Wolfgang Mieder

Right Makes Might”

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“A powerful and timely addition to the literature of rhetoric and folklore.” —Choice

In 1860, Abraham Lincoln employed the proverb Right makes might—opposite of the more aggressive Might makes right—in his famed Cooper Union address. While Lincoln did not originate the proverb, his use of it in this critical speech indicates that the fourteenth century phrase had taken on new ethical and democratic connotations in the nineteenth century. In this collection, famed scholar of proverbs Wolfgang Mieder explores the multifaceted use and function of proverbs through the history of the United States, from their early beginnings up through their use by such modern-day politicians as Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Bernie Sanders.

Building on previous publications and unpublished research, Mieder explores sociopolitical aspects of the American worldview as expressed through the use of proverbs in politics, women’s rights, and the civil rights movement—and by looking at the use of proverbial phrases, Mieder demonstrates how one traditional phrase can take on numerous expressive roles over time, and how they continue to play a key role in our contemporary moment.
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