in the 2016 election challenges certain aspects of the cultural sociology of politics. Specifically, the performance of Donald Trump frequently occasioned the violation of the background representations of American political life. This article uses the 2016 campaign of Donald Trump to investigate how a single candidate can be a successful political performer even while profaning a society’s sacred or animating ideals. In the course of this analysis, I argue for a greater appreciation of the value of mundane social interaction in political performance. In liberal and democratic societies, the value of individualism means that the principles of social interaction will be as important to political performance as the ability to channel other principles and ideals.


Jeffrey Alexander Elections Donald Trump Liberalism Cultural sociology Performance 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sociology DepartmentUniversity of MemphisMemphisUSA

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