Campus News Banner


By George Lewis

Small UK Logo

On the basis of his findings, Ludwig argues that political skills are rooted in the oldest parts of the brain.

Small UK Logo

March 26, 2002 (Lexington, Ky.) -- As world leaders rise to power and seek to maintain it, they are biologically inclined to act remarkably like monkeys and apes, says Arnold M. Ludwig in his forthcoming book "King of the Mountain: The Nature of Political Leadership." In the most extensive and in-depth study of political leadership to date, Ludwig presents the startling - and often humorous - findings of his 18-year investigation into why people want to rule.

Profiling every ruler of a recognized country in the 20th century - more than 1,900 people - Ludwig, emeritus professor of psychiatry at the University of Kentucky, establishes how rulers came to power, how they lost power, the dangers they faced, and their odds of being assassinated, committing suicide, or dying a natural death. Then, concentrating on a smaller set of rulers for whom more extensive personal information was available, Ludwig profiles six different kinds of leaders, examining their personal characteristics, childhoods and mental stability to identify the main predicators of later political success.

On the basis of his findings, Ludwig argues that political skills are rooted in the oldest parts of the brain.

He notes that nature offers powerful incentives for primates to become leaders and cling to power as long as possible. In monkeys and apes, alpha males, in contrast to submissive ones, have sexual relations with more females, sire larger broods, have greater access to food and shelter and command more deference.

Among human rulers, especially those with the most power, the situation is much the same. As Ludwig explains, the primate model of ruling has important ramifications for our very survival.

The final chapter of the book, especially relevant in light of the terrorist attacks on the United States, offers Ludwig's insight into why humans throughout history have engaged in war, which represents the ultimate expression of alpha-maleness, and suggests how they might live together in peace.

Published by the University Press of Kentucky, the book will be available in May.

Ludwig, whose writings have been called "quite brilliant" by Kirkus Reviews, is author of 10 books, including "How Do We Know Who We Are? A Biography of the Self" and "The Price of Greatness," a study of the connection between creative genius and insanity.

He is a past winner of the Lester N. Hofheimer Prize for outstanding research in psychiatry.

Back to Campus News Homepage