Love and fear: 'power among the powerful' across India and Venezuela
Lucia Michelutti (University College London)
Paper short abstract:
Tracing various political careers in their formative stages in a rural village in Venezuela and in a provincial town in North India the paper enquires into the ways in which local powerful people construct the reputations necessary for their work by through 'love' and through 'fear'.
Paper long abstract:
Contemporary political power and legitimacy derive largely from the ability to act in the name of the people but constructions of this key element of the political imagination, and of the ties that bind people and governments, vary widely across the world. This paper draws from insights I gained 'on power among the powerful' during my fieldworks on popular sovereignty, 'democratic' leadership and electoral representation in North India and Venezuela. In India while discussing the local art of statecraft an elected 'gangster politician' told me that a successful leader should both inspire love and fear. Five hundred years ago Machiavelli stated that very few leaders can manage to be both loved and feared. He added that if one can't be both - being feared is usually more effective. Tracing various political careers in their formative stages in a rural village in Venezuela and in a provincial town in North India the paper enquires into the ways in which elected leaders and local strong men construct the reputations necessary for their work through 'love' (by being generous, magnanimous and caring) and through 'fear' (by using force and intimidation). Local ideas of kinship, kingship, personhood and the divine, the intersections of moral and kinship frameworks with local socioeconomic and political life are central to the ways the protagonists of this paper perform their power, create and manage their charisma and become the representatives (or the embodiments) of the will of 'the people'.
Power, desire and social contract: power's aftermath in the contemporary world