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Reading: Father and Followers: Putin’s Rhetoric as an Evolutionary-Psychological Leadership Tool

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Father and Followers: Putin’s Rhetoric as an Evolutionary-Psychological Leadership Tool

Author:

Philipp Ershov

The London School of Economics and Political Science, GB
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Abstract

Vladimir Putin has been at the helm of the Russian state since 2000, with much of the post-2008 period in Russia being characterised by poor economic performance. At the same time, many issues concerning regional development and public service provision have gone unaddressed. Yet, despite all these problems—which polls suggest do not go unnoticed by the Russian people—the popularity of the most powerful man in government has not slipped far from all-time highs. This paper suggests an evolutionary psychological explanation for Putin's resilient popularity and examines it through the question of whether the thematic content of Putin’s rhetoric matches theoretical expectations stemming from evolutionary psychology. Using a mixture of quantitative and qualitative methods to analyse a corpus of annual addresses by Vladimir Putin, it suggests that the thematic content of Putin's rhetoric is consistent with what a cultural reinterpretation of Hamilton’s rule from evolutionary psychology predicts is particularly potent with followers. Specifically, his rhetoric creates bonds of relatedness within a defined group and focuses on benefits affecting members of that group—exactly what a cultural Hamilton's rule view of human social behaviour would suggest. The paper then links this explanation to Putin’s approval ratings by looking at how this thematic content varies over time. In doing so, the paper represents a step towards an evolutionary psychological view of leadership appeal in modern political communities.

How to Cite: Ershov, P., 2019. Father and Followers: Putin’s Rhetoric as an Evolutionary-Psychological Leadership Tool. LSE Undergraduate Political Review, 2, pp.116–147.
Published on 25 Jun 2019.
Peer Reviewed

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