The role of death in life, 5 / by JW Harrington

“People also gain a sense of symbolic immortality from feeling that they are part of a heroic cause or nation that will endure indefinitely….  Moreover, according to the great German sociologist Max Weber, charismatic leaders … often emerge during periods of historical upheaval.  In The Denial of Death, [cultural anthropologist Ernest] Becker provided a potent psychoanalytical account of why people find charismatic leaders so alluring in troubled times and, more important, why and how particular individuals are able to capitalize on this proclivity to rise to power and alter the course of history.

“…when people are plagued with economic woes and civil unrest to the point where the cultural scheme of things no longer seems to provide [a constancy that shelters them from the terror of mortality], they will look elsewhere to fulfill that need.

“Under such conditions, people’s allegiance may shift to an individual who exhibits an ‘unconflicted’ personality – in the sense of appearing supremely bold and self-confident – and offers a grand vision that affords a renewed prospect of being a valuable part of something noble and enduring.”

-- Sheldon Solomon et al. (2015).  The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life, pp. 116-7