The Churchill Syndrome: Reputational Entrepreneurship and the Rhetoric of Foreign Policy since 1945

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Abstract

Since 9/11, many politicians have deployed the memory of Winston Churchill in support of their own goals. This article examines this phenomenon—‘the Churchill Syndrome’—in the context of the use made of Churchillian language and imagery by British and American politicians in their rhetoric over the previous several decades. It does not seek to establish whether or not analogies with the Churchill era have been correct, but rather, using the concept of ‘reputational entrepreneurship’, it examines the historical reasons why these comparisons have often been preferred to others that might have been equally valid. It concludes that although Churchill has come to represent an idealised form of political steadfastness—referenced even by Gamal Abdul Nasser and Saddam Hussein—this portrayal of him has never achieved total hegemony.

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