Reputational entrepreneurs and the memory of incompetence: Melting supporters, partisan warriors, and images of President Harding

Gary Alan Fine*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

183 Scopus citations

Abstract

"Reputational entrepreneurs" attempt to control the memory of historical figures through motivation, narrative facility, and institutional placement. Whereas the study of those remembered as great or evil draws on Durkheimian theory's consensus and cohesion, this does not explain the memory of the "incompetent." Reputational politics is an arena in which forces compete to control memory. Reputations are grounded in a social construction of character, subsequently generalized to policy and the character of the society. In the case of Warren G. Harding, the U.S. president rated lowest by historians and the public, political opponents set the agenda, while potential supporters did not defend him, given their political interests, structural positions, and a lack of credible narrative.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1159-1193
Number of pages35
JournalAmerican Journal of Sociology
Volume101
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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