'This is a brilliant piece of historical and political analysis, tracing how imagery derived originally from the importance of the corporeal presence of monarchs continues to shape our ways of thinking about political institutions today. The design of parliamentary assemblies, the importance of the personal appearance of political figures and the value of continuity of persons occupying roles can all be seen afresh in the light of this central theme. It is probably the most original contribution to democratic theory for several years.'
Colin Crouch, University of Warwick
It is commonly assumed that the rise of modern democracies put an end to the spectacular and ceremonial aspects of political rule that were so characteristic of pre-democratic regimes. The medieval idea that the king had two bodies - a mortal physical body and an eternal political body - strikes us today as alien and remote from our understanding of politics: with the transition from monarchy to modern representative democracy, the idea of the body politic was abandoned. Or was it?
In this remarkable and highly original book Philip Manow shows that the body politic, though so often pronounced dead, remains alive in modern democracies or at least has an afterlife. It is just one of the many ideas that we have inherited from our predecessors and that continue to shape our modern forms of political life. Why did the semi-circle become the main seating plan for modern parliaments? Why do we think that parliament should mirror the diversity of society? Why do we pay so much attention to the physical features and appearance - the body - of our political leaders today? In answering these and other questions Manow sheds fresh light on the premodern origins of our modern political institutions and practices and shows convincingly that all political power - including democracy - requires and produces its own political mythology.show more