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King of the Mountain: The Nature of Political Leadership Paperback – 31 May 2004

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: The University Press of Kentucky (31 May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813190681
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813190686
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 709,285 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"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"

About the Author

Arnold Ludwig, M.D. is E. A. Edwards Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. He is on the editorial board of The American Journal of Psychotherapy and has written five other books and over one hundred articles.

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By Sedef on 23 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a well-researched book and very interesting. Actually it's a history book, but made enjoyable more than it would otherwise be adding an angle to history. And the writer, although a sesoned academic, didn't feel the need to academic arrogance to be attractive - used just as needed to give framework, set the stage - never seen a non-fiction that's so much fun.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x892dd3e4) out of 5 stars 15 reviews
78 of 80 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x88e64b58) out of 5 stars Ataturk and the lack of women 6 Mar. 2012
By Lycians - Published on
Format: Paperback
I found it curious that not one of the previous reviewers mention Ataturk in their reviews, not one, yet; Ataturk came out first in Ludwig's "Political Greatness Scale." How could all these reviewers simply ignore this? I also found his comments about the lack of women leaders at the highest level quite amazing.

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
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x88e64bb8) out of 5 stars Why Men Rule 11 Jan. 2003
By Larry Arnhart - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It is surprising that the proponents of evolutionary psychology have not paid more attention to this book. Ludwig argues that the human desire to be the supreme political ruler is rooted in the same biological nature that supports the dominance of alpha males among monkeys and apes. He supports this argument with analysis of the 1,941 chief executive rulers of the independent countries in the 20th century. He illustrates his points with lively anecdotes from the lives of the 377 rulers for whom he had sufficient biographical information.
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.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8934e00c) out of 5 stars Monumental 7 April 2005
By Steven Rubenzer - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of the most ambitious and interesting works I've ever seen. The author, apparently on his own and without institutional backing, took on the study of political leadership and addressed it empirically, coding 182 features of different leaders during the 20th century. Although replete with entertaining anecdotes, the book is based on statistical analyses that are presented in a clear and intuitive manner. There are literaly hundreds if not thousands of new facts and observations. By examining so many leaders and identiying types, he shows that individuals such as Hitler are not mere anomolies but share common traits - independance of interests, excellent memories, supreme confidence in their own vision, etc. This book is similar in approach to my own (Personality, Character, and Leadership in the White House) but extends analysis to leaders in all sorts of governments. My only complaint is that some of the metholdogy underying the study could be more fully explained (for example, how many raters provided jdugments on personality traits and how these were defined?), but most readers will not miss this. A tour de force.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x88e64fd8) out of 5 stars Excellent Book 17 May 2003
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I loved reading this book as much as I enjoyed the funny picture on the cover. The thesis that most if not all leaders of people are similar to primate alpha males in the sense that they have more concubines and children, not necessarily more intelligence or ability but more macho desire to rule over others for the sake of ruling (whether known or not by the agent), and that much in the politics of primates and that of humans is remarkably similar is fun to examine and read about. My only desire was that after ten years of studying and researching for this book, maybe the University of Kentucky emeritus psychiatry professor could have focused even more on the roots of the nature of political leaders, both in the primate and strikingly similar human realms. I expected much from this book and did not get as much as I would have hoped, but it was still an excellent read thanks to the depth of research it contains. All national leaders from the 20th century collated and examined as a whole in comparison with primates: maybe there is ample reason to be disappointed in a 400 page book trying to take on so much. Nonetheless, the accounts of the idiosyncracies of certain leaders, the primate-like actions of many, the sloth and greed of others, and other remarkable accounts make this a fabulous book for almost any reader interested in the imperfections of people, especially the most visable people: leaders.
21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8934e24c) out of 5 stars A contemporary update of Machiavelli 10 Jun. 2002
By Cambodia Fan - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Despite its hard science dressings, this book is primarily a popular (versus academic) account of modern political leadership. Although Dr. Ludwig is obviously knowledgable about psychology, the scientific discourse in this book is kept to a minimum. Mostly, the book consists of a series of highly entertaining anecdotes about famous political figures, collected to support his thesis that political greatness equates possesing the characteristics of the "Alpha Male". The acceptability of this amoralistic conception of "greatness" - where Mao and FDR are co-ranked the greatest modern political leaders with Stalin a close second - is up to each reader to decide.
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