‘There is a reason why, as Lord Acton put it, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Yet the fascinating thing about the Power Paradox is that putting selfish concerns before the interests of the group is ultimately counter-productive because it undermines the long-term position of the leader.’
As the Financial Times observes this week, The Strong Man politician – a recurring figure in African politics – is sweeping the global stage, ‘trad[ing] on feelings of insecurity, fear and frustration’ underpinned by economic shocks, rising inequality and global terror.
But as The Times’ Rachel Sylvester reports, a timely new book by celebrated UC Berkeley psychologist Dr. Dacher Keltner is challenging the rules of this traditional power construct. The Power Paradox argues that ‘by fundamentally misunderstanding the behaviours that helped us to gain power in the first place we set ourselves up to fall from power’. In 20 principles, Keltner lays out the rule of gaining power and keeping power – not by abusing it, but by using it to empower others.
It’s a theory we must hope proves prescient, and sooner rather than later. As Michael Sheridan reports, the damage being done runs deep. In China, amid a brutal new surge of dissident purges and internet censorship, a vast project of (re)construction is underway: ‘The Great Wall of the Mind’, in which the ‘things the party opposes simply do not exist and never take root in people’s thoughts.’ Soft power is the key to human progress – but it must exist as an idea before it can become a reality.
Click here to learn more about nations ranking top of the Soft Power Index and why