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The Presidential Character: Predicting Performance in the White House (Longman Classics in Political Science), revised (4th Edition) [Paperback]

by James D Barber
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 11, 2008 020565259X 978-0205652594 4

Dr. James David Barber’s well-known, provocative examination of who has the potential to be voted into the highest office in the land — and why — is being reissued as the newest addition to the “Longman Classics in Political Science” series.  

 

Arguing that patterns in a person’s character, world view, and style can allow us to anticipate their performance as president, The Presidential Character offers explanations and predictions of the performance of presidents and presidential candidates.  Drawing on historical, biographical, and psychological research, Dr. Barber hoped to help voters make judicious choices in determining the country’s highest leaders.  Revisiting this classic work in today’s important presidential election season begs a reconsideration of Barber’s probing and enduring query, “What should we look for in a president?"


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The Presidential Character: Predicting Performance in the White House (Longman Classics in Political Science), revised (4th Edition) + Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Incorporating U.S. presidents from Taft to Bush, this volume uses research-based political psychology, history, and biography to provide a means of determining the performance of candidates as president. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

The Presidential Character: Predicting Performance in the White House, Fourth Edition
James David Barber


LONGMAN CLASSICS IN POLITICAL SCIENCE

In revising classic works in political science, Longman celebrates the contributions its authors and their research have made to the discipline. The Longman Classics in Political Science series honors these authors and their work. Providing students with an updated context, each title in the series includes a new foreword, written by one of today’s top scholars, offering a fresh, in-depth analysis of the book and its enduring contributions.


What should we look for in a president?

This timeless question begs reconsideration in light of today’s crucial presidential election season. To that end, The Presidential Character, James David Barber’s well-known, provocative examination of who has the potential to be voted into the highest office in the land–and why–is being reissued as the newest addition to the Longman Classics in Political Science series.

Arguing that patterns in a person’s character, world view, and political style can allow us to anticipate his or her performance as president, this classic text offers explanations and predictions of the performance of past presidents and presidential candidates.

Features

  • Presents a new foreword by presidential scholar George C. Edwards III, Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Texas A&M University, that highlights the book’s classic and enduring contributions.
  • Includes predictions of presidential performance published before Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush ever served.
  • Analyzes the media’s role in providing information about the political candidates and in shaping public opinion of them.
  • Draws on historical, biographical, and psychological research to help voters make judicious choices in determining the country’s highest leaders.
  • Encourages citizens to be actively involved scholars, critics, and participants in their government.

Visit us at www.pearsonhighered.com


Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Pearson; 4 edition (July 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 020565259X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0205652594
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #475,511 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
This is an incredibly fascinating book for those interested in the history of the American Presidency and particularly of the occupants of that office. Mr. Barber analyzes the presidents by two main factors: activity (how much effort a particular president put into performing his job) and the president's personality type and world-view (whether a president viewed his role in the world in a positive or negative light). From this Mr. Barber theorizes that there are four major presidential types: active-positive, active-negative, passive-positive, and passive-negative. By analyzing an individual's personality prior to his entry into the White House, Mr. Barber suggests that one can predict his performance while in the presidency. For example, he categorizes FDR, JFK, and Truman as active-positives (high activity while president with each having a positive view of the world), Taft, Harding and Reagan as passive-positives (low effort put into performance of their duties, while trying to show a positive, if timorous, face to the world), and Coolidge and Ike as passive-negatives (each viewing his role in the presidency as a duty to perform rather than something in which to look forward).
The best parts of the book are in which Mr. Barber talks about the active-negative presidents, all of whom have proved disastrous to the office. Each of these presidents had put much effort and personal investment into the performance of his duties, but without any enjoyment. For each of these men, life has always been a struggle and the personal rewards few. Compulsiveness and anxiety was each man's life-script. None of them could ever afford to rest on his laurels after some success, because if he did so, he would only have to re-double his efforts next time for fear of committing failure.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A classic, but shows its age January 13, 2012
Format:Paperback
Barber's treatise was seminal and has been quite well-received. It is well-written and interesting. However, the psychology is archaic. Barber postulates two dimensions of presidential personality: Activity and positive vs. negative orientation. This is an arbitrary and very incomplete perspective on personality - which incidentally, has been studied very extensively in psychology over the past 50 years or so. The assessment of a given president's standing on each trait is entirely Barber's, not the result of any formal attempt at measurement or a consensus of experts. In sum, this is an armchair psychological analysis, with virtually no connection to other attempts to understand personality or its relationship to leadership.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Unconvincing, even in his class March 6, 2014
Format:Paperback
This book was the textbook when I took J D Barber's course at Duke. It was unconvincing to me as an undergraduate, even with him in every class cheer-leading for his conclusions in the last chapter we read. It falls into the trap of "Political Science" where authors try to derive simplistic statistical formulas that are predictive of wars and other historical events, or in this case, the way a president will behave. Even as a 19- or 20-year old kid I could see that he wasn't dispassionately applying any kind of scientific analysis, he was just inconsistently rationalizing and wrestling presidents into the little Procrustean beds of his categories. And, rather than being predictive, we discovered that one had to revise character assessments to account for later observed behavior which demonstrated that JD Barber's model was not predictive at all, just another academic hobby horse to ride to tenure.

This was also the class where, during the lead-up to the Falklands war a student explained his theory that Margaret Thatcher would not actually take Britain to war over the islands because she was a woman, and women give life by having children, so therefore she was incapable of taking life and starting a war. Professor Barber did not say, "Shut up, you idiot."

This book is of interest historically because it was considered an influential book at the time, and was always quoted on TV election coverage, probably mostly by people who never read it and never took Barber's class.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Barber is a man on a mission, albeit a mission that is of little relevance. He is attempting to devise a system that can be used to predict the performance of American Presidents, as well as, Presidential Candidates. Barber's view would appear to be that political scientists should devise a system that will prevent bad men from being elected President. Thus, America can be saved all the problems associated with poorly performing individuals. (I am almost tempted to question whether this would include Republicans from Barber's perspective, but I will not.) He believes that this can be done looking at the way the grew up and their outlook towards work. The main problem with this is that you cannot predict from a distance what people will do. You can also argue about where each candidate should actually be located on this scheme. Otherwise, a nice bit of political science.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marge Ware December 16, 2008
By M. Ware
Format:Paperback
This is a fascinating book that was recommended to me by John Dean, former white house counsel to Richard Nixon. Barber breaks down presidents into four different categories; Aggressive-Positive, Aggressive-Negative, Passive-Positive & Passive-Negative. He explains which category different presidents fell into and how it affected their presidency. This is a great book to read particularly with a new president coming into office. Unfortunately Barber has passed away but I would have loved to hear what he had to say about W.
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