Cult of personality: characteristics of this form of domination
This type of leadership associated with sectarianism turns dissidents into traitors to the people.
When we talk about inequality, we often focus only on the economic: situations in which a minority has enough money to control many aspects of the lives of the rest of the people.
It is true that it makes sense to focus on the material accumulation of goods and money, because today having a high level of income explains many things. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that there are other forms of inequality that go beyond our economic capacity, and that are embodied in cultural phenomena and the capacity to condition the behavior of others. The cult of personality, or cult of the person, is a clear example of this.is a clear example of this, and in this article we will see what it consists of.
What is the cult of personality?
The cult of personality is a massive phenomenon of followership, adulation and constant obedience to an individual who has set himself up as the leader of a particular movement or estate, usually extending to the scope of an entire country, at least.
On the other hand, the cult of the person is characterized by the uncritical attitude of those who follow the leader, and by sectarian and sectarian behavior.The cult of the person is characterized by the uncritical attitude of those who follow the leader, and by sectarian and hostile behavior towards those who do not obey, as well as by ritualized activities and the use of symbols and icons that recall the leader, in a similar way to what happens with symbols in the case of the organized religions of non-nomadic societies.
Characteristics of this mass phenomenon
These are the main characteristics of the cult of personality, which serve to distinguish it from other means of leadership influence.
1. It generates a feeling of unity among the masses.
The leader who is praised by the masses puts a face to something much more abstract, a collective movement that needs icons to represent its unity and defend it in an easy and intuitive way. In this sense, these kinds of leaders have a function similar to that of kings, although unlike kings, they have more means to make themselves known to the masses. have more means at their disposal to make themselves known in the eyes of millions of people: photographs, television, Internet, radio, television and radio.Photographs, television, Internet, radio, etc.
2. Projects an idealized image through distance
Another factor that allows the leader to maintain power is the fact that he controls his image. He does not expose himself constantly to the scrutiny of others.The company does it only rarely and in a very studied way, in order to offer its most flattering facet. For this purpose, video and photographic editions are made, as well as censorship policies towards critics or journalists, etc.
3. It is associated with values linked to conservative values.
The cult of personality is based on ideas and symbols that are culturally deeply rooted among the leader's followers, but manipulating them to suit their specific purposes. For example, if in that society the nuclear family unit is considered something to be defended at all costs, the leader can justify his anti-abortion measures by pointing out that they will prevent daughters from moving away from their fathers because of the crisis that (supposedly) eliminating an embryo entails.
4. Adds an emotional charge to policy measures
Nothing transmits emotions like a flesh-and-blood face. Something as simple as having someone defending a political ideology adds legitimacy and attractiveness to these ideas, if a good public image is offered.
5. Gives meaning to collective sacrifices
This aspect of the cult of personality is related to the previous one. Thanks to the constant requests to connect emotionally with the leader or caudillo, the hardships that the people may go through are justified as part of a collective plan to reach the goals set by the regime. Protests and revolts come to be seen as a betrayal of the caudillo and, by extension, of the people. and, by extension, to the people, which justifies their violent repression.
6. It allows the interests of the elites to filter into the public agenda.
As the leader comes to represent the people, he can impose his own ideas (or those of the minority that help him to hold on to power) on the objectives to be achieved collectively, making it appear that these are interests that benefit the majority. This is why the cult of personality has historically been used to promote entirely new policies while theoretically defending the rule of common sense and the conservative attitude (which in practice is expressed only in the face of what is considered to be "external interference").
Why is it used by totalitarian regimes?
Judging by the characteristics of the cult of personality, one already begins to sense why this social phenomenon is encouraged by the oligarchies that hold power in a region. The figure of the leader who gives meaning to everything that happens among the civilian population allows the control of dissidence through simple and emotional appeals, as well as not having to acknowledge mistakes or be accountable to any authoritative entity (because all authority is accumulated by the caudillo). (because all authority is accumulated by the caudillo).
On the other hand, the country's propaganda machine can offer political and ideological propaganda talking only about the leader and his proposals and ideas, passing off this type of content as information of general interest.
On the other hand, the cult of personality has weaknesses in what are its strengths: if the leader is eliminated or if another estate emerges that surpasses him in authority, all his propaganda and power cease to be viable, and his influence disappears beyond the minds of those nostalgic for the previous regime.
- Bradley K. Martin. Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty. Nueva York: Saint Martin's Griffin.
- Kershaw, I. (2001). The Hitler Myth: Image and Reality in the Third Reich. Londres: Oxford University Press.
- Strong, Carol; Killingsworth, Matt (2011). Stalin the Charismatic Leader?: Explaining the 'Cult of Personality' as a legitimation technique. Politics, Religion & Ideology. 12(4): pp. 391 - 411.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)