A Model of Cults of Personality

34 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2013 Last revised: 26 Aug 2013

See all articles by Xavier Marquez

Xavier Marquez

Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

Date Written: 2013


This paper presents a general model of the emergence and functioning of cults of personality. Drawing on the work of Collins (2004), I understand a cult of personality as a set of interaction rituals, linked in chains, focused on symbols that refer to a political leader, and saturating a significant part of the public space of a polity. I argue that when interaction rituals focused on leader symbols are embedded in patronage relations, processes of “flattery inflation” are likely to emerge. I illustrate this model by looking at three very different cases: the short-lived cult of Caligula in the early Principate in Rome, the cult of Mao in China, and the emerging cult of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.

Keywords: dictatorship, cult of personality, China, Rome, Venezuela

Suggested Citation

Marquez, Xavier, A Model of Cults of Personality (2013). APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper, American Political Science Association 2013 Annual Meeting, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2301392

Xavier Marquez (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka ( email )

P.O. Box 600
Wellington, 6140
New Zealand
64-4-463-5889 (Phone)

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