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Charismatic Leaders and Nation Building

Abstract : Can leaders shape identity and legitimize new political orders? I address this question by studying the role of Mustafa Kemal, the founder of modern Turkey, in spreading a new national identity. Using a generalized difference-in-differences design, which exploits time and geographic variation in Kemal’s visits to cities, I test whether exposure to a charismatic leader affects citizens’ take-up of the new Turkish identity. I find that people living in cities visited are more likely to embrace the common identity, as proxied by the adoption of first names in "Pure Turkish", the new language introduced by the state. I also show that Kemal was more efficient in making people use the new language, compared to Ismet Inonu, the Prime Minister and Kemal’s second man, suggesting that he had an idiosyncratic effect. I find that the effect is mostly driven by cities where he met with local elites, rather than the mass, and are not driven by places that had a nationalist club during the Ottoman Empire. Overall, the findings are consistent with the Weberian view that charismatic authority can induce others to follow and legitimize new political orders.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, September 23, 2020 - 12:10:49 PM
Last modification on : Monday, November 30, 2020 - 11:00:12 AM

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Lydia Assouad. Charismatic Leaders and Nation Building. 2020. ⟨halshs-02873520v2⟩

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