Cult of personality

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A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized and heroic public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise.[1] Cults of personality are usually associated with dictatorships. The sociologist Max Weber developed a tripartite classification of authority; the cult of personality holds parallels with what Weber defined as 'charismatic authority'.

A cult of personality is similar to hero worship, except that it is established by mass media and propaganda. However, the term may be applied by analogy to refer to adulation of religious or non-political leaders.

While the cult of personality generally applies to the enhancement and promotion of a political or religious doctrine, it stands to reason that it is also asserted in everyday situations where popularity is used to advocate conformity to philosophies and lifestyles, even products and attitudes by way of peer pressure and herd mentality.

Contents

Background

Throughout history, monarchs and heads of state were almost always held in enormous reverence. Through the principle of the divine right of kings, for example, rulers were said to hold office by the will of God. Imperial China (see Mandate of Heaven), ancient Egypt, Japan, the Inca, the Aztecs, Tibet, Thailand, and the Roman Empire (see imperial cult) are especially noted for redefining monarchs as god-kings.

The spread of democratic ideas in Europe and North America in the 18th and 19th centuries made it increasingly difficult for monarchs to preserve this aura. However, the subsequent development of photography, sound recording, film and mass production, as well as public education and techniques used in commercial advertising, enabled political leaders to project a positive image like never before. It was from these circumstances in the 20th century that the best-known personality cults arose. Often these cults are a form of Political religion.

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