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King of the Mountain: The Nature of Political Leadership Paperback – May 7, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Applying the insights of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology to political leadership, University of Kentucky emeritus professor of psychiatry Arnold M. Ludwig (How Do We Know Who We Are?) in King of the Mountain: The Nature of Political Leadership compares human rulers to primates, arguing that male politicians, like their simian alpha-male cohorts, are adept at gaining, exercising and keeping power. Ludwig then focuses closely on 377 world leaders, including Idi Amin, Tony Blair, Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan examining a string of traits to identify what he considers the factors that determine a leader's greatness: the addition of new territory, military prowess, economic prosperity, etc. Although Ludwig presents exhaustive research, many of his assumptions such as that all societies want a ruler because it's the natural order of things lack support. Moreover, Ludwig quickly loses sight of his (somewhat shaky) thesis that human politicians derive their leadership drive from their primate ancestors. 29 b&w illus.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"The author measures each [leader] on an index of political greatness and explores the common predilection toward conflict and war. This book will serve readers at all levels."―Choice
"Every single page contains something striking and thought-provoking."―Fortean Times
"World politics is made by world leaders. These men (very few are women), who love to present themselves as having their people's interests at heart, are driven by the same desire for power recognized by every primatologist as a universal alpha male characteristic. Based on nearly two thousand profiles of political leaders, King of the Mountain drives this point home as no other book before."―Frans B. M. de Waal, author of Chimpanzee Politics
"A unique and important contribution. . . . The insights and analyses have far-reaching consequences to all fields of human endeavor, especially to politics. . . . Clear, cogent, and at times laced with humor."―George Schaller, Wildlife Conservation Society
"An enjoyable book. The statistical tables alone are worth the price."―Journal of the American Medical Association
"There is a richness to Ludwig's approach that is very appealing."―Leadership
"A scholarly attempt to measure political leadership with the cool objectivity of science."―New York Times
"A thoroughly enjoyable read. . . . Ludwig's eye for an anecdote is a good one, and provides much pleasure."―Nth Position
"Well-written, engaging, insightful. . . . Ludwig's book makes a bona fide contribution to the study of leadership."―Rhetoric and Public Affairs
"An arresting book that casts political science out the window and explains leadership through comparisons with chimpanzees, baboons, and gorillas."―Washington Post Book World
"[T]he book is written well and in an accessible and engaging style. The author possesses a fine sense of humor, facilitated by a rich collection of entertaining and often bizarre anecdotes about world leaders, especially about characters such as Idi Amin, Bokassa, or Trujillo."―Human Nature Review
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Top Customer Reviews
In an on air interview with the author, Brian Lamb the host, interviews Arnold Ludwig:
Ludwig comments that "as I got into my work more and more, a number of questions began emerging that I could not answer, that puzzled me. For example, why was it that there were so few women rulers in the 20th century?"
He goes on to say "There were a total of 27 out of 1,941, which the percentage was 1.4 percent. And of those, half of them -- at least half -- were either wives of some famous politician, they'd borrowed their husbands' charisma, or daughters of him. And so that left -- if you look at just women who have made it on their own, that was about .75 percent. So the chances of a woman becoming a ruler in the 20th century were less than 100-to-1 odds, over 100-to-1 odds against it."
Mr Lamb then asks Ludwig about his "Political Greatness Scale" and says "the number one leader you found in the 20th century, from your political greatness scale, was Ataturk." and goes on to ask "But why Ataturk?" and Ludwig answers: "Let's look at what Ataturk did. And again, mind you, take this in the context of some of the other great leaders that -- some of the immortals I've mentioned. Ataturk created -- started Turkey. He dismantled the Ottoman empire, which was in existence at the time. He not only was the founder of the country, creating a country, but he caused a profound social change in Turkey. He introduced democracy into Turkey, somewhat a militant type of democracy, but a democracy nonetheless. He separated -- he was one of the -- first time in history to kind of separate church and state. In fact, even though it is predominantly a Muslim country, it's one of the few ones where certain types of freedoms are permitted..."
Ignorance of Ataturk is widespread, I hope this book will shed some more light on this man and his accomplishments. For an excellent resource on Ataturk see Ataturk: The Biography of the founder of Modern Turkey or this one which is an older, less comprehensive study Ataturk: A Biography of Mustafa Kemal, Father of Modern Turkey
Of the many interesting points that he makes, one is that he can explain one of the universal traits of human politics--that the highest positions of political rule tend to be filled predominantly by men. Political scientists rarely acknowledge--much less explain--this remarkable pattern of male dominance. Ludwig explains it as a manifestation of male primate tendencies rooted in the neurophysiology of the male as shaped by natural selection in evolutionary history. (Surprisingly, Ludwig does not mention Steven Goldberg's book WHY MEN RULE, which makes a similar argument.)
There is one bright spot in Ludwig's otherwise dark vision of politics dominated by Machiavellian brutality--he shows that democratic leaders in established democracies act with more restraint than those in other kinds of regimes. He doesn't explain this. But he could have argued that even this has biological roots by appealing to Christopher Boehm's claim (in his book HIERARCHY IN THE FOREST) that there is a biological basis not only for the natural desire for dominance but also for the natural desire to resist dominance, and that modern democracy expresses that ambivalent political nature by allowing ambitious individuals to compete for high office within the constraints of constitutional structures that protect subordinates from being exploited.
I have developed some of these points in my book DARWINIAN NATURAL RIGHT: THE BIOLOGICAL ETHICS OF HUMAN NATURE.