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Leaders and Their Followers in a Dangerous World: The Psychology of Political Behavior (Psychoanalysis and Social Theory) Hardcover – March 11, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0801441691 ISBN-10: 0801441692 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Psychoanalysis and Social Theory
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (March 11, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801441692
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801441691
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #431,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"It is no surprise to Jerrold M. Post, the founder of the Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior at the C.I.A., that Saddam Hussein grew up to be one of the world's most dangerous dictators and a member of President Bush's axis of evil. . . . As Dr. Post recounts in his new book, Leaders and Their Followers in a Dangerous World, Mr. Hussein's father died, probably of cancer, in the fourth month of his mother's pregnancy with Saddam. Mr. Hussein's 12-year-old brother died, also of cancer, a few months later. The trauma left Saddam's mother, Sabha, so desperately depressed that she tried and failed to abort Saddam and kill herself. When Saddam was born, she would have nothing to do with him and sent him away to an uncle. . . . 'Most people with that kind of background would be highly ineffective as adults and be faltering, insecure human beings.' But there is, Dr. Post said, an alternative path that a minority of wounded selves take: 'malignant narcissism,' the personality disorder that Dr. Post believes fueled Mr. Hussein's rise in Iraq. Perhaps most important, Dr. Post says, is that Mr. Hussein is a 'judicious political calculator,' not a madman."—The New York Times, May 15, 2004

"The crucial role of personality in shaping the political behavior of leaders of states and movements has been amply demonstrated in recent events, ranging from the Soviet demise to the 9/11 cataclysm and the Iraq war. In this seminal book, Post presents a variety of psychological theories, models, and methods to explain the behavior of leaders in times of crisis. . . . Clearly, these essays are pioneering contributions and essential reading for leaders, policy makers, intelligence analysts, academic specialists, and the thinking public."—Choice, March 2005

"A study of the effects of the ways in which social background, childhood trauma, illness, cultural conditioning, and more influence the behavior of leaders. The author draws upon a broad variety of largely modern examples."—The NYMAS Review, No. 30 Spring 2004

"Understanding our opponents is vitally important in a world of terrorism. Jerrold M. Post has done many psychological profiles of foreign leaders for our presidents. In this book, he gives us valuable insights as to what we should be looking for."—Admiral Stansfield Turner, USN (ret.), Former Director of Central Intelligence

"Leaders and Their Followers in a Dangerous World is a highly sophisticated psychoanalytic exploration of famous political leaders as well as lowly assassins and terrorists. The rich collection of examples makes extraordinarily stimulating reading, illustrating the variety of psychic factors that drive the people who shape history."—Fred C. Iklé, Distinguished Scholar, Center for Strategic and International Studies, and former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy

"At a time of urgent need to understand the motivations of bad as well as good leaders around the world, Jerrold M. Post offers acute insights and sophisticated analysis drawn from his mastery of leadership theory and his extensive experience in government. Leaders and Their Followers in a Dangerous World is a must-read in the age of Hussein, Kim Jong Il, bin Laden, and Milosevic, whom he analyzes among others."—James MacGregor Burns, Williams College

"This is an extremely important book that all top U.S. national-security decision makers and students of international relations ought to read closely. Post's chapters on Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Il and the mind of the terrorist are each worth the price of the book alone. Post is a singular talent who shows why this very important forgotten art needs to be brought back to full strength in the U.S. government."—Barry R. Schneider, Director, USAF Counterproliferation Center

"In today's world, where high-tech industry and weaponry give individuals enormous power, it is more important than ever to understand the purposes and dynamics of leading personalities. We are fortunate that Jerrold Post has led the way in assessing the personalities of those who have shaped contemporary history. Post's insightful psychological profiles have informed a generation of policymakers. They should also inspire political scientists to advance the techniques of analyzing the psychodynamics of leaders who shape the lives of millions."—Richard H. Solomon, President, United States Institute of Peace

"This book is an important and timely reminder of the complex interweave between personality and politics. Jerrold M. Post sheds light on how some leaders and their followers develop the capacity to gravely injure the common good."—Barbara Kellerman, Research Director, Center for Public Leadership, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

About the Author

Jerrold M. Post is Professor of Psychiatry, Political Psychology, and International Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University. His books include When Illness Strikes the Leader: The Dilemma of the Captive King.; Political Paranoia: The Psychopolitics of Hatred; Know Thy Enemy: Profiles of Adversary Leaders and Their Strategic Cultures; and The Psychological Assessment of Political Leaders, with Profiles of Saddam Hussein and Bill Clinton. He received the Nevitt Sanford Award of the International Society of Political Psychology for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Political Psychology in 2002. Alexander George is Graham Stuart Professor of International Relations, Emeritus, at Stanford University.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I highly recommend Leaders and Their Followers in a Dangerous World. It is an important,informative work - written in a most readable style. Dr.Jerrold Post is a pioneer (arguably,the best) in the field of psychological profiling and the practical application of personality assessment. The reader is presented with both the finished analytical product (the collection of profiles includes Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein, North Korea's Kim Jong Il) and the tools employed in crafting their images. From Pres. Carter's administration (at the Camp David Summit) to the present, Post's expert ability to assess the motivation and mental makeup of our friends and adversaries has been an effective tool used by key players in Government. Dr. Post served as an expert witness at the trial of the al Qaeda terrorists who were convicted in the bombings of the American Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. He lays out a good deal of information not widely known about al Qaeda training and its methods. His dispassionate, analytical discussion of Osama bin Laden and his organization is chilling. Dr. Post's work will be read many times over by those who understand the importance of viewing and dealing with conflict by first attempting to see the situation through the eyes and mind of their opponents.
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Format: Hardcover
A rare work combining fascinating historical, political and psychological analyses of leadership and the leaders shaping our world. Dr. Post has the unusual ability to present his deep and important psychological insights in a jargon free style, making this powerful work accessible to both professional and non-professional readers.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We are currently using this book as a source for my political psychology class. It has been extremely helpful in understanding the background of some of the "terrorist" leaders in the world. It shows the background of these leaders and that they are not all psychopathic monsters but have some reason to their decisions. This book is a must have for all people hoping to understand the complex situations and people that the United States is involved with.
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Format: Hardcover
This book transformed my understanding of political leaders. Dr. Post explains how several key personality traits account for the motivations of many politicians, and how these same traits can become imbalanced and maladaptive for both leaders and their followers. In short, the principles in this book make sense of otherwise perplexing behavior that has affected -- and will continue to affect -- millions of people. Fascinating stories and little-known details about infamous dictators illustrate these core concepts. It's simply a must-read for anyone truly interested in politics.
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4 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Betty Burks on June 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Jerrold M. Post discusses and informs on psychological war, concentrating on confirmed enemies of the United States. The power of a charismatic leader derives from his capacity to focus hatred against a single enemy (example: Hitler in the 1930s).

Like Hitler, Fidel Castro is a destructive, charismatic and blames the enemy, takes no personal responsibility for leadership failures. "Combining extreme gradiosity with a paranoid outlook, an absence of conscience, and a willingness to use whatever aggression is necessary in the service of his own needs." The messianic leader's dreams of glory do not mellow with age. As he gets older, achieving those heroic goals takes on an increased urgency.

An interesting fact about this 'man with a mission' (not previously known) is that Osama bin Laden is the son of a multi-billionaire construction magnate in Saudi Arabia. His father started the business with government aid but had ten wives and 50+ children (25 were sons and he was the 13th). Born in 1957, he inherited $57 million at the age of sixteen. He went to university and became a certified civil engineer. After he started the terrorist group, al Qaeda (the Base), he lived in the caves of Afghanistan and called himself 'the warrior king.' He convinced his hundreds of followers that Americans are 'infidels' and should be anniliated. He claims he was the instigator of the 9/11 tragedies.

This indepth study of the the personalities of some other leaders of hate groups in other countries is detailed, and he included a good index. This book will open your eyes to the dangers from many areas the United States' citizens are in at present. They are taught that it is God's will to kill us, just because our country is a superpower. They are galvanized by the power they derive from dying for a just cause and taking hundreds of Americans with them.
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