The Mechanisms of Cult Production: An Overview

In Kirill Postoutenko and Darin Stephanov, eds. Ruler Personality Cults from Empires to Nation-States and Beyond: Symbolic Patterns and Interactional Dynamics, pp. 21-45, Forthcoming

20 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2020

See all articles by Xavier Marquez

Xavier Marquez

Victoria University of Wellington

Date Written: July 14, 2020

Abstract

This chapter argues that leader personality cults are typically produced by a specific set of mechanisms of flattery inflation. It describes how loyalty signaling, emotional amplification, and direct production mechanisms can combine, under specific circumstances, to transform ordinary flattery into full-blown practices of ruler worship. And it argues for attending to the specific conditions that make possible the operation of these mechanisms, showing how patronage relationships in particular provide fertile ground for the emergence of personality cults. Moreover, the chapter argues that both ancient and modern leader cults depend on similar mechanisms, despite clear differences in context and function. I illustrate the operation of these mechanisms with many modern examples and an extended discussion of one ancient example, the abortive cult of Caligula during the Roman Principate.

Keywords: Personality Cults, Caligula, Flattery Inflation, Hugo Chávez, Mao Zedong, Stalin

Suggested Citation

Marquez, Xavier, The Mechanisms of Cult Production: An Overview (July 14, 2020). In Kirill Postoutenko and Darin Stephanov, eds. Ruler Personality Cults from Empires to Nation-States and Beyond: Symbolic Patterns and Interactional Dynamics, pp. 21-45, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3650704 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3650704

Xavier Marquez (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington ( email )

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

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