Tag Archives: power

Booklist | The Power Paradox by Dacher Keltner

Gaining and using power is an old subject–and at the core of politics diplomacy, and leadership. So this new book by Dacher Keltner upends the traditional Machiavellian interpretation by arguing that you become more powerful through “empathy, collaboration, open mindedness, fairness, and generosity.” That’s the good news.

The bad news? Obtaining power sows the seeds for our downfall.

This is the “paradox” of Keltner’s title: it is true that being nice is the best path to power, but achieving power reliably turns people nasty. “The seductions of power,” as he puts it, “induce us to lose the very skills that enabled us to gain power in the first place.” Research demonstrates that people who feel powerful are more likely to act impulsively: to have affairs; to drive inconsiderately; to lie; to argue that it is justifiable for them to break rules others should follow; and, in one entertaining study by Keltner and his colleagues, to steal sweets from children. Rich people even shoplift more than the poor. All in all, accumulating power seems to trigger a tendency to self-absorption: in experiments, when people are asked to draw the letter E on their own foreheads so that others can read it, powerful people are more likely to draw it the right way round to themselves, and backwards to onlookers. In a literal sense, they no longer see the world from other people’s perspective.

Source: The Power Paradox by Dacher Keltner review – how success triggers self-absorption | Books | The Guardian

 

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Machiavelli, reconsidered.

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“Redemption, rebirth, must take the form of going back to the founding principles” says an expert on the Florentine diplomat.  A lifetime of study helps Professor Maurizio Viroli of Princeton and UT Austin rebrand Machiavelli as a sage observer of political culture and a helpful resource for today. (Also, in his earlier works Viroli worked to redeem Machiavelli from being seen merely as sinister.)

His book, How to Chose a Leader: Machiavelli’s Advice to Citizens, offers solutions to contemporary political predicaments, say, the fallen Berlusconi or the rising Trump, for example. In the LA Review of Books Robert Zaretsky writes:

We are as weak now as we were then. We still want to believe, and not the small stuff. We want, instead, to believe the big stuff. The bigger the lie, the greater our satisfaction; the greater our satisfaction, the deeper our credulity. Yet Machiavelli, contrary to popular belief, does not applaud this sort of dissimulation. Instead, he agonizes over it. Time and again, he urges citizens to exercise their reason, to beware of leaders who appeal to their passions. In troubled times, he warns, citizens turn against minorities within their countries by turning them into scapegoats. This reflex, in turn, lifts to power those who promise to protect the people against their imagined enemies. The enemy of my enemy is not just my friend; he is my leader.

Utah radio interviewer Doug Fabrizio explores the book with Viroli on KUER’s Radio West. It is well worth a listen for a few fresh insights into

 

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James MacGregor Burns on Transformational Leadership

This book left an impression on me in grad school because it made the case that leadership was ethical and a positive force.  As noted in Bruce Weber’s recent NYT obit:

“That people can be lifted into their better selves,” he wrote at the end of “Leadership,” “is the secret of transforming leadership and the moral and practical theme of this work.”

Burns was a biographer, political scientist, and Pulitzer Prize-winner whose 1978 book, Leadership, is a biggie in the field. International relations is concerned with power.  MacGregor wrote that “power is different. Power manipulates people as they are; leadership as they could be.” He got to the crux of the issue, looking at the examples of presidential leadership:

The nature of leadership was his fundamental theme throughout his career. In his biographies of Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy, among others, and in his works of political theory — including “Leadership,” a seminal 1978 work melding historical analysis and contemporary observation that became a foundation text for an academic discipline — Mr. Burns focused on parsing the relationship between the personalities of the powerful and the historical events they helped engender.

via James MacGregor Burns, Scholar of Presidents and Leadership, Dies at 95 – NYTimes.com.

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Mental Health Break | Ryan Gosling IR Memes

 

Channeling Joseph Nye Jr.

If you get the jokes then you are doing your reading on IR theory and such.  via International Relations Ryan Gosling.

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Hail Britannia, Soft Power Invasion

Admittedly Monocle is a great magazine for design, style, and a few other things–but not a likely candidate to end up in a footnote for your IR essay on soft power.  Bear with me then when their recently released survey shows the UK at number one.

For the first time, Britain has beaten the US to the top spot in an annual survey of global soft power. Coined by a Harvard academic in 1990, the term describes how countries use attraction and persuasion, rather than coercion or payment, to change behaviour.

Monocle magazine’s annual “Global Soft Power” survey, published tomorrow, ranks nations according to their standard of government; diplomatic infrastructure; cultural output; capacity for education; and appeal to business.

via Britain is now most powerful nation on earth – Home News – UK – The Independent.

To be fair–in a more serious publication–the “Harvard academic” quoted above, who will be at BYU in winter semester 2013 made the case back in 2004 that America’s soft power decline was an issue.

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Qatar Presses Decisive Shift in Arab Politics – NYTimes.com

File this under “the power of small states” as well as an interesting commentary on how soft power amplifies national interests:

This thumb-shaped spit of sand on the Persian Gulf has emerged as the most dynamic Arab country in the tumult realigning the region. Its intentions remain murky to its neighbors and even allies — some say Qatar has a Napoleon complex, others say it has an Islamist agenda. But its clout is a lesson in what can be gained with some of the world’s largest gas reserves, the region’s most influential news network in Al Jazeera, an array of contacts many with an Islamist bent, and policy-making in an absolute monarchy vested in the hands of one man, its emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.Qatar has become a vital counterpoint in an Arab world where traditional powers are roiled by revolution, ossified by aging leaderships, or still reeling from civil war, and where the United States is increasingly viewed as a power in decline.

via Qatar Presses Decisive Shift in Arab Politics – NYTimes.com.

I should note that this is a retread both in my posting and in the Times’ reporting.

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Power (And Your Posture)

How you sit may tell a lot about your status.  (How you stand, as well.)  Power plays an important role in leadership, and it appears that so does posture, oddly enough.

Recently, a team of researchers at Columbia and Harvard wondered not whether power can manifest itself in posture — that seems clear — but whether certain postures could make people feel more commanding. More powerful people — i.e., those who make more money and have higher-status jobs — reliably show higher levels of testosterone (no matter their gender) and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than people lower on the totem pole. The researchers reasoned that if you put low-power people in high-power postures, their hormones might respond accordingly.

via Strike a Pose – TIME.

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Translation as Ambassador – Publishing and National Pride – NYTimes.com

Culture and literature matters dearly to nations as they try to leverage their soft power.

We have established this as a strategic objective, a long-term commitment to break through the American market,” said Corina Suteu, who leads the New York branch of the European Union National Institutes for Culture and directs the Romanian Cultural Institute. “For nations in Europe, be they small or large, literature will always be one of the keys of their cultural existence, and we recognize that this is the only way we are going to be able to make that literature present in the United States.”

via Translation as Ambassador – Publishing and National Pride – NYTimes.com.

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America’s Edge | Foreign Affairs

David Brooks makes the case for America’s future as a network hub, based on an article by Anne Marie Slaughter in Foreign Affairs.  Her key argument is to differentiate two centuries and make the case for a new way to wield power:

In this world, the measure of power is connectedness. Almost 30 years ago, the psychologist Carol Gilligan wrote about differences between the genders in their modes of thinking. She observed that men tend to see the world as made up of hierarchies of power and seek to get to the top, whereas women tend to see the world as containing webs of relationships and seek to move to the center. Gilligan’s observations may be a function of nurture rather than nature; regardless, the two lenses she identified capture the differences between the twentieth-century and the twenty-first-century worlds.

via America’s Edge | Foreign Affairs.

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Turkey and Soap Opera Soft Power

Turkey’s cultural exports, not coincidentally, have also advanced its political ambitions as it asserts itself on that front, too, sending a flotilla to Gaza, defying the United States over sanctions on Iran, talking tough to its onetime ally, Israel, and giving Kemal Ataturk’s constitutionally secular state an Islamic tinge.

Politics and culture go hand in hand, here as elsewhere. If most Arabs watch Turkish shows to ogle beautiful people in exotic locales, Arab women have also made clear their particular admiration for the rags-to-riches story of the title character in “Noor,” a strong, business-savvy woman with a doting husband named Muhannad. Dr. Shafira Alghamdi, a Saudi pediatrician, was on vacation here the other day, shopping with two Saudi friends, and volunteered how Arab husbands often ignore their wives, while on “Noor,” within what remains to Arabs a familiar context of arranged marriages, respect for elders and big families living together, Noor and Muhannad openly love and admire each other.

“A lot of Saudi men have gotten seriously jealous of Muhannad because their wives say, ‘Why can’t you be more like him?’ ” Dr. Alghamdi said. Meanwhile, she was illustrating another consequence of the show: the sudden, spectacular boom in Arab tourism to Turkey. Millions of Arabs now flock here. Turkish Airlines has started direct flights to gulf countries (using soap stars as spokespeople). Turkish travel companies charter boats to ferry Arabs who want a glimpse of the waterfront villa where “Noor” was filmed. The owner recently put the house on the market for $50 million. Until lately he charged $60 for a tour, more than four times the price of a ticket to the Topkapi Palace.

via Abroad – Soap Operas in the Arab World Yield Their Own Soft Power – NYTimes.com.

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