From Benito Mussolini to Hugo Chavez: Intellectuals and a Century of Political Hero Worship

Featuring Gerard Alexander and Marian L. Tupy

During the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, political dictators were not only popular in their own countries, but were also admired by numerous highly educated and idealistic Western intellectuals. The objects of this political hero-worship included Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro and more recently Hugo Chavez, among others. Hollander will discuss the sources of these misjudgments and misperceptions, the specific appeals of particular dictators, and the part played by their charisma, or pseudo-charisma. He will shed new light not only on the political disposition of numerous Western intellectuals — such as Martin Heidegger, Eric Hobsbawm, Norman Mailer, Ezra Pound, Susan Sontag and George Bernard Shaw — but also on the personality of those political leaders who encouraged, and in some instances helped to design, the cult surrounding their rise to dictatorship.