Power Corrupts

Here is a fascinating article about recent research in political psychology that shows that powerful people, particularly when those people believe they deserve their power, cheat and engage in other morally deficient behavior at significantly higher rates than less powerful people.


About Jake Wobig

I teach international relations and comparative politics at Wingate University in Wingate, North Carolina
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3 Responses to Power Corrupts

  1. Excellent article. There is another aspect that should be added to this: those who are given power often feel that somehow they have taken it. Yes, they feel entitled to do certain things, and act in certain unethical ways, but this is a matter of the origins of their power in their own minds. Rather than conceiving of it as a series of abilities, and privileges, afforded to them by institutions, by government, by the people, or even by corporations, they feel they have snatched it through their own often genuinely intelligent manipulation of these same things. In fact, it should be pointed out, that this manipulation, however ingenious, is constitutive of these institutions, it is part of their very construction. These people who feel ‘entitled,’ in this sense, have not done anything that many others before them have already done. There is no real creativity, let alone meritocratic value, to power—one is expected to game the system, to play against the rules almost as often as with them, the rules themselves are state in a don’t-do-this-therefore-this-is-what-needs-to-be-done way from the beginning. The rules are a negative guide to corruption, without which these institutions would cease to function. The corruption of exploitation is the whole point.

  2. jakewobig says:

    So there’s no power except that which comes from institutions, but the powerful can manipulate “the rules” (which I presume are institutions) for the purpose of exploitation?

    At that point, the individual has his/her own power that is separate from the institution.

    I don’t think your argument holds together.

  3. Of course, you misread. I say that power—a series of abilities and privileges lent to those who come to office—is afforded by the people, government and corporations, all of which I refer to as institutions. The idea that the people do not represent an institution, the electorate, is a particular schizoid blind spot of our time. Institutions are more than brick and mortar, and besides, the electorate does even have this aspect separate from any party.

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